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Umiro Review

Developed by Diceroll Studios, Umiro is an endearing puzzle adventure that enchants from beginning to end. It’s well worth noting, before we dive much deeper, that Umiro launched with a price tag of just $2.99. It’s a readily accessible title that caters to a mobile audience as well as a PC one — qualities which, admittedly, don’t always lend themselves as a positive recommendation. Nonetheless, Diceroll Studios surprises and delights with its pint-sized charmer that offers an experience worth far more than its negligible purchase price.

A STRANGELY IMMERSIVE EXPERIENCE

Umiro’s plot, gameplay, and visual design interweave masterfully to create an immersive experience that drives you on through its four chapters and forty levels. The story is ambiguous from the very start, offering little in the way of explanation and far more in the way of art and music. You begin as Huey, but soon discover Satura, whom you will also be responsible for throughout the rest of the game. Both children seem to be missing memories, and the crystals they seek seem to hold the key to the mystery.

The goal is simple: Guide Huey and Satura safely through bite-sized maze puzzles filled with a variety of obstacles. To do so, you must draw a line from Huey to his corresponding end crystal and a line from Satura to her corresponding end crystal. The characters will follow those lines with zero deviation and, if your path intersects with an enemy, both of your characters will die and you will fail.

TIMING IS EVERYTHING

Most of the enemy objects won’t be stationary, either, and new gameplay mechanics are introduced in further chapters. To beat Umiro, you must become a master of timing. In some ways, Umiro actually plays like a turn-based strategy game. Once you set Huey and Satura off on their path, there’s nothing further you need to do. The path that you created and the time that you set them off on must be perfect — or you fail the level, and must start over.

That might sound a little ruthless on Diceroll Studios’ part, but the challenge isn’t so intense as to discourage non-puzzle enthusiasts. There is, furthermore, an optional crystal that you can try and obtain with your path in each level, and trying to obtain that crystal is really where the meat of the difficulty lies. If you’re simply looking to finish Umiro for its story, you shouldn’t have too much trouble. Collecting all of the yellow bonus crystals, however, will prolong gameplay for any player.

MINIMALIST STORYTELLING PAYS OFF

Umiro doesn’t feature any voice acting, it doesn’t have more than a handful of cutscenes, and — more than anything — it never makes you wait around while your characters yak at each other with lines that we all know we could’ve done very well without. Umiro’s storytelling is extremely minimalistic, and it’s executed so wonderfully that I played through all four chapters, in part because I loved the puzzles, but also because I needed to know what was really going on with Huey and Satura.

There is an interesting psychological dynamic that develops because of the interactions between Huey and Satura in gameplay and in the story. Progression means forcing Huey and Satura to work together seamlessly, and failure means having one die and thus kill the other in consequence. It creates a strange sensation of teamwork, as though you are either Huey or Satura and you’re striving to make sure both of you make it to the end alive and well. You feel like high-fiving your partner when you’ve brought both successfully to their end crystals… even though you’re actually alone.

GEOMETRICALLY BEAUTIFUL, EXCEPTIONALLY SIMPLE

There’s no denying Umiro’s geometric art style and its gradual transition from colorless to colorful is magnificent. There’s enough variety in the levels to keep players’ eyes continually happy, despite many themes and objects being repeated throughout. Complementary sound design and the music powering Umiro further help to encourage a meditative atmosphere ideal for focus and progression.

However, when you draw your lines to create Huey and Satura’s paths, there’s an undeniable resemblance to when one draws lines on the Microsoft program Paint. It looks unpolished and rough in comparison to everything else in Umiro — even in comparison to the paths themselves after you send Huey and Satura on them. The difficulty of the levels could also certainly have had a steeper incline. The later game mechanics do shake things up a bit, but not enough to where the challenge is more deeply satisfying and rewarding.

A PROMISING START FOR A YOUNG STUDIO

For a $2.99 indie title developed by a fresh-faced independent studio, Umiro is brilliantly promising. It’s a lovely piece of art that handles telling a vague story well, and its compelling puzzle gameplay and wonderful visual design make it a true gem among pint-sized indies. With a few nudges in the right direction, its inevitable successor is sure to steal the spotlight from titles with far beefier price tags than this.

7

The Verdict: Great

For a game the size of a jelly bean, Umiro enchants and delights well beyond its dimensional limitations. Its beautiful art makes every stage a delight to encounter, just as its delicious puzzling makes every stage a delight to conquer. Umiro is a diamond in the rough that’s imprisoned only by its occasionally overbearing simplicity.

Taryn Ziegler
Written by
April 17, 2018
Published in Strategy

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Taryn is a digital content strategist with an avid appetite for literature and gaming. She graduated from the University of Washington Bothell with a degree in Culture, Literature, and the Arts, and since then has been engaged in copywriting for businesses from AutoNation to DirtFish Rally School. While she'll happily play most games set in front of her, Taryn heartily prefers a good ol' turn-based strategy RPG, such as Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia and Divinity: Original Sin.

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