Ogre Tale is a 2D side-scrolling action game developed by MAGES Inc. You play as the demon Onigashima sisters (Ran, Hana, and Yuma) who are on a quest to defeat Momotaro, who in turn defeated their mentor and ancestor, Iroha, who has since transformed from a strong, beautiful female demon warrior to a black and white cat with a deep male voice. Iroha guides her (his? It’s unclear) descendants to gain strength and skill to fight the fiends that have overrun different areas of Japan. Yes, it’s weird.
You traverse in different locations – snowy mountains, forested temples, and city streets – to defeat Momotaro’s forces and restore Iroha and peace in the land. There are several features that support playability. Levels that have already been completed can be played on three different difficulty levels (Normal, Hard, and Very Hard) by each of the three sisters, who all possess different weapons that have special combination patters and strengths. Upgrades are accessible through their online store, Jungle, which acts as the weapons and armor depot for this game.
The core of these hack ‘n slash games is the ability to cut through wave after wave of monsters, leaning into the game flow. Backgrounds are lush, and I enjoyed the retro 90’s game style. Fighting through each level provides currency for purchases, as well as health in the form of various food items. Controls are simple – scroll left and right, jump, simple attack, hard attack, and special attack. The game is straightforward in its execution. Move forward and back, hack and slash at things coming at you, and defeat the final boss.
On the plus side, this game is weird. The art style is very colorful, and each character has wonderful animation detail. Standard enemies are diverse and relentless, and as you fight at higher difficulty levels, the game gets a bit more exciting. The banter among the characters can be clever at times, and there are some fun subversive moments in the story. For example, Iroha sends the sisters to fight the final boss immediately after talking about her great defeat so many years before, right at the beginning of the game, only to be pulled away when realizing just how out of their league they are.
Also, while other games require large efforts to find epic weapons while questing, here you’ll buy them online, sent to you immediately for use with only a decent amount of money-gathering to become strong.
On the negative side, Ogre Tale is… weird. At times, the game can become too busy visually, and your actions can get lost when the melee becomes too large. When opening the interface, I was not able to expand to full screen, so I could only fight in a small window on my desktop. The interface broke my immersion into the game. The sections of each level are distinct, which creates a strange sense of high impact fighting, then quietly running across the screen to break the invisible barrier for the next area, rather than having smoother transitions across the level. Also, the game starts to get heavy-handed in its subversion.
There are frequent fourth wall breaks, giving a wink to the audience that you are, indeed, playing a video game. The sisters also reference other similar games, leaning on the player’s supposed knowledge of different media to get the joke. Every chance for dialogue becomes more begrudging to read, which is tough for someone like me who wants to become invested in the story. The story elements became my least favorite part of the game after playing through several levels. The game does become better over time and over repeated play, but repeating levels began to feel monotonous.
There are some really great things about Ogre Tale. It’s colorful with some good set pieces, and the story could’ve been really interesting if it didn’t hide behind the snarky dialogue so much. There’s just too many rough edges keeping this from being the enjoyable hack ‘n slash it so clearly thinks it is, though it’s not completely terrible. I would like to see more of this studio’s work, bringing the same interesting artwork and energy throughout their games while toning down the attempts at giving the audience a wink. While not entirely my cup of tea, I’ll keep MAGES on my radar in the future for their next project.