Minutes into Oddmar, I was pelting along to avoid being squashed by a massive boulder, as if starring in Indiana Jones Goes Medieval. It’s not what I was expecting from an iOS platformer featuring a Viking, but it made me sit up and take notice. And having realised my eyes and thumbs were glued to the screen, Oddmar never let up.
On mobile, this isn’t expected. Platform games for iOS and Android are slippy things – and sloppy too. Slippy in terms of controls (given that you usually need a decent tactile controller for twitchy reaction-oriented fare), and sloppy regarding level design (which is too often hacked together with little thought).
By contrast, Oddmar is hugely polished – a mobile platform game with tons of charm, brilliant design, and a beardy hero with a penchant for drugs.
The backstory involves the titular Oddmar, who happens to be a terrible Viking. He’s selfish, lazy, and under threat of being kicked out of his tribe unless he partakes in a spot of arson and burns down a forest.
On asking for help, a fairy lobs some magic mushrooms his way, which give Oddmar special powers. Unfortunately for Oddmar, his tribe aren’t thrilled about ‘cursed magic’ being brought to their village. Unfortunately for the tribe, while chasing Oddmar away they’re abruptly zapped out of existence.
Reasoning he’s now some kind of hero rather than having a bad trip, Oddmar resolves to find out what’s happened to his clan.
On the run
This leads to an initial spot of familiar runny jumpy, bling collection, and a feeling you’ve seen it all before. At which point the boulder thing happens. And you end up blazing through the forest, to escape a furious screen-high troll. And you ride ‘pigback’ at a speed that makes you wonder whether the Grand National should open the field to swine.
Sensibly, all this running is balanced by more thoughtful moments. There are hidden trinkets to find, deranged dream sequences to discover (kicked off by a seedy-looking bipedal mushroom blowing something full of more drugs in your face), and a feeling that every obstacle has been positioned just so.
Oddmar becomes a game of choreography, where mastery can find you deftly barreling to the end of a stage in double-quick time, if only you can commit every nook and cranny to memory. (If you’re a mere mortal, you can probably pick your way through anyway.)
Unless you’re a killjoy who can’t abide the thought of a decent platform game on a smartphone or tablet, you’ll at this point be making comparisons with Super Mario Bros. and especially Rayman. And they won’t be bad ones either, even if Oddmar doesn’t quite reach the dizzy heights of Nintendo’s finest.
Still, Oddmar’s cartoonish world is beautifully animated and feels alive. The controls work very nicely – to the point using an MFi controller feels like a regression. And the design’s such that there’s plenty of replay value, to beat speedrun targets, or grab all the gold.
Sure, it’s not perfect – but then nothing is. And while I could gripe about some irritatingly difficult moments and the game’s brevity, I’d rather get back to playing the best platform game on mobile, thanks.
Oddmar is available for iOS.
Update: In January 2019, Oddmar was released for Android. The game is a free download, with a single £3.69 IAP to unlock all levels. On-screen controls have been added as an option alongside gestural equivalents.