Oozi: Earth Adventure

words manifested by: AJ Johnson

A game by Awesome Games Studio for PC and Xbox 360, originally released episodically in 2011-2012.
Oozi: Earth Adventure is a 4-part series of platformers for the Xbox Live Indie Games channel. The game stars a character named Oozi who has crash-landed his spaceship on Earth after running out of fuel during a delivery. Unfortunately, the resulting crash not only stranded him on an enemy-filled planet, but his ship and clothes have mysteriously disappeared, leaving him in only his underwear. However, in the lighthearted tone of the game, Oozi dismisses this by stating that apparently these sorts of things just happen on this planet.

Episode 1
Oozi: Earth Adventure, Episode 1 shares a great deal of traits with the pastoral platformers that came before, offering colorful environments, a variety of enemies, shiny collectibles, and no small amount of jumping. Your primary method of attack is jumping on your enemies, squishing them and causing them to puff out of existence. However, your jump height is considerably higher than that of other platforming stars. Even a light tap on the JUMP button will send Oozi to about 3x his height, and holding the JUMP button will send him to 4x.

Because of this, Oozi can jump great heights and distances, but it also means that his attack speed is somewhat slower, because it takes him a while to reach the apex of his jump and descend. It also makes it a bit more difficult to line up an attack on a moving target, particularly since enemy patrol routes often stop short of the edge of the platform. Turning around before reaching the edge is not expected enemy behavior in games of this type, and this can cause you to miss your target; or worse, place yourself in harm’s way.

But once you’ve made this mental adjustment, you’ll be squashing snakes, snails, and flies in no time. Of course, some enemies are squish-resistant, such as metal-shelled snails that are invincible to your standard attacks, at least until you earn a powerup that allows you to defeat them (more on this in a bit). Other enemies will hurt you outright if you touch them, including spiked hedgehogs, flies with horned helmets, roving 3-eyed spiders, and toothy spike-covered fish.

All of the game’s characters – including Oozi – have cartoony designs, with bright colors, big grins, and googley eyes. This is somewhat reminiscent of the character designs in Rayman, particularly the goofy-looking Globox. This gives Oozi and his enemies a more personality, and allows them to be more expressive. Oozi also has several different idle animations.

The collectibles in this game come in the form of stars, which grant you points (10 points each, regardless of color), and killing enemies grants you points as well. Each time you earn 2,000 points, you gain one heart for your health meter. You begin the game with 2 hearts, and you can carry up to 3 at once. So, collecting stars and defeating enemies essentially allows you to restore your health and to retain a reservoir to withstand future attacks. In a game with infinite continues, this certainly makes more sense than providing the player with 1UP’s. Also, if you cross a checkpoint with only 1 heart remaining, you will automatically be restored back to 2. It’s also worth noting that if you resume your game from a checkpoint, all previously-killed enemies will still be dead, and the stars you collected will be gone.

Though there is only one main path through each of the levels, there are loads of tucked-away alcoves that contain additional stars, usually guarded by an enemy. There is one particular enemy type, a green-shelled snail, that you’ll frequently find when hunting these out-of-the-way corners. Green-shelled snails can hide in bushes, only visible due to their googley eye stalks sticking out of the top. When you come near them, they’ll cast off the bush and charge at you very quickly. You cannot hurt them, so you must jump over them and let them dash past you. When the snail reaches a ledge, it will pause for a moment, and a “!?” will appear over its head right before it plummets to its self-inflicted doom.

These alcoves are generally quite easy to discover, and the score-to-health system means that veteran platforming fans won’t find too much to challenge their skills in the early going. Furthermore, killing each enemy and collecting each star makes these multi-checkpoint levels take a very long time to complete. However, the challenge does build in the back half of the game as new moves become available, therefore opening the game to new challenges. Additional powerups in future episodes promise more challenges as the adventure continues.

At the game’s midpoint, Oozi will recover his pants, which give him two new abilities. He can double-jump – increasing his maximum jump height to about 5x – and he has the ability to do a butt stomp by pressing DOWN while he is in midair. Interestingly, the butt stomp works any time you’re in the air, and can be executed at will. The double-jump only works when jumping from the ground; you are not permitted to double-jump when bouncing off of enemies or even jumping from vines. The butt stomp also allows you to break cracked rocks and to kill the pesky metal-shelled snails that troubled you in earlier levels, but the later half of the game also has more invincible enemies that will harm you if you touch them. Also, when butt stomping a standard enemy, its body will be squished out of existence, but its eyes will remain behind for a moment as they fall to the ground and then disappear, adding a bit of extra humor.

There is one primary environment type that you traverse throughout Episode 1, which is a forest (future games in the series will have new environments). However, as you progress, you will see that the lighting changes between levels to simulate a setting sun, and eventually darkness. The second half of the game takes place in dark environments, with the lower portion of the screen covered in water, providing instant death if Oozi misses a platform.

Gameplay undergoes mild changes from the start to the end of Episode 1. Fairly early in the going, you are introduced to vines, and then rows of vines that can be jumped between Donkey Kong Jr.-style, and eventually vines with stationary spikes or moving spiders that must be avoided. The addition of water in the latter half of the game not only opens up some instant death scenarios but also provides some floating platforms that require precision jumps. There are also a number of floating boxes that sink slowly into the deadly water the longer you stand on them, so you’ll need to hop on and off fast, or do some high jumps to let the box float back up a bit. There are certain branches that let you jump super high when you butt stomp them, sending you sailing through the air as if launched from a cartoon trampoline. And toward the end of the game, you’ll find bubbles spread along the surface of the water, allowing you to hop from one to the next, popping them as you go… meaning that you’ll need to keep moving or fall to your death.

There is but one boss fight in Episode 1, although the suggestion is that a boss will be featured at the end of all 4 episodes. The fight is against a genre staple: the giant spider. This is a largely pattern-based affair where you will be dodging the spider as it tosses projectiles, bounces down on its web, and even performs some fast Tarzan-like swings. Defeating the spider unlocks your next article of clothing, the gloves. What do they do? Ah, you’ll have to tune into Episode 2, where Oozi finds himself doing a bit of spelunking.

In addition to the main game, there are 7 challenge levels which offer a bit more difficulty for platforming veterans. There are a wide variety of challenges, ranging from collecting stationary or falling stars, speed running, killing or avoiding enemies, and even racing through a level as water rises below you. Each level has a possible 3-star score, with the primary objective being worth 1 star, and 2 secondary objectives that are also worth 1 star each. The primary objective must be completed in order for the secondary objectives to count toward your score. Some of the challenges allow Oozi to play through with his pants equipped – allowing him to perform the double-jump and butt stomp – but others send him out in only his underwear.

There’s also an Arcade Mode that allows you to play back through each of the levels with a countdown timer. Each checkpoint adds a bit of extra time, and your life is only restored at checkpoints; it is not restored by racking up a score. At the end of the level, you’ll be judged based on the score you accumulated, with a possible 1-, 2-, or 3-star rating.

Episode 2
Oozi Earth Adventure: Episode 2 picks up right where the first game left off. After defeating the spider, Oozi travels underground to take on a new set of enemies and challenges. All of his previous powerups are retained, including his double jump and butt stomp moves, and the player is given a quick recap on the moveset.

Jumping has been tweaked a bit for the second episode, and the player now has a great deal more control over the height of his jumps than he did in the previous episode. Tapping the button allows Oozi to perform a lower jump – a requirement to overcome even some early challenges – but holding down the button allows Oozi to reach his previous maximum height. This certainly helps with the pace of the hop-n-bop sections of the game.

Oozi can now wall jump and variable speed wall slide, allowing him to triangle jump up into new areas, and he can hang onto hooks as well and jump in any direction. His gloves also give him the power to punch stunned enemies and send them flying horizontally, potentially killing other enemies in the process. You’ll be using these skills to take down a number of subterranean and fire-based baddies including bats, flame emitting statues, and various fire-belching critters.

The new environment allows for some new challenges as well. Episode 2 introduces super slippery ice. At first, it’s simply in place to make platforming a bit more difficult, but eventually you’ll be sliding through narrow openings, dodging spike pits, and trying to stop before sliding in to walls of spikes. Ice slopes are particularly dastardly, as they often terminate in spike pits and/or require enemy dodging to hop between small ice-covered islands.

Episode 2 has a couple other environmental nuances, including falling rocks, ice blocks that can be broken with a butt stomp, moving ceilings that must be avoided lest they crush you, and moving walls that require precise timing when triangle jumping upward. Water has been removed as a hazard, and replaced by lava, which essentially serves the same function, and hopping fireballs replace the jumping fish. Rising and falling platforms are spread over the lava in later levels as well, and some areas where the lava itself rises and falls.

There are a few creatures that cannot be killed by your standard attacks. These include fire monsters, which are immune to your jump and butt-stomp attacks. You can only defeat them by punching rocks into them from a distance. There’s also a large charging creature that can only be killed by using bombs… which is another new gameplay feature introduced in Episode 2.

Bombs can be used to kill enemies and clear obstacles, and they can be retrieved from bomb dispensers. Each bomb has a timer that counts down, and timer lengths vary depending on the challenge at hand. You can pick up and carry bombs, but you can’t jump while holding them. As such, the more intricate challenges will require you to pick up a bomb, toss it to a higher section, retrieve it, and continue on. Bombs can be set down, tossed in an arc, or thrown straight up. Of course, since enemies automatically detonate bombs when touched, you’ll need to clear a path first. Fortunately, bomb dispensers have an infinite supply. Oozi will occasionally encounter “broken” bomb dispensers which constantly drop lit bombs that explode instantly on contact. These bombs cannot be picked up and are only in place as an obstacle.

The points-to-health system returns in the second episode, and every 2,000 points gained by collecting stars or killing enemies adds back one heart, for a maximum of 3. However, where the first game simply had you gathering small stars throughout the game and hidden in alcoves, part 2 has large stars as well, and collecting them goes toward opening up the game’s 11 challenge levels. This gives the player a bit more incentive to explore the environment, and there are 5 stars hidden in each level.

Challenge levels include attempting to outrun rising lava or falling spikes, killing a certain number of enemies (or no enemies), avoiding damage, or attempting to reach a certain score. As before, the arcade mode is all about achieving a high score while moving through a timed level, and more time is added to the clock at each checkpoint.

The end-level boss here is a baddie who stands in the background while you stand on a row of platforms suspended over lava. The boss can drop rocks to destroy sections of the floor and cause sections to lower into the lava. You’ll have to stay on your toes during the early stages of each phase, since you cannot attack, and are left to deal with the environmental challenges. Eventually the boss will leap into the foreground, changing the landscape of the platforms and dropping a couple of bombs as well. You know what to do, grab a bomb and toss it at the boss. Survive a few rounds of this, and you’re ready for Episode 3.

Episode 3
Oozi Earth Adventure: Episode 3 picks up exactly where the last left off. The player is given a quick story recap, and is offered reminders of the basic controls, including the variable height jump, the double jump, wall jump, wall slide, and the ability to grab hooks bolted to the walls. The player also has a repertoire of combat moves, including the typical head bop to defeat weaker enemies and stun larger ones, the more powerful butt stomp that can defeat stronger enemies and stun others that would otherwise hurt you if you landed on them, and you can punch stunned enemies to send them flying left or right, potentially hitting other enemies in the process.

While the player is introduced to each movement and attack type at the start of the first level, the game is still designed under the assumption that you have played the previous episodes in the series. The short tutorial is designed more as a refresher so the player can recall the moveset, but the challenge level is built as if this were the third world in a larger game rather than the first world of a standalone adventure. Straight away, the player will have to utilize all of his available skills, deal with multiple enemies that each have to be defeated in a different way, and avoid plenty of insta-death pools of slime.

The first game took place in large outdoor environments, the second within the confines of a subterranean world, and the third sees the player moving through a laboratory. There’s a bit of humor here as the player passes signs in the background with slogans such as “Radioactive! Fun for the whole family.” and “Our guns don’t kill. They are built for peace.” There are also soda machines with such offerings as Toxicola 3000 and other unsavory flavors, and screens showing “WARNING INTRUDER DETECTED” along with a picture of Oozi’s face.

As before, the player can collect stars throughout the level, which add to a point counter, and reaching 2,000 points grants an extra heart in the player’s life meter, for a maximum of 3. Checkpoints will also restore the player to 2 hearts if only 1 remains. And once again, there are 5 hidden stars in each level, and collecting all of them allows the player to unlock special challenge levels. Of course, to collect any of these stars, the player is going to have to contend with a variety of hazards.

This time, players must deal with balls of slime that explode from the pits, and others that rise up to ceiling. Electricity is a danger as well, with some electrical arcs appearing and disappearing, and solid arcs killing Oozi instantly. There are also a number of other projectiles and poisonous gas jets to avoid. Later levels also have security systems that must be carefully avoided, lest Oozi be sent backtracking to reset the alarm.

Something new that has been added in Episode 3 is expanding and retracting platforms that emerge from the walls, and flipping platforms that have spikes on one side and a flat surface on the other. Paying attention to the lights on the sides of these platforms lets you know when it’s safe to cross. Extending and retracting spikes also appear, and the player must be aware of their timing to determine when it is safe to pass. Some areas have alcoves in the background that Oozi can jump back into, avoiding patrolling enemies and other hazards.

Conveyor belts are introduced as well, also offering lights on the side to tell you which direction they’re moving, but this is a problem since the floor tiles themselves are not animated, making it very difficult for the player to determine whether he is standing on a solid surface or a moving one. Even on a larger display, these arrows are not easily visible, which can lead to some frustrating deaths as the player is caught unaware and pushed toward electrical walls, pits, and other dangers.

The player must deal with sentry robots, some of whom can fire projectiles. Some enemies must be avoided altogether, or else attacked by secondary means, such as performing a butt stomp near them (but not on them) or punching a stunned enemy into them. There are even some escaped specimens that are fairly harmless, but if you stomp on one, it will explode shortly thereafter potentially harming you if you’re standing too close. There’s also a gun sight that appears in certain areas which follows Oozi around, forcing the player to dodge around it or run quickly through the area to get out of its attack range. Stand still for too long and it’s goodbye Oozi, hello last checkpoint. Not all enemies are just there to harm you, however. There’s an eyeball plant that’s covered in spikes, but every now and again, the spikes will disappear, allowing the player to hop on its head and use it as a trampoline to reach high ledges.

As with the previous two episodes, the game features 5 platforming levels and a single boss fight at the end. This time around, Oozi faces a large round robot that is suspended from the ceiling. The robot fires a slow-moving batch of projectiles in your general direction before moving off the top of the screen and then appearing on the opposite side to do it again. After a few rounds of this, the robot will drop down to the ground and start rolling back and forth. Jump to dodge and eventually the robot will stop and appear stunned, allowing you to hit it with a butt stomp.

The second phase is very similar, except that the robot fires some bouncing projectiles around the room before it starts rolling, leaving you with more to avoid. In the final phase, the robot sends out even more projectiles and has an attack where it will hover across the top of the screen firing rows of projectiles downward. This is also a fairly slow attack and the gap between projectiles is quite large. Defeating the boss awards Oozi with a space suit and a portal to a strange new world… which he explores in Episode 4.

Episode 4

Oozi Earth Adventure: Episode 4 once picks up exactly where they left off. The player is given a quick story recap to bring him up to speed, and an introductory tutorial level reintroduces the basic controls.

Oozi's final adventure drops him onto an altogether new planet. Structurally, it has the most in common with Episode 1, given the outdoor environments and caverns, but rather than the familiar earthlike environment, everything is covered in green slime with the occasional eyeball peering out, and the backgrounds are quite strange.

The game offers its fair share of toothy and eyebally things to stomp on and avoid. New enemies include eyeball spikes that pop out of vines to make climbing more dangerous (they flash to telegraph their attack). There are round orange enemies that are invincible to your regular attack, but butt stomping them causes them to break into 2 smaller versions very close to your position, which can then be dispatched with a regular head bop. A number of floating and patrolling spiked enemies must be avoided altogether, and little darting enemies pop up out of nowhere and dash at you, similar to the speed snails from Episode 1. You also have to avoid falling slime drops, slime projectiles, heat-seeking fireballs, and fireballs that are sent out from flame plants when you get too near.

The bubbles from Episode 1 return, popping to send you high in the air, which can help you to reach higher platforms. Added challenges come when you must string together multiple bubble jumps over a pit of spikes or bounce across a series of rising bubbles with emitters generating ever more complex patterns. There are also some bubble platforms that don’t bounce you into the air, but instead disappear after a couple of seconds.

Fruits replace bombs in this episode. Butt stomping near fruit causes it to fall, and you can pick it up and carry it with you. Your movement speed is slowed while carrying it and you cannot jump, but you can toss the fruit onto other platforms and retrieve it. Fruit obviously won’t destroy a stone wall in the same way that a bomb will, but it does still have a countdown timer and it will explode after a few seconds (there probably aren’t many vegetarians on this planet). Fruit can be used indirectly to clear paths by feeding hungry monsters that will break nearby walls, or to lure a monster away from a hole that it was blocking.

The final boss is once again a pattern-based 3-phase affair and is presented in a room with spike pits on either side. In the first phase, the creature flies around out of your reach, firing slow-moving blue balls at you. After a while, bubbles start rising up from the edges of the screen, allowing you to get up above the creature and give it a butt stomp. In the second phase, the boss moves and fires more quickly, and it can also fire a beam straight down and sweep it across the ground, forcing you to make a run for it and grab a wall. Finally, the boss will break open a new spike pit in the center of the room and speed up all of its attacks. The same method will result in his ultimate destruction and the ending cinematic.

Awesome Games Studio was founded by Marcin Draszczuk, a developer based in Cracow, Poland. He was formerly a programmer at Polish game studio Tate Interactive, which is known for the KAO the Kangaroo series. At Tate, he worked on My Horse & Me 2, a multiplatform release.

Originally, Marcin’s plan was to release all 4 episodes of Oozi Earth Adventure as a single game. However, he determined that the consumers of games on the Xbox Live Indie Games channel were much less likely to pay for a higher-priced full release than lower-priced episodic content.

Prior to Oozi: Earth Adventure, Awesome Games had 3 releases, all on the Xbox Live Indie Games channel. The first is a game called Duel: The Art of Combat which is a side-scrolling arena-based fighter with 3D environments shown from a 2D perspective.

In this game, you control a snake that can be equipped with a number of weapons from a huge selectable arsenal, including shotguns, flamethrowers, machine guns, swords, dynamite, and an electricity gun.

The game can be played as a single player campaign against AI-controlled opponents, and new weapons and upgrades are unlocked as levels are completed. These upgrades include faster movement, higher jumps, etc. There is also a 2P versus mode, and a survival mode.

The game is spread across 5 arenas, and players are essentially tasked with killing every other snake they encounter, until they are the last snake standing… or slithering. Each snake is equipped with a grapple-rope that can be fired in a straight line in any direction, to any point in the environment, where it will stick. The player may then retract the rope and/or use it to swing around to reach new areas, go after an enemy, or make a quick exit when surrounded. Temporary powerups and heath restoratives occasionally appear in the environments as well, which can lead to players making a mad dash for these items.

Awesome Games Studio’s second release was a collection of minigames called Get Your Girlfriend Into Games. Once again, the game uses 3D assets, but locks the perspective in 2D.

There are 5 game types in total. There is a Mahjong game where the dots are replaced with smiley faces, with different expressions representing the different denominations. Crossing Words is a Scrabble-like game with its own built-in dictionary, but without word- or letter-based score bonuses.

Memory is the old card-flipping game where you’re trying to match up smiley expressions on a set of 16 cards. Anagrams is a word unscrambling game. Sequence is a Simon Says-style game where you attempt to memorize and play back ever-growing strings of buttons on the Xbox controller; however, each new sequence is original and does not build off the last.

Finally, there is Awesome Games Studio’s most acclaimed and financially successful release: Yet Another Zombie Defense on the Xbox Live Indie Games channel, also known as Amazing Zombie Defense on PC and Windows Phone 7 (released after the XBLIG version). This is a 3D game, which is presented from a locked overhead-angled perspective. The game is a twin-stick shooter with some tower defense elements.

Here, the player stands near a lit streetlamp and fights zombies that move in from the shadows. The player is free to stray as far from the light as he likes, but moving into the darker areas puts him at risk of becoming zombie chum. The player has infinite ammo for his pistol, but he may purchase new and more powerful armaments between levels by collecting money dropped from the (fairly rich) undead.

In addition to the standard shotguns, machine guns, and flamethrowers – as well as some powerful nonstandard weapons such as the laser and Tesla coil – players may also purchase auto-firing turrets and barricades, which is where the tower defense elements come in. The player is free to place the turrets and barricades wherever he likes, setting up an entrenchment, or slowing the zombies’ path to him.

As the game continues, zombies get more numerous, more powerful, and take more hits to destroy. As the player begins to become overwhelmed by enemy forces, the risk-reward factor makes itself more pronounced, as it becomes more difficult to grab a pile of cash before it disappears when you’re running backwards and unloading everything you have at the oncoming horde. But if you don’t grab enough cash, you’ll be unable to purchase the weapons and defenses needed to survive the next round.