Review

Oblitus Review

  • First Released Feb 27, 2015
    released
  • PC

Jump softly and carry a big stick.

Parvus, from the Latin for "little," is such an apt name for the hero of Oblitus. He spends his waking hours tossing sticks at beasties the size of small buildings, and his jaunts take him among household items such as pots and jars that are so comically oversized he might as well be walking through a Claes Oldenburg exhibit. It's possible, too, to read a bit of self-deprecation on the part of one-man development team Connor Ullmann, who's been saying for two years now that his little 2D sidescrolling rogue owes heavy debts to Dark Souls. Parvus' journey is fraught with failures, restarts, and seemingly insurmountable challenges. Thus, his journey echoes the creative trials of a developer who knows he has massive boots to fill.

Generally, Oblitus succeeds, in spirit if not in presentation. The influence of Dark Souls doesn't beat you over the head as it did in last year's Lords of the Fallen; instead, it reveals itself in subtler ways, such as how the reason behind our masked hero's existence reveals itself chiefly through gameplay rather than storytelling. You see it when poor Parvus can't sustain more than a few blows before the words "You Have Died" fill the screen and reset your progress, or how darkness and shadows cover so much of Parvus' world. It's a beautiful world, and while Oblitus opts for an attractive hand-painted aesthetic that evokes a gritty reboot of Castle Crashers, it's possible to catch echoes of Blighttown and Darkroot Garden reverberating throughout its interiors and forested paths.

Killing enemies wins Parvus back some health, but the benefit is so small that you'll barely notice the difference.
Killing enemies wins Parvus back some health, but the benefit is so small that you'll barely notice the difference.

The nods to Souls carry over to the combat, with the key difference that this is a fast-paced game that better resembles Mega Man or more contemporary platformers like Outland. It's intuitive stuff, for the most part, and a quick prompt when the game first boots up bidding you to mirror the action keys for either a gamepad or keyboard serves as all the tutorial you need. There's a sense, though, that Ullmann tried too zealously to Souls-ify his game. Parvus can parry and block with his shield by activating the left bumper and trigger of a gamepad, for instance, but the option never feels anywhere as useful as his ability to roll through most adversaries, swatting them with his trusty wooden spear before rolling swiftly to the other side.

Small collision issues complicate the matter because it's not always clear if our little warrior can block an attack at a particular angle or even if his jabs will hit. Parvus is thus much more effective when fighting on the move, jumping Mario-style over lumbering bog monsters and lizard men rather than staring them down behind a shield or using the option to throw Parvus' spear across the map (and suffering a slight respawn delay for the privilege). Oblitus' very design tends to confirm this bias, as the combat upgrades Parvus picks up focus far more on options such as gaining invincibility while rolling and jumping higher than on employing our little hero's rickety shield.

No Caption Provided
Be sure to explore, as ridiculously helpful powerups sometimes hide in the strangest places.
Be sure to explore, as ridiculously helpful powerups sometimes hide in the strangest places.

In less capable hands, such challenges might be overcome by simply memorizing where Oblitus' monsters enter and exit, and recalling precisely when to make various jumps. But this is Oblitus, a name that means “forgotten.” Ullmann's game escapes such predictability through the roguelike elements of its gameplay, which shakes up the locations and types of upgrades, health renewal boosts, and even a few of the enemies after each death to ensure that each playthrough differs from another. Even the map itself isn't entirely safe, as elements such as corridors and platforms sometimes subtly extend to make room for more foes. The upshot is that each of Parvus' forays into his strange world is fraught with an exciting urgency that's absent in 2D games relying on extra lives and self-sacrifice for the sake of experimentation. When you risk losing everything, Oblitus says, everything starts to count.

That's a lot of abuse to hurl at players, particularly when it also means that some playthroughs will inevitably be easier than others. However, Oblitus keeps it manageable with zones that feel just large enough to deliver a satisfying sense of exploration while remaining compact enough to keep replays worthwhile. (There's even an achievement for beating the game within 25 minutes.) Elsewhere, enemies’ deaths reward you with a near-imperceptible bit of replenished health. The handful of bosses, while massive enough to take up huge chunks of the screen, usually require simple (although sometimes not immediately obvious) strategies that assuage the pain of repetition in the case of almost certain failure. It's like the kid on the playground who's just mean enough to start scuffles with you but is never quite unbearable enough to drive you away. Indeed, my main complaint throughout had little to do with the moment-to-moment gameplay but rather with the way the world is filled with too many surfaces that look like they should be walkable but aren't.

Boss fights aren't forgiving of slips, but most of them rely on manageable strategies.
Boss fights aren't forgiving of slips, but most of them rely on manageable strategies.

Ullmann does his game a bit of a disservice by so vocally trumpeting the influence of Dark Souls; this is something different and attractively brutal, although its component elements are familiar enough to make it accessible to almost everyone. (And if the considerable appeal of Volgarr the Viking proves anything, it's that publisher Adult Swim has a soft spot for punishing platformers.)

But there's plenty of pleasure in this pain, and it reveals itself in not only the richly imagined bosses and enemies but also Josh Whelchel's haunting soundtrack, which fares just as well off the screen as it does when Parvus is busy stabbing creatures of the dark. If you're up for some pretty punishment, Oblitus provides an experience that you won't soon forget.

Back To Top
The Good
Shuffling of upgrades and enemies after death keeps playthroughs fresh
Accessible, intuitive controls
Compact world design keeps constant replays bearable
Excellent soundtrack
The Bad
Some collision issues
Not always clear if environmental elements can be walked on or not
8
Great
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Leif Johnson is a South Texan who loves platformers and Dark Souls, so playing Oblitus was a match made in Boletaria. He also loves the ridiculously awesome posters that were designed to hype Oblitus' release. For the purposes of this review, he dodged condors and stabbed forest mutants for around eight hours.
16 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
GameSpot has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to toxic conduct in comments. Any abusive, racist, sexist, threatening, bullying, vulgar, and otherwise objectionable behavior will result in moderation and/or account termination. Please keep your discussion civil.

Avatar image for RogerioFM
RogerioFM

10131

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

After finally playing it, I can say it sucks.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Dumb_Dunmer
Dumb_Dunmer

26

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

If you liked a souls like 2d platformer, Do yourself a favor and look into Shovel knight. It is amazing.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for warriors30
Warriors30

967

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 5

You had me at "Dark Souls"... very interesting looking game and a great review as well.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for deactivated-5abc14ca5e8cc
deactivated-5abc14ca5e8cc

881

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 79

User Lists: 0

It's difficult to imagine Adult Swim doing anything worthy of $15.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Pyrosa
Pyrosa

7621

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 44

User Lists: 0

I'll give it a shot.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for spikepigeo
spikepigeo

597

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 12

User Lists: 0

I'm so glad that indie developers continue to carry the old-school torch, while still finding ways to innovate.


We may pine after big-budget productions forever, but no matter how badly we get burned by an over-hyped, under-delivering pile of DLC bait, we will always have dozens of brilliant games like this to occupy us.

2 • 
Avatar image for dylandr
dylandr

4940

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 19

User Lists: 0

Just me or is this artstyle getting more and more popular?

Upvote • 
Avatar image for seanwil545
seanwil545

169

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 4

User Lists: 5

PC...where game innovation lives!

Upvote • 
Avatar image for noah364
noah364

208

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 8

User Lists: 0

Now I know who Claes Oldenburg is. Thank you, Leif Johnson!

Upvote • 
Avatar image for misternathan
misternathan

93

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 2

User Lists: 0

You know it's a good review, when it's a review of a tough 2d indie platformer. Go for the throat, GameSpot. :P

Upvote • 
Avatar image for coldfusion25
coldfusion25

107

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 8

User Lists: 0

When I saw '8' I expected a 2D or indie game.

9 • 
Avatar image for doozie78
Doozie78

1123

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 2

User Lists: 5

@coldfusion25: When you see a 6 you can almost guarantee it's going to be a "AAA" game. :P

Upvote • 
Avatar image for xantufrog
xantufrog

12606

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 2

User Lists: 5

xantufrog  Moderator

Sounds like a good time

Upvote • 
Avatar image for zeca04
zeca04

381

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 9

User Lists: 1

Good to see so many interesting releases for pcs. Keep it going, indie devs

9 • 

Oblitus

First Released Feb 27, 2015
released
  • PC

Oblitus follows the tale of a small, spear-wielding creature named Parvus who seeks to discover their purpose and origin within an unfamiliar realm full of huge, ancient terrors.

8
Great

Average Rating

8 Rating(s)

4.8

Developed by:

Published by: