E3 2011: Okabu Hands-On Preview

We do our part to save the environment as we check out HandCircus' colorful action puzzle game.


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Currently scheduled for release on the PlayStation Network this summer, Okabu is an intriguing game in which you assume the role of one of two whale clouds, named Kumulo and Nimbe. You've come down from the skies to find out where the pollution is coming from that's making your family sick, and you discover that the Doza tribe is responsible. Your mission from that point on is to clean up the land, which you'll do with the aid of some local heroes.

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The E3 demo consists of three different levels: one from early in the game that serves as a tutorial, one from the second of the game's four worlds, and one of Okabu's four minigames. In the first, we were introduced to one of the game's heroes, Captain Monkfish. Like all of Okabu's heroes, Monkfish can ride on the back of Kumulo or Nimbe, and when he does so, you get to use his unique ability. Captain Monkfish is armed with a harpoon gun that fires a plunger attached to a rope; it attaches itself to most things that it's shot at, and therefore it can be used to drag objects around (a bomb needed to destroy an obstruction, for instance) and open doors, for example. When no hero is atop Kumulo or Nimbe, their abilities are limited to accelerated movement and being able to absorb liquids such as water and oil that can subsequently be dropped as rain or fired as if from a fire hose.

These abilities are used in some pretty interesting ways. You can use rain to water plants whose fruits work as explosives, for example. And a trail of oil can be used to guide a flame from one spot to another. Add the second hero, Piccolo, to the mix, and you can use him as a sort of pied piper to lead around creatures like goats (used to charge at obstacles and enemies) and friendly characters that you're attempting to rescue.

Piccolo features heavily in the minigame that we were shown, titled Goat Guardians. We were told that this game is "tower defense with goats," which it was, kind of, if you can imagine having to lead your towers to the enemies or at least manually point them in the right direction for a charge every time. The goal of the minigame was to protect three characters who, like the goats, could be relocated using Piccolo's special ability. In other modes, the mechanical Dozas that were threatening the friendlies could have been dealt with simply by getting them wet, but here the goats were our only option.

Regardless of whether you're playing in Story mode (which will purportedly take at least six to eight hours to complete) or any of the four minigames, Okabu appears to be a game that will be best enjoyed cooperatively with a friend. There's no online play sadly, and given that the two cloud whales and the heroes on their backs are frequently required to work closely together, even having the second follow you around and be available at the push of a button is no substitute for a second player.

We look forward to bringing you more information on Okabu as its summer release date closes in.

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