Uurnog – Birds, Bombs, and Blocks

Nifflas is an OG indie game designer. Indie games really began to take off in the early to mid 2000s as development tools became easier to access and a generation raised on the 8 & 16 styles of the 80s and 90s emerged both as creators and consumers. Some of the games I remember fondly from that indie heyday were Nifflas’s Within a Deep Forest and Knytt. Two low-key Metroidvanias that are still fun to play. Go check them out. They are free. Free is a good price.

Within a forest deep in Uurnog

Anyway, I was super stoked when a new game from Nifflas showed up. Enter Uurnog. I ain’t know what an ‘uurnog’ is, but it probably involves throwing bombs at cats and stealing birds. Let me ‘splain.

Uurnog is a 2D exploration platformer. Your avatar is dumped into a cave system where they can pick up and interact with all the elements of the scenery Super Mario 2 style. Pick up blocks and build platforms to reach higher heights! Pick up weapons or bombs to blow through the scenery! Use some of the creepy talking blocks to scare other talking blocks! There are some critters and robots you can pick up to get past certain puzzle areas.

I have no idea what I’m doing

The basic gameplay evolves from a hub world that begins with a bunch of locked doors. As you explore you find keys that let you explore more areas of the cave system. There are many puzzles to sort out in order to fully explore each area. The cool part is that most puzzles have multiple solutions depending on which items you have. You can use bombs, guns, critters, and blocks in all sorts of combinations to get through the caves. If you die or get stuck you get sent back to the hub world without your money while the puzzles reset.

Hilariously the hub room remains is the one room that doesn’t reset. All the crap you transport there? It stays there. Your hub room will look like my wizard lab after a while. Full of explosive chemicals, rare gems, and monstrosities just strewn everywhere.* You can end up in funny situations where you accidentally transport a bomb back to the hub and it blows up stuff you were saving. Hilarious.

Stop knocking my towers over! I am trying to rob you!

Also hilarious are the AI players. The town level and some of the caverns are populated by other ‘players’ who appear to have randomly designed looks and are carrying random items. They act like totally chaotic goofballs. They will steal your items, mess up your constructs, and try to kill you. They can be so Troll-tastic, it seems remarkably like playing with actual real people. Hilarious.

The music is good times. It consists of chiptunes that can change depending on how you interact with the environment. Certain critters can change the tempo and pitch of the tune. Beats can be added when you fire a weapon. And the Jams are straight up solid in their own right. It’s a really fun addition to an already fun game. More games should experiment with this in my humble opinion.

20160325-Uurnog-6  20160325-Uurnog-7

My only minor complaint, I feel like a Uurnog might be too complicated/clever for it’s own good. The world is a massive puzzle with tons of stuff to do and explore, but it just doesn’t feel as tight as some other indie Metroidvanias. A couple times I got through a series of challenges with little idea of how I actually accomplished it. Were those blocks supposed to fall that way? Or did I hit a weird glitch? Could I replicate this if I tried again. Freedom of movement I enjoy. Confusion I don’t. At any rate, I didn’t find this to be a significant barrier to enjoying the game. This game is good. Play it.


*There is a reason for this.** If adventurers ever violate your sanctum they’ll have to waste hella time searching through your crap to find anything useful. More time searching means more rolls on the random encounter table. And let me tell you: you don’t want to mess with the random encounters in my tower. I put some filthy unfair nonsense on there. I’m talking rust monsters, yo. I don’t even care.

**Well, other than that the owlbear ate my entire maid service.