THE REVIEW IN BRIEF
- An exploratory, worry-free action game available for PC and Xbox.
- Piloting a mysterious shape-shifting spaceship, you visit the surfaces of several distant planets.
- Fascinating landscapes and a visual rendering that unfortunately does not take advantage of the Xbox Series X properly.
For some days now, we have been talking about this videogame around the Great Net which seems to be “a little Flower and a little’ Journey, but with a ball “for which I felt compelled to investigate the matter and download the present here Exo One, indie game developed by Jay Weston and his Exbleative. Available for PC and Xbox platforms, the game is currently also included in Microsoft’s Game Pass offer so I proceeded to download it to my Xbox Series X to embark on this interplanetary odyssey and return with an opinion.
Unlike the two games mentioned above by thatgamecompany, Exo One comes with a sort of plot concerning a signal of extraterrestrial origin that “teaches” the inhabitants of the Earth how to build a means of transport – baptized, in fact, “Exo One” – which can be used to visit distant worlds. To implement these indications, the earthlings actually build the spherical spacecraft and organize a mission in the orbit of Jupiter, where obviously something goes wrong. In short, here we are aboard the Exo One, lost in space, jumping from one planet to another …
Accumulate and free!
Without too many preambles, the game launches us on the surface of the first planet, “aboard” our spacecraft which actually appears as a metal sphere capable of accumulating energy (lighting up in a sinister way in the process). In addition to rolling here and there by simply tilting the analog stick, our ship has the ability to increase and decrease at will the effect that gravity has on it. By accumulating the force of gravity the sphere becomes heavier and accelerates along the slopes, thus acquiring energy, while releasing gravity makes it light. By alternating these two actions and playing with the conformation of the terrain, we will be able to advance rapidly and by leaps along the surfaces of the planets. To understand: have you ever played the beautiful Tiny Wings on smartphone? Here, imagine applying this mechanic of swoops and swings in a three-dimensional environment.
In addition to rolling and changing the force of gravity, the control system of Exo One it allows us to carry out two other important actions. The first is to jump, with the possibility of making a second jump in mid-air while the second is modify the shape of our sphere to make it flattened, like a pebble: this allows us to glide, thus covering large sections of land without touching the ground. Unfortunately, maintaining this form consumes energy and so we will have to alternate flights and swoops to stay in mid-air whenever possible. The control system is initially a little alienating and you have to get used to its bizarre upheavals of the laws of physics, especially when manipulating gravity. After a few minutes of play, however, you get in tune, you “become the ball” and everything comes quite naturally.
The purpose of a trip
It is once we have come to terms with the control of the Exo One that we ask ourselves: and now what should I do? As in the games mentioned at the beginning of the article, this is a video game that does not rush the player: we find ourselves exploring the surfaces of the planets using those few interactive elements that are scattered here and there. In addition to climbs and descents, in fact, we can occasionally encounter elements of a decidedly artificial nature such as constructions capable of accelerating our vehicle, “cannons” capable of launching us forcefully into the air or ramps to be exploited following a proper acceleration. These artificial elements are also combined with natural ones, such as gusts of wind, geysers and more: each of these factors has an effect on the Exo One, generally allowing it to take off or stay longer in the air. In the levels – sometimes well hidden – it is also possible to find balls of light that permanently increase the characteristics of our ship, thus increasing its ability to accumulate energy.
Soon you will notice a structure in the distance that projects a beam of light towards the sky: that is the destination that must be reached in each level, that is a monolithic construction that takes care of projecting the Exo One towards other planets (with an equal and equal effect from The Black Hole, for those who remember). There are no threats or dangers between us and this purpose. Our ship is impervious to falls, lava or explosions and can even reach the bottom of the sea and emerge unscathed. What is a simple advance towards the beacon of light, however, becomes more and more complex when the game introduces a minimum of obstacles to overcome., such as “batteries” to be collected to activate the portal itself. Nothing particularly demanding: never as in this case the journey is more important than the destination itself. The problem, if anything, is that this journey is very short.
The ending is (ig) known
Overcome all the planets of Exo One in fact, it requires just over two-three hours of continuous play, to which you can add a little extra time in case you want to find all the hidden orbs (something not strictly necessary). There really isn’t much to do once you’ve hit the credits and also the story, initially intriguing for a couple of premises, crashes into an ending that seems a bit pulled away. Fortunately, the developers, after a first couple of similar planets, managed to propose quite varied settings without ever daring on the originality front. For example, one of the planets to explore is tiny and resembles gravity games from Super Mario Galaxy, a nice idea that is immediately abandoned without being implemented and exploited properly. Furthermore practically all planets are sterile, except for some vegetation (and a couple of specific “encounters”): this weighs a lot in terms of setting, undoubtedly a bit of alien fauna would have made things more fascinating. What we have left is a set of beautiful landscapes to walk through, a great set of great sound effects and some good music that starts at certain times, everything else practically “slips away” exactly like the Exo One does.
Not even the “plot” actually manages to leave its mark, providing the player with a series of clues as to how things went and showing an ending that doesn’t explain much. On the technical front, the game behaves discreetly on Xbox Series X connected to a 4K TV, but without being able to give the impression of taking advantage of the console hardware sufficiently. In terms of fluidity and resolution, you always get the impression of a title that is not very optimized for the “next-gen” (which hasn’t been “next” for a long time now).
The two most curated aspects of the game – which actually impressed me the most – are the audio, full of well-chosen sound effects, and the rendering of atmospheric events, especially the rain. The adventure is appreciated for what little it lasts, but stumbling over a couple of repetitions too many and passages that seem a bit “watered down” (and sometimes actually are). After having explored the dozen planets that make up the game, you are greeted by a sudden finale that leaves little else to do: the mission of the Exo One ship can therefore be considered completed only in part, thus leaving the feeling of a lost opportunity. to end up in the pantheon of the best exploratory games with a slightly “new age” taste.
Exo One is a rather short experience that also allows itself some repetitions and delays, thus also presenting some rhythm problems. Some landscapes are beautiful to see and to cross and the atmospheric conditions sometimes leave you positively surprised. On the other hand, the game is very short and lacks those flashes and creativity that would have made it a classic of its kind. If you enjoyed Journey (a game that is even “mentioned” in a specific passage) then this interstellar journey could be for you, otherwise the risk of disappointment is there and it is quite high.