From its opening moments, OVIVO gave me a sense of déjà vu.
After getting briefly stuck, I learned that pressing the space bar caused my character to flip to the other side of the floor, turning what was once empty space into a new plane to slide along. Immediately, a slew of “yin-yang platformer” flash games came to mind, and I was worried that OVIVO would end up feeling like a generic clone of a tired (though still enjoyable) concept. Thankfully, it revealed itself to be a pleasant, bite-sized game that uses clever mechanics and clean visuals to create a thoroughly compelling experience.
At the outset, OVIVO gives you control over a small black ball with a little antenna; according to the store page, its name is OVO. A simple avatar, yet one that has enough attention put into its animations to make it feel special. OVO’s antenna waves around as it moves, and it even sucks it down when going through narrow gaps. Such details may seem trivial, and maybe they are, but they give OVO a nice dash of personality.
This smoothness carries over into OVO’s movement, and it’s here that OVIVO truly shines. There’s no jump button; all you can do is switch “planes” and move left and right. However, momentum carries over while shifting, so jumping off a tall ledge and shifting through the floor will cause you to go flying “down” even further, allowing you to circumvent obstacles on either side. It’s difficult to describe without seeing the game in motion, but it feels like a version of Tiny Wings where, instead of trying to slide down hills, you’re trying to dive into valleys so you can get the most momentum when you come out the other side. This results in some incredibly satisfying platforming, with OVO diving back and forth between planes, riding down hills on one side before using the momentum gained to soar above one on the other. The simple, fluid motion manages to give everything a fantastic sense of flow, evoking memories of classic Sonic the Hedgehog levels and the like.
The flow is helped by the rest of the presentation; despite being entirely monochromatic, OVIVO more than makes up for it with its wonderfully detailed levels. The coolest part of the game is how, upon the completion of each level, the camera zooms out to reveal that the abstract shapes you were moving along were actually part of a larger image. In much the same way, the soundtrack starts out unassuming and abstract, before gradually fading in with eerie synth compositions and catchy electronica. This creates a delightfully minimalistic audio and visual landscape that becomes more intricately fascinating as the game progresses.
Advancing through the levels sees new gameplay elements introduced, including strange, starry gates that suck OVO up and fling it around, moving platforms that need to be shifted in and out of at the proper times, and bulbs that can be used to navigate through dangerous vertical environments. The difficulty curve ramps up nicely, with later levels foregoing some of the carefree platforming in favour of more puzzle-like areas and fast-paced chases. The same curve applies to the collectibles, which include dots and symbols. While neither seems to have any impact on gameplay, hunting down the symbols was addicting, and a good way to encourage exploration of the environment. Early on, all of them are along the main path through the level, with each being almost unavoidable in the journey to the goal. By the end, though, they’re hidden in offshoot paths and behind tricky platforming challenges.
This does bring up a small complaint: it would have been nice to be able to backtrack through levels. You can keep track of how many collectibles you’ve obtained for each stage, but if you make it to the exit and discover that you’ve missed some, there’s rarely a way to make it back to seek them out. The only way to hunt them down is to keep playing the levels, exploring the environments in as much depth as possible without getting locked into some path from which there’s no return. This meant that I was left with little desire to jump back in for the symbols I missed on my first run, as it seemed to involve more trial and error than precision platforming or puzzle-solving.
While it lasts, OVIVO is a lovely ride that uses its constantly-evolving mechanics and short length to avoid outstaying its welcome. The downside to that is that it’s quite short; my first run took me a little under two hours, and as mentioned earlier, there was little motivation to return. To borrow a cliché, though, big things come in small packages, and much like its levels, OVIVO shows that it’s not about getting caught up in the details; it’s about looking at the bigger picture.