Okhlos – Review
Okhlos is a unique mix of chaos, mob violence and Greek mythology. Designed by independent Argentinian game studio, Coffee Powered Machine, it’s had an interesting journey from its inception to the little pixel art roguelike now available on Windows, OSX and Linux platforms.
Okhlos, which I believe translates to “mob” or “crowd”, puts the player in the shoes of a philosopher who, disgusted with the god’s mistreatment of his fellow citizens, decides to raise up swarms of his countrymen and deliver horde vengeance to the unworthy deities.
After a brief intro, I played through the tutorial in an attempt to come to grips with Okhlos’ controls. A huge part of the control scheme is controlling the movement of your philosopher, while controlling the movement, and target, of your mob. I decided to choose the gamepad control over mouse and keyboard in the hope I could coordinate the movement of my left and right thumb. It took some time (through no fault of the game), but eventually I got the hang of it. In addition to movement, I could direct my mob to attack a target, or defend, or use special items they were able to pick up from the environment. Overall, the controls are relatively straightforward (if we don’t take into account this reviewer’s poor thumb coordination).
At the start of a stage, the philosopher is on his own but gathers mob members by approaching them. There is a limit to the mob size but it can be increased by means such as special units. There are different types of basic units with basic skills, such as normal citizens, warriors with attack bonuses, or other philosophers to take over if your main one dies. In addition, you can trade regular units for specially named units, that include a range of heroes such as Heracles or Pandora. These units give you special or significant bonuses that assist in the heat of battle. This adds some element of management as you try to find a mob makeup that works for you. You can also recruit animals such as dogs or cows to round out your mob diversity. If you’ve ever fantasized about raising a cat army to overthrow your oppressors (your supervisor at work, perhaps), Okhlos will go some small way to help you realise that dream.
Levels are quite straight forward and are split into large square areas that need to be cleared of enemies before moving to the next one. Some also have traps or environmental hazards to be avoided. Enemies generally look formidable, and there are a number of different types with varying abilities, requiring some different approaches. Some have shields, some shoot fireballs and dart around quickly, and yet others explode when they die. After clearing several areas of foes you need to defeat the level boss; one of the twelve gods of Olympus, such as Apollo or Ares. These battles are fun and challenging, though I generally sucked at them. A key part of the gameplay is keeping an eye on your main philosopher’s health and manoeuvring him out of danger, while simultaneously directing your mob’s attacks. You also don’t want to find yourself in my situation where I had allowed all my mob members to die, before suffering a miserable lonely death.
Okhlos is a rogue-like, or for those who played games in the 80’s and 90’s a regular arcade game where you try to get as far as you can towards the end goal before perma-death claims you. Other philosophers in your group basically act as extra lives, and you do find the odd healing item, but in general look after your main guy.
Structures such buildings, roadside stalls, barrels and almost anything standing can be destroyed, which adds to the fun and mayhem. While I have to admit I’m not a huge fan of 8-bit style graphics, I did like the look of Okhlos. All the elements have so much visual character and that helps to pull you into the game. The music also has a midi vibe to it and is quite upbeat, suiting the frenetic action.
I did notice that my eyes became quite tired and my vision a bit blurry after playing a while. I think this is because I really had to concentrate on my philosopher and my mob while controlling both. So perhaps this game is best experienced in short bursts, or maybe with anti-strain eyewear.
Okhlos may not exactly be my cup of tea, but it is a unique and fun little arcade style game. Apart from some parallels with Pikmin, I can’t think of anything quite like it. If you like busy, crazy fun and wholesale mob based destruction, you’ll probably enjoy Okhlos. Do keep in mind its rogue-like qualities, and maybe get some eye drops or invest in some gaming eyewear. Then if you’re ready, suit up in your toga and go deliver some ancient Greek style mob justice!
Joel Guttenberg hearkens from the motherland in deepest, darkest southern Africa, but now calls Australia home. His interest in games led to a career in IT, both of which continue to this day. He occasionally wrangles electrons into stories that are hopefully fit for (e)print and never, ever, sleeps on the job.