ONDE is a puzzle, adventure, platformer game with a memorable atmosphere that was released last month on March 17th. It’s developed by Lance, 3-50, and published by Mixtvision, who is perhaps best known for their 2018 release, FAR: Lone Sails. ONDE is available to play on PC, IOS, and Nintendo Switch.
ONDE is a game where you play as what can only be described as a bubble, or particle, of light. You ride waves of light, which will behave slightly differently depending on their colour. Some of these bubbles or waves, you yourself can control and you have to time them right to continue through the game. The mechanics are super interesting, and although I’d not really played anything similar before, I found I got used to them very quickly and understood the mechanics very easily. The waves you are able to control work by your pressing of ‘WASD’, but admittedly, because the game was particularly zoomed out, it was often hard to see which of the ‘WASD’ keys you had to tap. I didn’t think this as much of an issue at first, as I could just lean forward to check, but towards the end of the game, there is a timed chase where if you don’t press them in time, you have to start again. It was pretty frustrating. The game also advertises itself as a rhythm game, which isn’t a lie, as there are moments where you really do play with the music, and any time you press a key a note will sound, but it has to be said, I won’t remember ONDE as a rhythm game, but rather a game that sometimes uses rhythm.
The PC controls don’t offer controller support, just keyboard, or keyboard and mouse controls. I attempted to just use the keyboard, but the game is very circular in motion, and relies on a lot of angled turns that just didn’t smoothly work with your basic up, down, left or right options. When I changed to a mouse and keyboard, where you click and hold to follow your cursor around, I found the movement was a lot smoother and easier to manage. This is a shame as ONDE is a game that would really benefit from just being keyboard control because of how simple it is, it feels a bit much to get the mouse out just to move around. I imagine the gamepad controls would suit it best.
ONDE is a very short game, with its run time coming in at just over 2 and a half hours, but I found that to be just the right length. Anything longer would have become tiresome, and anything shorter wouldn’t have felt as accomplished. There’s not much of an explicit story in the game, but there’s a tale of you and this ethereal, neon outline of a hammerhead shark that initially chases you, and then finds its way to the end of the game with you, letting you ride on its tail at the end. Considering there was no dialogue or characterisation, it still managed to be a pretty heartwarming moment, which is tricky to pull off with a subtle story like this one.
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The progression in ONDE is all over the place. You will be thrown spectacular and grand moments where you will think, ‘ah, this must be the end’, and then the game continues on. This isn’t necessarily bad, as it’s mostly about taste, but I found it difficult to gauge where I was and how I was doing. I find a clear sense of progression is important for player motivation, and ONDE was really lacking in this. Additionally, it was tricky to know when the cinematic moments started and ended, so I found myself periodically pressing keys to check I wasn’t supposed to be doing something.
The aesthetics of the game is what really makes it worth playing, it’s a stunning looking game, with a kaleidoscope-esque feel to its design, and the colours and shaders are beautifully done. The soundtrack is just as brilliant and does a great job of setting the tone for the game. Even though you might not be sure where in the game you are, you’re always aware whether it’s a calm moment, a chase, or if you’re working your way up to something big. The crescendos before a reveal of something visually amazing really carry the motivation side of things. Having said this, there was a moment where you’re slowly ascending up this channel, surrounded by plants, the music builds as you rise out of the ground, and then you’re instantly lost. You see, unfortunately, the player character is white, and for some reason, I can’t fathom, there are a lot of moments in the game where a lot of the background colour is also white. To make matters worse, the cursor is a white dot, so not only can you not see yourself, but you can’t see which way you’re telling yourself to go, which isn’t accessible at all. At this moment when I reached the top of the cavern, I dropped back down because I had hit something, something I wasn’t able to tell I was going to hit, because I was entirely merged with the background, and I had to re-do the big moment. This made it considerably less big, and actually a bit comical if nothing else. It’s a game that manages to be calming and frustrating at the same time and to be fair, that’s pretty hard to pull off.
The game ends with a real sense of accomplishment, although I can’t help but feel it would have been even more spectacular if the build-up hadn’t fluctuated so much. All in all, I’d recommend ONDE. It’s a game with a unique experience, and although it might be a little unpolished in some areas, it really does stick with you.