So…where to start? You enter OFF by introducing yourself into the world. You play a character and will be referred to by name as the puppeteer (or controller) of the game’s protagonist, The Batter. Living up to his name, The Batter carries a baseball bat around with him that he uses during the battles. But you won’t be seeing any of that to start off with. What you will be introduced to is The Judge as you enter into Zone 0. It is here that he’ll guide you around, thinking you to be an apparition of some kind, but sort of glad for the company regardless. What’s unquestionable is that The Judge is a talking cat, and he talks very well. Your first challenge is to solve a few puzzles involving numbers on the walls that correspond to a number of floating cubes you can interact with. You’re told that there’s a logic to solving these puzzles, and that is true of the first one, at least, but that soon went over my head, and I relied on trial-and-error to get through.
Once you’re through this introductory level, with optional combat training, you’re then allowed to venture off to The Nothingness, which is the game’s abstract and seemingly broken overworld. Most of it is black with just a few flowers representing the four different zones that make up the game. Your goal is to go to each of these zones and achieve your holy mission of purifying the world! Sounds pretty basic for an RPG, huh?
And, to be honest, OFF is a fairly standard RPG if you ignore…well, quite a lot of what makes the game fantastic. And by “standard,” I mean that you travel to a few sprawling areas, talk to the locals, solve their problems and work towards saving the land of evil. Even the fighting is basic. You’ve got random encounters in prescribed areas, and the battling itself is real-time, but with an action timer, so you have to manage your menu scrolling as quickly as you can, healing your party with the right items, attacking and defending when appropriate, and if things start getting sore, then you can just flee. There’s nothing too exciting in the combat system, apart from the music, which is is a combination of…well, let’s just call it jazz-punk, because that seems to fit.
“Caution – Certain scenes in this game could be immensely shocking to an unwarned public. Or not! maybe…”
As you can tell from looking at the screenshots, however, what makes OFF stand out are the bright and bold visuals, the crazy characters and displaced worlds. I’ve only got so far as Zone 1 at the moment, but already I’ve passed through the Smoke Mines (that are full of spectres) with my little buddy, the Alpha King…who is a hollow circle. And I’ve rid the barn of spectres too, much to the displeasure of the Queen’s guard, and I’ve managed to get lost in the postal service building, which consists of 9999 floors. Not to mention that I’ve observed removal of metallic balls from the cows’ bladders. I’d say I’ve already seen plenty to know that OFF is well worth playing all the way through. The dialogue is absolutely superb too – you’d never guess that this was translated from French.
I can’t do OFF justice, so I’d advise just playing it for yourself, and you’ll see what I’m trying to get at. There just aren’t enough games with the imagination present here.