Oxyjet is a competitive multiplayer game best described as sumo wrestling in space. Two ships start off on either side of the circle arena and must make and repair holes in their ship in order to guide themselves to the ring in the middle. However, the opponent wants to get into the circle as well, and that hole isn’t big enough for the both of them. Smash and crash into each other to gain control of the safe zone, but don’t let out too much oxygen to do so because the first ship to run out of oxygen is the loser.
Oxyjet’s premise is incredibly creative and its implementation pays off in spades. The controls may seem difficult at first but with more practice, you’ll soon be an expert at navigating your ship.
Two years ago at Nordic Game Jam, Oxyjet received awards for best game feel and best multiplayer. These awards were well deserved as the frantic cooperative gameplay will have you strategising and scheming with your teammate in order to get the upper hand on your opponent.
In quick three minute 2v2 battles, one crew member is in charge of opening the holes and the other teammate is in charge of closing them. Or, if you prefer to ride solo, you can control the a ship yourself with 1v1 or 1v2 battles, making you in charge of both opening and closing the holes.
Oxyjet contains seven different arena modes: Classic, Missiles, Lasers, Spores, Lasers & Missiles, Spores & Missiles and Lasers & Spores. If you want to keep it simple, stick with the Classic arena. However, the other arenas really help to add variety to the gameplay. You can probably assume what each arena consists of from their name, but when you start playing one of the arenas that combines two other arenas, it creates some hectic gameplay that rarely lasts for over a minute.
There are also five different powerups which need to be activated in the middle of the ship. This adds some variety to the battles, which can be sorely needed at times. Repair lets you cover up all of the holes that are leaking in the ship, allowing you to regain your composure. Oxygen gives your ship more oxygen as you don’t want it to hit zero. Wormhole swaps your ship’s position with your opponents, allowing you to completely tip the scales in your favour. Shock Wave sends out a shock wave that can be devastating for your opponent. Lastly, Speed Boost does as its name implies.
Oxyjet features online multiplayer, allowing you to battle it out with strangers around the world if your friends and family don’t feel up to playing. However, local multiplayer is where the game truly shines as it encourages you to communicate with those around you.
Above all else, Oxyjet is merely quick and mindless fun that can be played in short bursts. Have five minutes before dinner is ready? Play a round of Oxyjet! In the waiting room at the dentist with your significant other? Play a round of Oxyjet! Got a few minutes to catch your breath during a zombie apocalypse? … perhaps don’t play Oxyjet, you’d need to think of a survival plan!
Despite Oxyjet’s frantic multiplayer fun, the game still feels bareboned, especially with its $14.99USD price tag. After about an hour of playing, it dawned on me that what the game is truly missing is a single-player campaign mode. Obviously, Upstairs Digital put all of their focus into the multiplayer aspect, thus there was no computer AI developed for the game. The lack of a single-player option prevents any form of practice or even somebody to get their money’s worth without having to play online. With the Switch’s ability to be played in handheld mode when you leave the house, the lack of single-player modes almost makes the game impossible to play unless you use a personal hotspot.
It’s lack of a single-player campaign also disallows for any story or characterisation. In the end, the units that you control may as well be a dot for how little you can connect with them. There is also no in-game explanation as to why this space competition to the death by suffocation takes place. Whilst that may seem like a minor nitpick, it may come across as strange to players who value a good story (or at least some context).
At this stage, it’s unclear as to whether more modes are in the works for the future. However at the time of this review, the game simply lacks variety.
Final Score: 68%
Oxyjet is a lot of fun to play in a party situation, with friends and family gathered around the TV communicating and strategising with one another. The gameplay is unique and well implemented in regards to its core concept. However, its lack of mode variety diminishes its staying power, and the group will probably grow restless after a few rounds. On top of this, its glaring omission of a single-player campaign may result in a purchase that could simply go unplayed. However above all, when the stars align and the gang is ready for it, Oxyjet is a fun game to play in between Mario Kart races and Super Smash Bros. battles.
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