Developer: Coal Valley Games
After playing some PC games only for the last few weeks, I wanted to take it easy and tackle my Switch backlog. I picked up Oneiros on steep sale and didn't know much about it at all, but as I've found great indies that way before, I was curious to finally check it out. Oneiros is a first-person adventure game about trying to escape a surreal fantasy and get yourself back to the real world. Oneiros is an interesting and at times challenging escape room adventure that keeps you interested in its story, although its "poop joke" humor and sub-par voice acting could be better.
You start the game washing your hands in a movie theater bathroom. You play as Liam, a young man who soon after receives a phone call from his girlfriend, Sarah. As you exit the bathroom, you note how strange it is that the hallways are completely empty. You continue to the ticketing area and food court and find it's all eerily empty. Liam wonders if everyone, including Sarah, is playing a prank on him. You solve a puzzle using the movie times to exit the locked movie theater door, but instead of stepping out into a parking lot you find yourself in a bizarre hallway made of weird lights. From here on, you'll travel back and forth between fantastical locations and real locations from Liam's life, such his bedroom. Liam is trying to "escape" this weird dream or fantasy he's stuck inside of, and in order to do that he just has to keep unlocking the next door in his way. He's having trouble remembering anything that happened before this started, saying his head hurts when he tries to recall. Along the way, he encounters strange hot spots of energy where he hears audio memories of him talking to his girlfriend. He uses this memories to try and put the pieces together of what's going on.
This is perhaps a strange thing to point out, but I thought it was actually really cool that Oneiros starts out just dropping you in an empty movie theater. I don't think I've ever played a game that's set in a movie theater, and there's something so nostalgic and familiar to me about that type of location. Since it's empty, you can run around and run all the faucets, knock over chairs and jump on the tables. The game has some pretty fun physics and although it unfortunately doesn't let you throw things, you can look closely at every physical object you pick up, turn it all around, and then drop it on the ground. The inventory system is a little clunky, at least on Switch, making you have to scroll right or left within a row of items instead of being able to navigate it more freely. You end up collecting a lot items for one big puzzle at the end, so it would help to have better inventory management. However, the puzzles themselves were really fun and involved a good series of tasks as well as looking in unexpected places for clues. Oneiros puts a lot of detail and story into its environments, even with items you won't need for puzzles. For example, many items are just straight up meme references of the time. I think this can sometimes work and sometime not, but for the most part these did make me chuckle. I gotta say though (in reference to one specific item) "rick-rolling" in 2020 just doesn't land the same. I included a couple of memes references and "parody" games down below, see if you recognize these from 2019.
Oneiros does a good job of making you want to find out what happened to make Liam end up in this dream world. Although the ending is quite an interesting twist, I feel like it could've used a little more detail to describe the all characters involved in his memories and how they played a part in what's going on. This would've helped to make the ending land a little more strongly. Although I think it's great this game has voice acting, it wasn't the best. Liam specifically has sort of the same tone in everything he says, always kind of edgy and spunky. My partner very accurately described it as "Sonic the Hedgehog cartoon" voice. It didn't change even in more emotional and serious memories. Throughout the game there was a good bit of "poop" humor, a penis joke, and a random but very raunchy alcoholic bird. This still had its funny moments, but it leaned a little hard into that vibe for my taste.
I think the art style in this game is quite well done, especially for a game made by one person. On the surface it's a fairly simplistic 3D look, but it shows a lot of detail in every item and little interactable thing you encounter. I personally think the most of "surreal worlds" you travel through weren't particularly impressive to look at, but the house on a floating island that you're teleported to near the end is really cool. It makes it worthwhile to explore the whole area and look closely at the other strange faraway islands. This is an issue sort of specific to me, but at times it gave me a little bit of motion sickness, as some first-person games tend to do (I had it pretty bad in SOMA). I think it's the head-bobbing while walking that does it for me. However, this wasn't happening for most of the game so it wasn't too bad, it just would've been nice to have some more settings to adjust that. I think most of the music in this game was by an indie rock band called Bite the Buffalo, which had some pretty cool songs and gave the game a more psychedelic feel. "Deja Voodoo" is probably my favorite one, sounding pretty different from the more folksy song used in the game's intro.
Oneiros is a trippy puzzle adventure game with an interesting story and references to keep you engaged. I would recommend it to players who enjoy point-and-click exploration games full of sequential puzzles. It definitely has the type of puzzles that when you finally figure out, you feel extremely satisfied for seeing outside the box. I would go in expecting some memes and jokes that may or may not land and a story that may or may feel important to you. I think it was a fun, at times pretty funny, short experience and I'm definitely impressed by the work put into it by just one person.
Oneiros is available on PC, Xbox One, and Switch
Played on: Switch
Playtime: 4 hours