Oquonie is peculiar in just about every sense of the notion. Bizarre, contained, almost lucid; it’s a minimalistic and abstract iOS puzzler that manages to hide its quirky charm in plain sight.
Even the way I managed to stumble across the game was unconventional; spotting the black and white sketched visuals lurking starkly on the Twitter timeline of Minecraft musician magician @C418. It’s not often I burst through the doors of the AppStore grab the teller by the tie and demand he hands over my £1.49 purchase immediately, but for some reason, with no forthright testimonial on what the game even involved other than a nondescript screenshot, I did just that. Subsequently I’ve been kicked out of the AppStore, and am only allowed to enter with a responsible adult in tow.
You’re given no instruction, plummeting into Oquonie’s isometric, 3×3 plane without a whisper of direction. Aforementioned aesthetic splendor is instantly arresting though, and your first moments are largely spent marvelling at the beautiful, drawn-out art style, and the way your character; an irregular, failed-genetic-experiment sort of creature with a cheery smile, bumbles vacantly from square to square.
The soft-spoken soundtrack is haunting, as are the hibited chirps and noises that denote moving rooms or taking steps. And as soon as you try to speak to one of the game’s eccentric characters, they’ll babble back an incomprehensible melee of tuts and ticks, leaving only 3 hieroglyphs on screen as any indication of what they want from you. The whole affair is like wandering through a slice of David Firth’s contorted and elaborately disjointed imagination.
The structure of the world is seemingly impromptu; an improvised and incohesive concession of spaces that lacks the form and rules of the physical. A door to a room will not always lead to that particular room, and going back through the door from which you came will not always take you back to where it ought.
It feels adverse, and claustrophobic, obscure and unnerving, and its charm lies entirely within these sentiments. There’s a magnetic sense of the unknown throughout. You’ll struggle to make any real progress, wander from room to room seemingly unable to move forward; and then eventually, by happenstance you will, and later on still, you’ll realise that Oquonie is less about a tile based, character-morphing puzzle and more about savouring the disorientation, the absent direction; working away in circles until you somehow find yourself a step forward on your undulating journey through this illogical maze of the beautiful unbalanced and the intrinsically inexplicable.