oOo: Ascension Review

By Kelly Packard, 9 months ago
Xbox One's exclusives, or lack thereof, is constantly under fire from fans and critics. With big-budget, AAA games like Gears of War, Halo or Sea of Thieves receiving all the attention, oOo: Ascension, developed by one-person developer Kenny Creanor and released exclusively on Xbox One, flew under the radar. The game is a unique take on the 3D platformer, although it has a few major flaws. Combining those setbacks with oOo's challenging nature makes for an experience that will only appeal to a niche audience of players who will revel in its difficulty.


In oOo, each level takes place upon a 3D sphere. Individual levels require memorization, speed and reflexes. Players will be introduced to new mechanics one at a time, building upon each new concept and combining prior knowledge to pass increasingly intricate levels. Games like Super Meat Boy come to mind as comparisons, at least in the sense that levels are quick but may take hundreds of tries to beat for the first time. And once a level is beaten, big whoop; the ultimate goal is to get a fast enough time to earn the highest award. The quick levels make it easy to dive in again and again or try for "just one more go."

Aside from the hectic levels, oOo is minimalist. There are no tutorials or popups telling the player what to do. There is hardly any text or menus; levels are denoted as spheres that can be clicked. Within each level, the 3D spheres are colorful but set against a plain-colored background. The art style is striking, unique and clean.

Level design is hit or miss. While there are some fantastic, creative mechanics in oOo like reversing direction, moving platforms, and completing mini-puzzles mid-level, they are overshadowed by more aggravating designs. Backtracking in particular was the worst offender; for example, the level requires you to traverse the entire level, flip a switch, and then go back to the beginning of the level to access the area the switch unlocked. Within less than an hour, I was sick of being asked to trek back through section after section I completed moments before. Within the context of oOo, backtracking is just not a fun mechanic.


Another notable problem is oOo's ghost system. With the heavy emphasis on completing levels with better times, it makes sense for the player to be able to see the ghost of their past run as they give the level another go. However, ghosts are the same color as some objects in the environment and are large and not transparent enough to the point they interfere with the visibility of the vehicle the player is presently controlling. Of course, if ghosts could be toggled off, none of this would matter, but they can't be. With hectic levels where one second's hesitation will cause death, with nearly everything on a level including walls or stepping off the designated path being equipped to kill you, anything interfering with the visual clarity of the level is a big problem.

The achievement list is very straightforward. Players must complete all levels with the maximum rating and do a few other miscellaneous tasks to earn 20 achievements for 1,000 Gamerscore. Some gamers on the site have already completed the game. How long the list takes will vary from player to player based on their proficiency with the game; some players have already reported completing oOo in under five hours or even less.

After our review for oOo: Ascension was written, a patch for the game was released which addressed the two negatives that Kelly listed below.

The fixes for those issues are:
- made multiple level design changes to enhance the experience and reduce 'grinding'
- made ghost times less visually intrusive
You can read the full patch notes in the 'What's new in this version' section of the store page here.

We haven't tested the updated version of the game and have a policy in place to not update review scores after a review is published, but in the interest of fairness, you can read other reviews for the game on Metacritic.


Summary

oOo: Ascension is a unique, 3D platformer with a couple major flaws that prevent it from reaching its fullest potential. There are certainly some well-designed levels here with intriguing mechanics, but the overuse of more annoying design choices like backtracking through stages overshadow the more creative aspects. The ghost of the player's best attempt gets in the way of the visibility in these already hectic and challenging levels as well. oOo won't appeal to everyone, but for those willing to accept the flaws as well as the challenging nature of the game, oOo can be an addictive experience and a fix for that satisfying, 'just one more go' experience.
3 / 5
oOo: Ascension
Positives
  • Some well-designed levels with unique and creative mechanics
  • Addictive, 'just one more try' feel
Negatives
  • Overuse of annoying level tropes like backtracking through the entire stage
  • Badly needs the option to turn off ghosts, which interfere with visibility in an already hectic game
Ethics Statement
The reviewer spent about three hours on the spherical plains of oOo: Ascension. 10 out of 20 achievements were earned in the process. An Xbox One code was provided by the ID@Xbox team for the purpose of this review.
Please read our Review and Ethics Statement for more information.
Kelly Packard
Written by Kelly Packard
In a few descriptors: college student, longtime gamer, writer and junk food enthusiast. I contribute to TrueAchievements as a news writer and reviewer. Usually, you can find me knee-deep in a multiplayer game while ignoring my growing backlog or on one forum or another discussing all things gaming.