Ancients of Ooga

7.0 Overall Score

Written by on August 6, 2010 in

Gaming off the beaten path can be a risky venture. On one end of the spectrum, you may not get that triple A level of production value. More likely than not, a game may earn no more than the description of “just an Arcade game”. On the other end of that scale, an Xbox Live Arcade game could be a gem with inventive gameplay that somehow transcends its budget. Then again, there are some games that fall somewhere between the two extremes.

Take for example, Ancients of Ooga from Ninja Bee. You play an Oogani, one the races that inhabit the game’s fictional world. Here, the Oogani are being oppressed by Booli meanies. Their only hope is to resurrect their legendary, tribal chiefs who have overthrown the Booli in the past. It is the player’s mission to visit each tribe to revive their chiefs and and muster forces for an Oogani uprising.

Visually, the characters are passable with funny little animations like hip thrusts and head-banging. Although not technically sophisticated, they lend some personality to the on-screen characters. Overall graphical fidelity is neither notably remarkable nor distractingly low quality. In the end, the game’s visuals get the job done.

On the audio front, there’s no spoken dialogue other than incomprehensible babble reminiscent of Sim-lish. The actual speech is conveyed by dialogue bubbles that are downright silly and ultimately, unneeded. Even though they show level objectives, a convenient pull of the left trigger brings up a checklist of goals that need completing to finish the level.

The levels themselves are in 2.5D allowing movement left, right, up, and down with a very limited amount of depth. What makes these levels interesting is what the player is tasked to do in these levels. As mentioned earlier, there are different themed tribes, each are divided into multiple levels. With each theme comes different abilities. For instance, some can swim. Others can fly. Yet others can run and jump higher. The tribal levels are built to be solved with those abilities in mind.

Another key mechanic of the game is the ability to possess other Oogani. This comes in useful when one character has to pull a lever to open a door for another character in another portion of the map.

Along the way, I developed a love/hate relationship with Ancients of Ooga. The Oogani tribes have plenty of personality, making them memorable. The levels were generally very easy, but satisfying when completed. However, what mars the experience are a handful of frustrations that were uncharacteristic of the rest of the game. In one timed sequence, I had to guide my Oogani through a two pools, one he had to fall into, the other he had to avoid, in addition to navigating ladders and jumps before the timer ran out. The level of speed and precision needed there isn’t required in the rest of the game. The difference was jarring.  Multiple tries spread out through four days of effort was ego-crushing. In a handful of other levels, the means to accomplish an objective are not readily apparent.

Gaming off the beaten path is a risky proposition indeed.  However, by the time I finally freed all the tribal chiefs and rid the land of those troublesome Booli, my final impression was a mix of satisfaction and frustration. Frustration for the occasional, ambiguous puzzle paths as well as one or two bouts of momentum-killing difficulty in an otherwise easy game. Satisfaction for the interesting puzzles and zany Oogani characterizations. To Ninja Bee’s credit, at the end of the day, Ancients of Ooga did more to endear me to the game rather than deter me from it.

A download code was provided to TMG for the purpose of evaluation and review.


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Author: John Catuira View all posts by

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