Everything in Oscura wants to kill you. Whether it’s the terrifying dark creatures roaming about, the spinning wheels just aching to squish you, or the frequent pits of glowing red spikes, there are many ways to die in Oscura. And die you will. A lot. Oscura is an incredibly challenging platformer that’s only really hampered by its current short length.
In the world of Oscura a magical lighthouse keeps dark monsters at bay, but at the outset of the game that light has disappeared. In order to return things back the way they were, you’ll need to travel through a series of levels collecting shards of light. Oscura only provides a subtle hint of a story, but it’s enough to make you want to explore the world further.
Lurking in shadows.
Exploration involves relatively simple platforming. Oscura uses a unique control scheme in which you tap either side of the screen to move in that direction and then tap the opposite side to jump. It feels pretty weird at first, but we got accustomed to it after just a few levels. You can also double-jump and as you collect light shards you’ll be able temporarily slow down time, which can make navigating moving platforms a little easier.
Not that Oscura is an easy game, though. Far from it. While the platforming is relatively simple, navigating the world is far from it. One-death kills come from everywhere, including spiked floors and platforms and roaming creatures. Even the water will kill you in Oscura. And so this is a game where you will die a lot. It doesn’t feel cheap, and in fact almost every time you die it feels like it was your fault. You know what to do but actually doing it can be difficult.
Truer words were never spoken.
Much like games like Limbo, a large part of Oscura’s charm comes not from its challenging play, but its atmospheric world. All of the creatures and much of the world are covered in darkness, turning them into mere shadows contrasted by a bright background. It’s a nice change of pace from the happy, colorful games that dominate the App Store. The haunting music and sound effects add to the unsettling charm.
The main issue with Oscura is that there simply isn’t enough of it right now. There are only seven levels (which the game generously describes as chapters) at present, though a number more are listed as coming soon. But even with the frequent deaths and challenging difficulty, it doesn’t take long to see everything. And unless you’re a completest, there’s not much incentive to go back through levels more than once and collect things you might’ve missed.
Of course, when our only complaint is that a game is too short, it means that what is there is pretty great. And that’s definitely the case with Oscura. While it doesn’t feel quite long enough, it’s certainly a challenging and atmospheric experience while it lasts.