GAME NAME: Olympia Rising
DEVELOPER(S): Paleozoic Games
PUBLISHER(S): PlayEveryWare Games
PLATFORM(S): Wii U
GENRE(S): Action, Adventure
RELEASE DATE(S): June 9, 2016
With the all-too-common pixel art style, 2-D setting, and borrowed ideas from Greek mythology, Olympia Rising seems like your run-of-the-mill, indie-developed game on the Wii U eShop. But closer inspection reveals that this frantic action platformer is a real treat (and a cheap one at just $4.99).
Following in the tradition of Hercules, Perseus, Theseus, and other iconic figures in Greek mythology, Olympia Rising stars a tragic hero: Iola, a warrior on a quest for vengeance. After the father of all monsters destroys her home, she challenges him but is killed in the struggle. Upon waking, she finds she has a second chance to complete her mission, but not until she fights her way through the underworld and pays a fare of obolus coins to Charon, the ferryman of the underworld.
To accomplish this, Iola relies on a basic sword attack and a jump + double jump ability. The hook in Olympia Rising is that Iola can chain hits and jumps together without touching the ground as long as her sword can continually find enemies to slay; each successful mid-air kill allows Iola to jump and double jump again to seek her next target. In theory, this means she could soar through the air for as much time as there are enemies within reach, but pulling off successful combos in the game is, obviously, the greatest challenge it offers. It’s a necessary challenge, however, because combining enemy kills earns Iola progressively larger amounts of obolus coins, and she can’t progress from level to level without certain amounts of those.
Assisting Iola are a few magic-consuming moves and spells found in the levels. A gliding ability that can give her extra airtime at a magical price is always at her disposal, but she can collect scrolls that grant various offensive and defensive capabilities. These power-ups occasionally come in handy, but they regrettably break up the crucial gameplay flow, so you may find yourself under utilizing them. I’m also a bit baffled by how they are controlled; instead of taking advantage of the considerable button real estate that is unused in this game, they require the player to hold down on the d-pad and hit the attack button. Adding this technique to your strategy doesn’t come easy.
But getting a good flow going and taking out enemy after enemy in Olympia Rising feels amazing when it works. It’s a challenging game, which is not a bad thing in itself, but it might have benefited from including some more forgiving mechanics, such as checkpoints or perhaps less stringent obolus coin requirements. Reaching the end of a level without the proper number of said coins means you have to play the stage all the way through from the beginning; restarting the more difficult stages time and time again may start to feel like a chore for some.
Speaking of difficulty, the game struggles to find a good progression in that area. Nowhere is this more clear than in boss fights, which are typically lengthy, yet incredibly easy. They feel like a tedious endurance test more often than not, and they almost always forsake the combo mechanic that makes the game fun in the first place.
But with all of that negativity out of the way, I can safely say that Olympia Rising can be a great time, and its pixel art style does enough to set itself apart from the unfortunately large crowd it fits in, which is a real feat. It’s easy to tell that time and effort were put into its design; subtle visual touches clearly show an attention to detail (although an overabundance of on-screen elements causes the occasional noticeable drop in framerate). Overall, the game really impressed me, considering its low entry fee.