A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Owlboy is a downloadable action game. Players take on the role of an underdog silent protagonist who sets off on a Herculean quest to save both his village and the world at large, collecting items and new tactics at critical junctures along the way. The story sets you up to fail at certain points, so your persistence through challenges will be rewarded. It also teaches players that heroes come in all shapes, sizes, and attitudes. While violence comes from bonking enemies on the head, hitting them with objects, or occasionally shooting them with guns, there's no blood or gore shown.
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What's it about?
In OWLBOY, you are cast as Otus, and that naming is intentional: It refers both to the genus of owl and an obvious mispelling of the name it most resembles. Owlboy is a mute boy who is also an owl, struggling with the expectations of owl-hood. When sky pirates threaten the land of the sky he and his brethren live in, Otus is repeatedly given orders to help hold the line and is steadily considered a failure when he falls short. But in reality, he's stumbling onto a bigger conspiracy others won't even hear out. Monsters, ruins, secrets, and puzzles persist in this action game.
Is it any good?
This retro-designed action title has a lot of classic gameplay charm, but it doesn't offer much to players besides nostalgia. What's here is fun and charming enough, but Owlboy ultimately falls short, as its various parts don't play well together. For example, although you have the freedom to fly anywhere you'd like, the game still puts ever-narrowing corridors and walled-off corners of the sky in front of you. Obviously, true freedom in any video game would be daunting and boring, but Owlboy is content to confine you to dungeons that avoid the main gameplay feature that stands out from other titles. That feature is that monsters can be vanquished through clever gripping and squeezing of clouds to produce rain just as effectively as the brute force of gunfire.
Still, it's a game worth playing with measured expectations. It can't be understated how much charm the game exudes, whether it's the impressively detailed pixel art and regal soundtrack or its quaint dialogue, which feels like it's been ripped from a classic Japanese to English translation. If you've played other games like this before, you'll find plenty to be comforted by and familiar with here, but it's too short, doesn't innovate, and can't seem to make up its mind about what sort of game it wants to be. You'll fly around, but not much. You can shoot but don't have to. Either way, it's up to you.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about nostalgia. What does it say about our culture that we sometimes cling to and have warm feelings for the past?
The creators of this game spent nearly a decade making it. Can you imagine 10 years working on a single project or task? Why, or why not? If you had to, what would it be?
Why are underdogs valued but so rarely recognized and empowered in our real lives?
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