Qora is a side-scrolling low-res adventure game by Curve Digital that puts narrative and experience high above gameplay, with mixed results. Oh, and it’s got a whole lot of heart. It’s probably the cutest, cuddliest game I’ve ever played.
You, and all of the other fellow figures are dumpy pixellated splodges, navigating environments with beautiful backdrops and animated skyscapes. Almost every character has something to say, and there’s a lot of light humour in here, which kept me bumbling along reasonably happily towards ‘the end’.
Your house is being built on the edge of town, and whilst the builders are working on it you’re told by a neighbour to go and spend some time in the village. There’s a festival on, after all, and why not chat to some of the locals?
After meeting some of the village eccentrics and exploring the urban and rural areas a voice sounds off in your head. You’re blessed with the power to see into a mysterious dimension – more specifically, the past. Why? But how? And when did this begin? – these questions are never answered. They don’t really matter, what matters is ‘the quest’ you quickly find yourself on.
It’s about the journey, which is rather a pleasant one. The further you wander from the village the richer and more awe inspiring the landscapes become. Using your magic power on certain screens (when prompted) gives you a glimpse of the past, where ghosts fill the air in swirls of ethereal energy, or a massive city appears on the bank of a now deserted river.
This second dimension also provides the games main narrative thrust. You chance upon an Empress with a gaggle of helpers, on an adventure of their own. As you stumble through the wind, rain and snow, so to do they.
I say stumble, but you can’t really stumble. You can’t fall off the edge of any platforms. Nothing will hurt you, eat you, and you can’t starve or freeze to death. This is fine, except that as the game progresses you find yourself forced to negotiate obstacles that rarely require more than an action button press to overcome, and I found myself wondering why such obstacles were even inserted into the game.
Qora compares unfavourably to a game like Journey here, where, later in the game when you encounter snow, your character begins to slow down, showing struggle. In Qora, your character climbs, jumps, and swings passionately no matter how far along you are. The obstacles seem to have no significance in the game at all.
Both the music and sound effects in Qora are delightfully minimalistic. Birds chatter overhead, and twangs of a band can be heard in the village. The music is non-invasive, and really adds to scenes.
There’s a real charm to the game, through the light-hearted conversations between villagers to the items you’re given for the journey ahead (I particularly liked the ugly sweater). This humour is pushed a little too far in the ‘final’ scenes of the game, though. It pulls off a semi-pretentious twist which, though humorous, left me feeling a little sour.
It’s a lovely title, a great couple of hours spent exploring dank caves and windswept glaciers, I thoroughly enjoyed it. There are some brilliant little images in there, and chunks of a very captivating story. I enjoyed the photographic encounters more, though. A man trapped in a tunnel under a house, or the old lady who chats to ghosts. Just not the repetitive spacebar pushing….