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Onde is definitely this year's best bubble riding music game


Years back, when PomPom - genius developers of slithery arcade treats - wanted to patent an idea they'd just come up with, an idea about controlling elements of a game by dropping little bubbles of air around them to knock them this way and that, the terminology they came up with, I think, was all about "expanding boundaries". It worked a treat - control that felt thrillingly indirect at times. You're in charge, but then you're not in charge. Pick a direction, work out where to plop your expanding boundary. Off you go! Good luck!

I am tempted to say that it's been a little too quiet for expanding boundaries ever since. We need more of them in games. But here's Onde, of which I have played about an hour this morning. It's a meditative musical game with abstract shimmering art - a touch of the deep ocean, of the tiny creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water, but also, bracingly, something of the spirograph and those geometric sunbursts you get on old bank notes. And guess what, at the heart of it all? An expanding boundary. So far anyway.

I started off in a luminous tree. I broke loose from a sort of egg thing up in the branches and discovered that I could survive, moving left and right, only if I was cruising over the surface of a line. So if I was moving over the bubbles that made up the tree's trunk that was fine, say. If I was away from a line too long, my constituent parts would drift off, and I was back to the last checkpoint.

Take a closer look at Onde.

So if you're tethered to a line, how do you move? By expanding boundaries, of course. Press the right face button and certain objects give off expanding boundaries, little bubbles that steadily become big bubbles. It's all beautifully done - the moment you hop onto a bubble there's a little sag and dip in the line as it takes your weight and then holds - and it gets complex quickly. Before long I was matching directions on the face buttons to trigger the next boundary and even hopping back and forth between two, a sort of antiphonal business whose cleverness was so audacious it made me laugh out loud.

All this and music too, a piece or pieces coming together as you ride the bubbles across drifting, delicate worlds. Who knows where Onde goes from here? Not me. But I aim to find out.

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About the Author
Christian Donlan avatar

Christian Donlan

Features Editor

Christian Donlan is a features editor for Eurogamer. He is the author of The Unmapped Mind, published as The Inward Empire in the US.