Over the past year, I’ve made it a priority to keep an eye out for games that skirt the edges of my own expectations. I know that makes me sound like a hipster. But what I mean is that as someone who spends an abundant time playing video games, I’ve been looking for stuff that doesn’t necessarily engage me in the visceral way that I’m used to (although there’s nothing wrong with that at all), but that instead expands my perspective on what can be done differently in an interactive medium. Oops, I think I just leveled up from beatnik to avant garde art critic.
Omno, by German wünder-developer Jonas Manke, is a game that tells a self-reflective tale of a young child striking out on something of a vision quest. Although there are gamified things like finding journal entries from someone who took the same journey before you, as well as a bestiary you can fill out, for the most part Omno is about the sheer wonder of finding yourself in a new land and exploring it to your heart’s content. As you wander each land, they’ll inevitably come a point when you need to move on to the next area, but I wasn’t ready to do so until I plumbed each region’s depths. Each biome, while relatable, feels wildly unique not only in its presentation, but also in the way it subverts your expectations. I never knew I wanted to skate around on top of a staff through the undulating dunes of a desert until I did so here.
I love how organic everything feels in Omno. There are plenty of puzzles for you to solve, and even though some can be pretty obvious, they still feel like they belong. Likewise, the game does an amazing job of making the world itself feel vast, even though it’s relatively contained. Omno feels much larger than it actually is.
What I most appreciate about Omno is the little details. As an avid hiker, I enjoy things like hearing the wind flow through pine trees, the feel of the terrain beneath my feet and that air of mystery that permeates every corner I round. Omno captures it so well with its own subtleties: the way shadows play in the light, the way wildlife reacts to your presence, or when you find a new power that fundamentally changes and expands your traversal options. I know it’s a cliché, but Omno is all about the journey and not the destination. Even though I knew my time would eventually be finite, I had no impetus to push my way towards the end when I was having so much fun smelling the proverbial roses.
While there are definitely influential developers out there, I’m hesitant to call them auteurs, because what they do is often achieved with the help of a lot of people. Not so in the case of Manke – Omno is his creation part and parcel, and I’ll certainly be on the lookout to see what he does next. I’m discovering that I’m keen on games that put the idea of exploration front and center, without the need for combat or statistics or collectibles. Sometimes just seeing something new and just rambling around is all you need. Omno is the epitome of that notion, and it should be celebrated and experienced by as many people as possible.
Omno was developed by Jonas Manke (alias StudioInkyfox), and it’s available on PC, PS4, Xbox (inc. Gamepass) and Switch. We played the Switch version.
Disclosure statement: review code for Omno was provided by Future Friends Games. A Most Agreeable Pastime operates as an independent site, and all opinions expressed are those of the author.