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Omori (PC/PS4/Switch/XONE/XSX): Absolute Emotional Horror (Detailed Review)

Currently, I have sixteen games that I plan to write reviews for. Generally, I review games in the order that I play them, because specific memories start to fade over time, which makes it harder to provide a through critique. Omori is number 11 on this list, but I’m choosing to write this review before the other games because I don’t want to wait to talk about this one anymore. Yes, it’s that good.

Omori shook me to my core in a way that very few games ever have. It’s one of those legendary gaming experiences that shatters all expectations and leaves you unable to stop thinking about it once you are done with it. It’s the type of game that leaves such a strong impact on you, that it actually hurts to finish it, because you know whatever you play next has no chance of living up to it. The word “masterpiece” does not properly convey my opinion of this game, because I’ve used that word to describe games that have done far less.

The first time I had an experience with a game like this was back in the early 2010s, when I first experienced MOTHER 3. I didn’t even experience it by playing it, but through a lets play of it. My experience with MOTHER 3 and then EarthBound stuck with me to the point that no other game can top them as my favs. Omori came pretty close though, closer than any other game I’ve played. In fact, the only reason it didn’t end up beating out those games is that Omori was a bit TOO emotionally intense at times, while EarthBound and MOTHER 3 are easier to jump right into. Yes, MOTHER 3, the poster child of sad, tear jerking video games, is significantly less heart-breaking than Omori.

Perhaps what makes Omori so special to me is how much I see myself in Sunny’s character and the general theme of this game. You literally have a hikikomori protagonist who fears the outside world and human interaction due to past trauma, I don’t think I’ve been more called out by a game. All they need to do is say, add a magic potion that turns him into a girl within headspace… oh wait. But in all seriousness, it’s uncanny how much I relate to Sunny’s character, and it’s because of this that Omori has pushed my emotions to the point that I’ve only ever seen in a select few hentai visual novels… it makes sense if you’ve read said hentai VNs, but please don’t go looking for them if you’re under 18 because they are seriously fucked up… yeah, I know, my taste in games is weird.

Somehow, I’m never prepared for a game to play with my emotions to the same extent that Omori does. The threshold for how many unique and awe inspiring games I’ve played continues to increase with time, but somehow, I STILL manage to come across some that blow me away. And yeah, I should probably stop gushing and get onto the review.

Omori stars Sunny, a 16 year old boy with severe agoraphobia who has not spoken a word or left his house in four years. The majority of the game takes place in headspace, a fictional realm within Sunny’s mind populated by imaginary creatures and fictionalized versions of his childhood friends. Rather than inserting himself into these adventures, Sunny lives out these adventures as Omori, a boy who greatly resembles Sunny, and who only has subtle differences that you don’t learn about until later.

So a bit of clarity, the fact that Headspace isn’t real is somewhat of a spoiler, though you learn it pretty early in the game. The reason I mentioned this in particular is that it contextualizes what you can expect from this game, and how Sunny’s personal trauma shapes Headspace. This context really does a lot to make Omori more than just another quirky, whimsical RPG that gets dark at the end. Instead, Omori labels itself as a horror game upfront.

What truly makes Omori so harrowing is the contrast between headspace and the real world, with the former taking place in Sunny’s dreams, and the latter occurring when he is awake. Headspace is a bright and imaginative landscape with colorful locales and comedic dialogue. When you inevitably return to the real world and see that Sunny’s friend group has fallen apart and their lives all went to shit, it hurts all the more because you just saw them together as friends. And it hurts even worse because you go right back into headspace for several hours where you see the comfortable, younger versions of the same friends that are happy and care for each other. It hurts because you know deep down that it’s a lie, but it continues for several hours. Eventually, things start to get so bad that the real world trauma leaks into Headspace.

The duller color palette emphasizes the emotional emptiness that Sunny feels outside of Headspace.

Of course, this is just the main route. You could also choose to keep Sunny from going outside and have him stay at home. Similar to Undertale’s Genocide Route, Omori’s hikkikomori route inspires a powerful sense of dread that makes you feel horrible for playing it. The key difference however, is that the genocide route makes you feel horrible for how you treat others, while the hikkikomori route makes you feel horrible for how you treat yourself. Also unlike Undertale’s Genocide route, there’s an incentive to play this route with unique headspace content that is actually fun to play. This, in turn, helps immerse the player into Sunny’s self destructive mindset of hiding away from the real world.

I could spend several paragraphs spelling out the layers of symbolic depth to Omori’s world and characters, but it really is a “just play it for yourself knowing as little as possible” deal, which you’ve probably already been told which is why you’re reading this review anyway. The point is, I don’t want to spoil this game, since there’s an intense, heartrending, and emotional story waiting for you.

Omori’s stunning presentation also plays a major role in how well the story conveys its atmosphere. The visuals are all artistically beautiful and expressive, and you can really tell that this game’s long development cycle was spent polishing everything. RPG Maker games tend to get a bad rap for a generic and uninspired aesthetic, but Omori is a major exception to that rule. Moments like Kel throwing his pet rock Hector, the Life Jam guy bursting through the walls, Pluto’s transformation into his true form. This game would not be the same without the expressive and vibrant animation.

It’s very easy to forget this is a horror game at moments like this, which is precisely why it’s so effective as one.

And there’s also the artwork in the battle screens, which not only have some beautifully drawn enemy designs, but you can also see them move. As much as I loved Undertale and LISA, one has to admit that their battle screens were not really expressive. Undertale’s was mostly in black and white with a blank back background, and LISA’s enemies just stood still. Omori’s artwork, on the other hand, is beautifully animated, has appropriate backgrounds, and is just beautiful to look at.

And then there’s that music, dear fucking GOD that music! I’m tempted to say that Omori has my favorite game soundtrack of all time. Previously, that honor went to Undertale, but that one loses a lot of points since the main battle theme you hear for most of the game is pretty bland. In Omori, you have close to 200 tracks, and it’s hard to think of any that don’t compliment the game incredibly well. You will hear so many tracks that only play at one point in the game, and they will STILL leave a lasting impact.

There are so many outstanding tracks to list. The peaceful yet discomforting white Space theme perfectly sets the tone for what’s to come. The sense of wonderment and awe that came from hearing Stardust Diving set while you explore a Junkyard on the mood, and the nostalgia it invokes whenever you return to this area in contrast to the later loss of innocence. The sentimentality of By Your Side, the intensity of battle themes like You Were Wrong, Go Back and World’s End Valentine, the overwhelming sense of power and scale of GOLDENVENGEANCE. And there’s so much more I haven’t even touched on. Much like its visuals, Omori just would not be the same without its stunning OST.

That just leaves the subject of the gameplay. Omori’s gameplay isn’t exactly what one would call original, but it IS very well designed and I cannot think of a single portion of the game that I didn’t think was fun. The closest part I have to a complaint is the first hour or so before you get into any gameplay, but everything after that was very engaging.

The battle system is your standard turn based affair with a few twists. The first of these is the emotion system, where a character’s stats are effected based on a set of emotional states that provide buffs or effect the strength of certain abilities. Early on in the game, you will be able to brute force your way through, but you will eventually need to learn the effectiveness of these abilities if you want to not get destroyed by bosses. There’s also the energy bar that is similar to Final Fantasy VII’s limit meter. This allows you a standard overpowered attack if it’s filled all the way up, but you also get smaller bonus actions at the end of their turn. These actions can range from simply attacking again, to healing someone, or changing someone’s emotional state.

I also cannot think of a single dungeon or sidequest that I didn’t like. The most I can say is that there are some that I liked less than others, but I can’t think of any that I disliked. I love that not only are the set pieces unique, but there’s also more to interact with beyond just “go from place A to place B.” You have the ability to tag other party members in order to use their abilities. These abilities include Omori using his knife to cut things, Kel throwing his ball, Aubrey smashing shit with her bat, and hero using his good looks to charm people.

The sidequests were just fun to play and I spent a lot of time just dicking around finding items to recycle, or playing the casino mini game. I really can’t think of a single part of the game I stopped having fun during. And this isn’t even going into the optional sidequests in the real world, or the extended tribute to Yume Nikki during the late game, and the fact that there’s some stuff still being discovered in the Black Space 2 portion.

Omori completely blew me away. This game had me so hooked, that I completed the vast majority of my first playthrough within the span of two days. Keep in mind, a single playthrough will likely last about 30 hours depending on how much side content you pursue. And after that, I played through the entire game again for the Hikkikomori route. I spent a total of 83 hours between these two playthroughs, and I was STILL tempted to play through the game a third time!

I want you all to keep in mind, I don’t replay games very often. I have such an enormous backlog of games, and I quite literally have indie devs messaging me asking if I’d cover theirs. And I do genuinely want to get to all of these at some point, but Jesus fucking Christ, Omori is just that fucking good! And let me reiterate. I think Omori is better than Undertale, and I think it’s better than LISA. It’s hard to say that Omori wasn’t successful, but it deserved to be MORE successful! It deserved to be at least as hyped as Undertale was. And no, I don’t care if that means the fanbase would be annoying because I don’t pay attention to that shit anyway.

There are some game devs out there who claim their game is inspired by EarthBound, and the only thing they take away is some funny NPC quotes with a wacky premise, or some overdone meme about depression, even though I’ve yet to play an EarthBound inspired game that actually WAS about depression.

LOOK AT THIS PHOTOGRAPH!

I want to touch upon that weird anecdote at the start about how there were games that DID leave as powerful of an impact on me as Omori, but they were niche, eroge that were incredibly disturbing and most likely traumatizing. One of the things I enjoy about games is getting to see weird and unique shit that pushes me to my emotional limits. I become impressed when a game is able to make me forget that it’s game, and when its content seeps into my conscious and effects me as a person.

Those aforementioned eroge left a stunning impact on me, but they also have the advantage of having no artistic limits. They do have the element of creativity in the sort of depraved, horrific, shit they can show you, and how that in turn re-contextualizes any hopeful, inspiring, or powerful moments that do occur. I bring them up because it’s generally easier to push someone to the point of despair when the only limit is your twisted imagination.

Omori managed to disturb me without that. I’ve genuinely had to think about whether or not I felt more uncomfortable playing Omori than I did playing Maggot Baits. And I’m sure that anyone else who knows about both of these games are stunned by this comparison, as it’s no contest to how much more disturbing the latter is (seriously, DO NOT look it up if you’re under 18 for the love of God!) But it’s important to keep in mind, my tolerance for the types of grotesque, vomit inducing horrors that Maggot Baits shows you is a lot stronger than my tolerance towards basically seeing myself in a mirror, and having every last fear, trauma, and insecurity played out in front of me.

It’s disturbing how much I I see myself in Sunny’s character. The only part of his character that I can’t relate to is that he’s able to overcome his trauma and agoraphobia at age 16 while I’m 28 and am STILL unpacking all the fucked up shit I’ve seen and experienced. There’s part of me that worries that the uncanny amount of attachment I’ve felt to Sunny’s character means that other people won’t be as attached, but given what this game has meant to a lot of people, it seems like that level of fear may be unfounded.

A lot of people classify Omori as a horror game, and I think that label applies. But it’s hardly your typical “big scary monster pops out” jump scare horror game. In fact, there are a lot of moments where the game goes out of its way to make you forget its a horror game. And it’s because of this that it’s all the more horrifying when it shows its true colors. There is nothing more horrifying than reality, and holy fuck, does Omori feel way too real!

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