I always make a point to mention when I quit a game before the end, and Oni is one of those rare games that I’ve quit. Given how many unbearable games I’ve fought my way to the end of, that should speak volumes about the entertainment value of Oni. First, some back story: I kept hearing about how awesome and amazing and underrated this game is, so I went through the trouble of tracking it down. Thing is, it really isn’t any of those things. Even calling it a mediocre action game is doing a major disservice to mediocre action games because Oni fails across the board to deliver anything resembling entertainment value.
The story is worthless
Again, I quit this game before I reached the end. To be fair, though, I was more than halfway through the game when I finally decided that it wasn’t worth finishing, and nothing remotely interesting had happened up to that point. There’s lots of talking in cutscenes, as well as vague logs I found that no doubt pertain to the overall story, but if I play halfway through a game and still have no connection to the characters or world, that game has failed in the story department. It’s that simple. That said, I used Google to make sure that I wasn’t missing any incredible story developments later in the game, but soon realized that giving up on the game was the best thing I could have done. There’s really and truly nothing special here.
The characters are annoying
Much like Oni’s story, its characters are completely pointless. They mostly exist to deliver cryptic statements that are cringe-worthy because of how serious they make the game’s made-up words sound, and you’re simply never given any particular reason to care about anyone in the game beyond “oh, they look tiny,” or “oh, they have purple hair!” The first half of the game has absolutely nothing resembling meaningful character-building, and even worse, if you were to start up the game and watch the first cutscene, chances are you could guess 90% of the plot simply by extrapolating from the hilariously exaggerated and unoriginal personality types. Yes, they’re that bad.
Floaty, imprecise combat
Old games are floaty. That’s just a fact. Whether it’s Deus Ex or Omikron or Red Faction, older games from the early days of 3D never adequately figured out how to provide players with a sense of weight. Oni is no different, which makes its unique 3D beat-em-up kind of gameplay incredibly annoying. You can perform different moves depending on the order you punch and kick (and you unlock new moves as you progress), but the ubiquitous floatiness ensures that you’re going to be consistently frustrated. As if that weren’t bad enough, hit boxes seem a bit too large, and it’s always frustrating to get knocked down by an attack that didn’t seem like it was anywhere near you.
The fighting in this game just doesn’t work. Sure, you can block by doing nothing—seriously, you block so long as you don’t press anything, though I found that blocking was hit-or-miss—but what’s the point when a large number of enemies are armed with guns? The only real play style ever available is to taunt an enemy into melee range, beat them down while hoping the floaty controls don’t cause you to accidentally do something stupid that causes you to lose a lot of your life, and move on. The whole thing becomes painfully repetitive and boring after awhile.
Guns are basically worthless
Enemies armed with guns can be a lot of trouble because you can take quite a bit of damage while trying to get within melee range. However, once you coax them into moving closer, beat them down, and grab their weapon, you’re nowhere near as formidable as they were with the gun. Why, you ask? Because they seem to have unlimited ammo, whereas you’re limited to using found weapons sparingly because of how little ammo is ever left. Even when you use them, though, most guns prove to be laughably weak compared to simple punches and kicks. The whole thing doesn’t seem balanced at all.
This is a door opening simulator
Do you enjoy running around same-looking corridors looking for terminals in order to open doors so that you can run around more corridors looking for different door-opening terminals? If you answered yes, then this game was made for you; when you’re not being irritated by Oni’s imprecise combat, you’re running around buildings opening doors so that you can run around and open even more doors. A ridiculous amount of gameplay revolves around opening doors, and the same-ness of both combat and door opening means that 99% of your time playing this game will be spent wondering why you’re bothering to play this game. Perhaps ten years ago this amounted to a mediocre title, but Oni is below the standards modern gamers hold even the smallest indie studios to these days.
Sneaking is basically pointless
You can sneak in Oni. I didn’t in the half of the game I played. It was never necessary, and it proved wildly impractical compared to just running up to enemies because of how slow you move while sneaking. The whole mechanic comes across as something that was shoehorned in at the last moment to make the game seem more feature-packed than it is (or, to be more accurate, isn’t).
This is at least understandable because of the time period and the fact that it was a title made both for the PC and the Playstation 2, but it’s something I wish I had researched before bothering to find Oni. Had I known that it relied on incredibly annoying checkpoint saves that are at once questionably placed and virtually invisible (meaning many times you die, you have no idea how far back you’re going to be sent), I would have never given this game a chance.
But wait! There’s more! Oni isn’t satisfied with simply being painfully un-fun. No, it also makes a concerted effort to frustrate you with annoying little touches that make it all the more insufferable. The first annoying little touch? Conversations end when you walk away from a character, but they don’t always say something that would indicate that they haven’t finished. This means that if you have to talk to that person in order to progress and you walk away thinking that they’ve finished talking, you can become incredibly confused about what to do next. This was a big problem for me in the police station chapter. Another annoying touch is the platforming, which is highlighted in the video above. It’s quite possibly the worst platforming I’ve ever seen in a game because of its halfhearted attempt at momentum that makes every jump painfully random.
This game has visual elements!
Oni is supposedly anime-inspired. It kind of shows in the art style, with some of the characters vaguely resembling Ghost in the Shell characters, but the graphics are otherwise entirely bland. This is a game about corridors, corridors, and more corridors. Sure, each chapter looks different, but the entirety of that chapter then blends together because of its overwhelming same-ness. Even the enemies are just recycled over and over again with little variation.
Some of the music is okay
The main menu theme is actually a surprisingly good electronic track, so I was expecting good things after that. I was wrong to be so optimistic, however, because the rest of the game is repetitive, bland musical garbage that neither suits the game nor interests the player. Its sole accomplishment is being present, and the more I played, the more I wished that it wasn’t.
Here’s what you should do: