Work on D-Pad Studio’s retro-styled indie sidescrolling platformer Owlboy began in 2007—long before the ‘indie renaissance’, for want of a less-hackneyed term, of recent years, and long before Steam and other distribution platforms were filled with games that aesthetically mirror yesteryear. It’ll finally release “this Fall”, its developers have announced, and will nail down an exact date at PAX West next week.
Within a pixel art-infused two dimensional open-world, you assume the role of the half owl/half boy Otus in a journey which sees you battling sky pirates and traversing monster-infested ruins, among other treacherous encounters, relying on help from your non-flying ‘gunner’ friends.
Besides its lovely-looking—although now slightly well-worn—appearance, one thing which stands out is how Owlboy approaches flight mechanics. Otus can take to the skies without tiring, without timers, without restriction—so long as there’s room above to allow it.
“Explore a vibrantly crafted pixel world in this flying adventure platformer,” explains the game’s Steam page description. “Being a mute, Otus struggles living up to the expectations of owl-hood. Things spiral from bad to worse with the sudden appearance of sky pirates.”
The first Owlboy demo launched way back in 2011, and a release was planned later that year. When I spoke briefly to D-Pad’s Jo-Remi Madsen towards the end of 2014 he told me they’d since redesigned the entire game from the ground up, but reckoned it’d still release before the end of that year. It’s taken an extra couple of years, but it seems Owlboy is finally ready to fly the coop.
During that same conversation, Madsen explained why protagonist Otus cannot speak. “Most games, especially the Nintendo ones, always have character that doesn’t speak, or they want you to feel like you’re the character—that’s why they don’t speak.
"In Owlboy, Otus is an actual mute. He can’t really defend himself, you’re supposed to be this kind of vulnerable character, that’s why you get these gunners or helpers, that you kind of depend on to play through the game—you must work together to get by.”
A concrete launch date for Owlboy is expected to be made at PAX West next week.