• John Bush

Game Review #323: OPUS: The Day We Found Earth (Nintendo Switch)

Reviewer: John B Developed By: SIGONO Inc Published By: Flyhigh Works Category: Adventure Release Date: 11.30.17 Price (At Time of Review): $5.00 (digital) | $39.99 (physical)

Buy OPUS: The Day We Found Earth in the Nintendo Switch eShop here.

Buy OPUS Collection from Amazon here.

Mobile ports are kind of a dicey proposition for me; so many of them are just money grabs, riddled with microtransactions and lacking in gameplay or story. OPUS: The Day We Found Earth is a mobile port of a new breed of mobile game that bucks those trends; it’s a very simple gameplay concept, but it features an amazing, heartwarming story. It’s got light old school point-and-click adventure game elements and a story that would make Pixar proud. It also has a sequel that’s part of the physical release, but we’re only talking about this one today. Check back for the second game soon. I don’t know how the sequel turned out yet, but the whole package is worth buying for The Day We Found Earth alone. Let’s get going.

Roll-Reversed WALL-E

In the year 16000, humanity has reached the stars and colonized all over the universe. Genetic enhancements have become the norm, but as humanity is finding out, it comes with a cost. Genetic structures are breaking down, and the only way to fix things seems to be finding a sample of ancient human DNA – pre-genetic tampering. Unfortunately, that’s something that can only be found on humanity’s home planet, Earth, whose location happens to be lost in time. And so the OPUS project was initiated: under the watchful and enthusiastic guidance of Doctor Lisa and her grumpy assistant Makoto, OPUS’s mandate is to use a powerful space telescope to scan the cosmos looking for Earth-like planets in the hopes of finding humanity a way home.

Lisa spent some of her free time tinkering with a helper robot, giving him a personality, a name – Emeth – and a purpose, because a robot without a purpose is just a calculator. After teaching Emeth how to operate the telescope, the ship mysteriously goes dark. Emeth wakes up on the ship, alone, some time later. The ship is on emergency power and Lisa is nowhere to be found. Trapped in the telescope room, Emeth decides to carry on Lisa’s mission and look for planets. As the ship’s systems recover and more sections reopen, Emeth gains more abilities to scan the stars and digs deeper into the mystery surrounding Lisa and Makoto’s disappearance.

Short but Sweet

I’ll cut off the summary there, but if there’s one thing you take away from this review, I want it to be that the story is as heartwarming as it is heartbreaking, as sweet as it is bitter, and an absolute pleasure to experience. While the game is fairly short – it took me about three hours to finish, including a lunch break – its emotional impact is well-worth five bucks. Heck, I don’t even know that forty for the physical isn’t worth it if the sequel is even half as good. OPUS: The Day We Found Earth unfortunately doesn’t have much replay value; as you play through the game, you unlock a movie gallery so you can watch all the story cutscenes any time you want. It’s still deserves a playthrough by anyone who believes in the power of narrative in games.

Searching for Home

There are two components to the gameplay in OPUS: The Day We Found Earth; exploring the OPUS ship, and scanning for planets. They’re both kind of the same thing, just one takes place on a ship and one takes place amongst the stars. Exploring the ship is just moving your cursor over an object and hitting the interaction button; if it’s something you can interact with, a dialogue box will open up with some short text that will either move the story’s mystery forward or open up a new target to be scanned with the telescope.

Scanning for planets is pretty much the same thing. You have a cursor that allows you to move the telescope around a field of stars that is divided into zones; every planet you are looking for has a zone and an approximate coordinate within that zone, and your job is to scan planets until you find an Earth-like planet at those coordinates. Some planets or other objects have a starting point and a heading instead; I.E., start at this planet and move your cursor at a 90 degree angle. Every planet you find is rated on its similarity to Earth, but that rating has no real gameplay purpose or impact. Finding planets pretty much is just a way to pass the time in between new sections of the ship regaining power and opening up for investigation. It’s just the way the story moves forward. So, while the gameplay is incredibly simple and lacking in challenge, I’m willing to forgive it because it’s in service to such a wonderful story.

Tapestry of Stars

OPUS’s graphics are as simple as its gameplay, but add much more value to the experience. The character and ship background designs remind me a lot of Pixar’s aesthetics, but more minimalist. Emeth’s eyes in particular express an impressively broad range of emotion. While the on-ship scenes are great, the space scanning scenes are a little lackluster. You’re just looking a giant field of black with a few sparkly stars on it. It gets boring pretty quick. The soundtrack is generally thoughtful and slow-paced, which fits with the pace of the story pretty well. When you get towards the end the music intensifies to match certain events; but that just reinforces the strength of the soundtrack, which is enhancing the atmosphere the story creates.

Magnum OPUS

OPUS: The Day We Found Earth is a classic example of a game that is more than the sum of its parts. The gameplay is fairly lackluster; it’s all point and click, without much of the puzzle-solving that usually accompanies point and click adventure games. Half of the game takes place against the visually dull backdrop of space. And yet, I wouldn’t take back the time I spent with it for anything. The story is rich and fulfilling, with memorable characters and a deep emotional resonance. While the gameplay isn’t very deep, it feels necessary to the story. It develops a sense of Emeth’s loneliness and the enormity of his task. If you value story above all else in your games, OPUS: The Day We Found Earth is one you don’t want to miss.

Score: 9/10

Buy OPUS: The Day We Found Earth in the Nintendo Switch eShop here.

Buy OPUS Collection from Amazon here.

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