Searching and Stargazing
OPUS: The Day We Found Earth is a sci-fi story-driven puzzle game developed by Team Signal. Originally released for mobile, it has now made its way to PC with some extra content and revamped graphics. The game takes place eons into the future where humans have migrated across the galaxy to an extent where Earth became a myth. In OPUS, you play as a childlike robot called Emeth who has been created to help a space team search for long-lost Earth. After the crew go mysteriously missing, Emeth is determined to carry out his creator’s life mission. Accompanied by the ship’s talking AI called Lisa, Emeth must scan the colossal vastness of space and search for the myth that is Earth.
Using the ship’s deep space OPUS telescope, you can search the galaxy and its different zones and sections, discovering and analyzing unknown stars and planets. The ship’s computer system will locate a planet that shares similarities with Earth and then, using the telescope, you try to find that planet in the hopes that it is Earth. To put it simply, its like a hidden object game where you follow a set of coordinates, and you’ll find the planet. OPUS keeps its simple with its mechanics; using the arrow keys to control the telescope’s direction is surprisingly smooth, allowing you to speed across the galaxy. However, there is a minor flaw with the telescope mechanic. The game pulls you out of the space exploration screen every time you find a planet instead of letting you find multiple planets in one run. You return to the shuttle so the computer can analyze the data, but doing this for every planet is annoying as it removes you from the gameplay.
You can see why the developers made this choice. The space shuttle is where most of the story development takes place, and, for it to progress, you need to return to the ship. Alongside looking for Earth, you must discover the disappearance of the ship’s crew, your creator among them. You find out more information by talking to Lisa, and, as the story progresses, other parts of the ship unlock – allowing you to explore various rooms and click on objects to discover what happened to your creator.
In the story side of the game, the act of searching for Earth feels like an impossible task. As the story progresses, it’s emphasized how highly unlikely it will be to find Earth, so Emeth’s stubbornness and determination to find it is pretty heart-warming and emotional. But this concept doesn’t transfer to the gameplay of OPUS. The act of searching for something that is lost can be a deeply meaningful experience. But, even when choosing normal over easy mode, searching for planets is too easy. Because of this, the feeling of searching for something that is hopelessly lost doesn’t move you. There is no challenge or struggle to overcome this impossible task. The need to actively search for planets creates meaning in your discoveries; otherwise you are just following directions.
The story emphasizes that finding Earth is an almost impossible task, but the gameplay doesn’t reflect that. If Team Signal had made searching more difficult, it would have made the gameplay meaningful, but by doing that they run the risk of the searching mechanic being annoyingly difficult. However, the easy gameplay doesn’t detract from the emotional story and experience when playing OPUS. The simplicity makes the game feel more relaxing with the main focus being the story.
The story is coupled with a clean minimalist art style making the characters, particularly Emeth, look pretty cute. The computer interface with all the numbers, percentages and information is a nice touch; you can even name the planets you find. The telescope explorations are a colorful and bright haze, really capturing how vibrant space is. 90% of the thick atmosphere is the exceptional music composed by Triodust. The soundscape beautifully conjures the wonder of space. Its twinkly top notes and chill piano create a feeling of hope. There have been some great soundtracks this year from the indie scene, and the OPUS OST can sit comfortably next to the whimsical chimes of Samorost 3 and glitchy 8-bit beats of Pony Island.
OPUS: The Day We Found Earth, is a chilled star searching game with a light-hearted narrative. It’s a touching game about a robot continuing one person’s life long ambition to find the beginning of human history. Even though the gameplay is simplistic, it adds to the overall feeling of relaxation. It’s a short game that can be finished in 2 hours or a bit more if you’re a completionist. It’s available for smartphones and on Steam for $8.99/£5.99.