EDIT 10/19/2016: The developer of Omni Link did contact us beforehand to tell us that saves would be wiped at the time of the launch update on October 17th. However, the glitches described in this review occurred on October 18th and 19th, after the update that would supposedly make saves stable. We therefore feel it is still relevant and appropriate to bring them up to help players make the decision whether or not to buy Omni Link.
EDIT 10/20/2016: Updated the review to clarify some points regarding the game’s choice system and narrative
I played about 90 minutes of Omni Link in my first session, and then I saved and quit to attend to something else (I believe I was editing together this episode of the Hey Poor Podcast). When I came back about fifteen minutes later, I found that attempting to load my save, whether by clicking “load game” or “resume game”, crashed the entire program. I started a new game, played a little, and saved and quit again to see if it would delete my data this time. Since it actually worked, I sighed, resolved to bring up the one-time bug in my review, and started the arduous process of getting back to where I was.
This morning, I came back to the game only to find that it had deleted the single save slot it allowed me again. So I closed that window and opened this one. I don’t need to finish the game to tell you that Omni Link is a non-functional product being sold on the Steam storefront. The most daring and interesting thing the game does is having the audacity to insist it’s worth fifteen dollars.
If you can actually play the game, which requires you to sit through the entirety of Omni Link in one sitting since it eats saves like they’re candy, you’ll step into the shoes of Keb, described only as “a man of little consequence” because writing interesting backstories for characters is hard. He almost never goes by “Keb”, instead introducing himself using a codename in a
shameless rip-off of loving homage to Guardians of the Galaxy. This codename can be chosen by the player, which means that after laughing for a moment at the horrible default option of “Firehawk” you’ll do the same thing every gamer has ever done when confronted with the option to choose your name and spend the game playing as “some jerk” or “The Penis King”. On my first of three attempted playthroughs I went with “Scrungo Jerry.”
Scrungo finds himself at the center of a conflict against an ancient entity called
The Reapers The Varelsi Mr. Shadow The Virus which has awakened near the edge of the galaxy and is eating planets, killing suns, and doing all the things that ancient evils awakening near the edge of the galaxy tend to do. The details of the conflict are vague, but they’re not really important, because the story’s really about trying to get a robot to fall in love with you. Through a series of “hilarious” misunderstandings, Scrungo is stuck on a ship with Ectype D-8, an ancient robot designed to defeat The Virus. Or, as the Steam store page describes her, “an attractive and powerful being of technology.” Scrungo immediately insists on calling D-8 “Dawn”, a name she objects to, presumably so that you won’t realize that the love-interest robot is literally named “date”.
To be clear: the game contains no actual sex scenes. But most of the dialogue between Scrungo and Dawn is still riddled with awkward sexual tension. This is perhaps epitomized by the screenshot above, where the revelation that Dawn’s cybernetic form has a sense of touch is immediately followed by the question “Does that mean I’d be able to touch you too?” and a subsequent five-minute conversation about how much of said touching she’d be able to actually feel. This conversation takes place while both characters are on the way to a meeting with Dawn’s creator, something the whole game thus far has been building up to, and like many of the “romantic” scenes between the male and female leads it absolutely throttles the pace of the story.
The developer E-mailed Hey Poor Player to insist that I am “jumping to conclusions” when I suggest that the game whose title screen is a top-down view of a girl’s chest (see top image) contains anything sexual in nature. In my opinion, the fact that the final product reads so differently from the author’s intentions only accentuates my point that the game’s central romance is poorly-written, awkward, and should not be in the story at all if it’s only going to distract from the larger fight against The Virus.
The graphics are presented in a very lovely two-dimensional art style, which is one more dimension than any of the characters’ personalities have. Each is defined by a single personality trait: the ace pilot, the child prodigy, the computer programmer, etc. The latter has a neckbeard and glasses and an early conversation with him leads Scrungo to ask “Uh…can you repeat that in ENGLISH, please?”, which I feel pretty much tells you everything you need to know about the writing of Omni Link.
The story brags that it has choices with consequences a la Telltale Games, but as someone who was forced to play the game more than once I can assure you that the choices make no actual difference to the story. For example, early on Scrungo is ordered to destroy the Morpher and can choose either to keep his job or go with the hot robot, but either way he’s cut short by D-8 jamming his communications. What’s more, later on he will still say “I quit my job” when talking to Computer Guy even if you chose the other option. While some choices, like a later decision regarding whether or not to destroy a pirate base, do have slightly more of an impact on the narrative, it’s still nowhere near the level of competing games like King’s Quest or the aforementioned Telltale offerings, making only superficial changes to dialogue rather than impacting the overarching plot.
Between the fan-fiction-grade story moments are top-down shooting sections taking place in space. These are…okay, as okay as a twin-stick shooter without controller support can be. Dawn’s ship, creatively called The Morpher, can change into any ship you destroy or purchase, each of which has up to two unique abilities. The controls are often frustrating, with a number of ships drifting even after you think you’ve come to a stop, but since the combat isn’t really any deeper than the original Asteroids (from which at least the opening section even takes some visual cues), it’s not like you’re going to lose.
There’s also the occasional “puzzle”, all of which work the exact same way. There is some barrier to progress, like a non-functional space station or a dangerous nebula. As her robosoms heave, Dawn tells you that this barrier can be overcome by getting some object, like a power crystal or a special nebula-proof ship. You fly to a spot indicated in the mission objectives to get that object. Puzzle complete. It’s just something to pad out the time without making you feel like you’ve accomplished anything.
And that’s it, really. That’s the whole game. Fans of visual novels deserve better than this plot-device-stealing trashy romance. Fans of space shooters deserve something with the slightest bit of challenge or strategy. And even if I somehow managed to make something in this game sound interesting to you, the game is so broken that you’d better be interested enough in it to play the same section multiple times.
I’ll give it half a point more than the minimum for the admittedly beautiful graphics and soundtrack. But honestly, you’ll find a more enriching combination of science fiction gameplay and narrative in freaking Galaga.
Final Verdict: 1.5/5
Available on: PC (reviewed); Publisher: Roencia Game Creators; Developer: Eldon Harris; Players: 1 ; Released: October 17, 2016 ; MSRP: $14.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a review copy of Omni Link given to HeyPoorPlayer by the publisher.