By: Matthew Striplen
Do you miss the brutally unforgiving games of the ’80s? Do you like constantly being told that anything less than perfection equals failure? If you’re a masochist and/or fan of old school “Nintendo hard” games, Olympia Rising is the action platformer for you.
Success in Olympia hinges on the player’s ability to execute complex aerial maneuvers in the blink of an eye. Precision and accuracy are the true names of this game. Luckily, Olympia‘s controls manage to keep pace with the player. Once the player grasps how things work, you’ll never be able to blame a death on stiff controls.
Olympia‘s graphic and sound design continues to pay homage to yesterday’s games by sporting a distinctive 8-bit look. There have been hundreds of retro-inspired games in the past few years, so it’s getting harder and harder to impress when games like Shovel Knight and Fez have already set such a high standard.
Unfortunately, Olympia doesn’t stand out quite the way those other two games did in terms of their graphics, instead looking more like a game that could have actually been released in the ’80s rather than showing off the progress in pixel art.
From a musical perspective, Olympia left me wanting more. The music that is present is fun and full of 8-bit charm, but much of the same tracks get reused for many levels.
Congratulations! You are dead. Kind of a bummer to start off a game with that realization, but all is not lost. Charon, god of the underworld, is willing to make an exception in your case. He’s prepared to let you go free, provided you can escape the monsters of the underworld, as well as the rising floods of acid. Why acid? Why not!
Charon adds one last and crucial condition: he must be paid off for letting you escape. At the end of each level, Charon must be paid an increasing number of Obolus coins, which are obtained by killing monsters, finding treasure, etc. Should you fail to collect enough coins, he’ll take what you have and send you back the beginning of the level. Brutal.
Olympia‘s levels come in three flavors: acid, exploration and boss battles. The acid levels are a race to the exit to avoid being instantly killed by the deadly acid. These stages offer some of the most difficult challenges, since you still have to collect enough coins while dodging the acid and fending off hordes of monsters.
The exploratory levels relax a bit after the frenetic pace of the acid stages. Without the acid, the player is left free to roam the level at their own pace. Although these are generally less challenging than the acid, they’re almost never easy.
After a handful of levels, the player is faced with a boss. These are generally exempt from the coin collection rule. These battles typically take place in a single room and the bosses possess only a simple combat animation.
This means that it should only take seasoned gamers a few moments to learn how to exploit the bosses’ weaknesses. Ironically, the bosses are much easier than the standard levels and lack the charm and creativity.
Olympia suffers from significant frame rate issues, especially when lots of enemies are on screen. Slow downs are always annoying, but they’re especially detrimental in this game because of the fast-paced gameplay. It’s nearly impossible to succeed if you can’t accurately see what is happening.
Keeping with its old-school difficulty, Olympia is extremely unforgiving when it comes to defeat. Although players are treated to infinite lives, all your saved coins and magic will be depleted.
This is particularly frustrating because your extra Obolus coins are carried over into the next level, meaning players need to do less work to pass. However, this incentive is negated by the fact that the more the player tries to explore and collect coins, the more likely they are to die and lose everything.
Olympia Rising pays tribute to the hardcore games of the past with its highly technical, unforgiving platforming. The challenges stay high for the entire game, but the difficulty feels fair. However, the lackluster bosses, frame rate issues and misguided collecting system prevent the game from reaching its full potential. If you’re looking for a retro platformer, Olympia Rising, despite its flaws, is still a solid title.