The Onus Helm made its debut in a humble Kickstarter campaign that looks to secure $5,500 to finish development. The roguelike dungeon crawler stars an enigmatic character who awakens to find themselves in a mysterious, seemingly endless labyrinth with a burdensome, irremovable helmet placed on their head. To uncover the secrets of the helm and find freedom, players will have to navigate the dangers of the deadly maze and defeat the evils that have taken up residence in its ever shifting halls.
The demo put out by developer B-Cubed Labs puts a full level on display. It takes the randomly generated room approach found in The Binding of Isaac and puts its own unique spin on the formula, something that could certainly intrigue fans in the retro-indie community. Players make their way through the dungeon room by room. Each room can hold enemies, secrets, items, or upgrades. Players will need to explore as much as possible to be prepared for the boss, a maniacal shadow that can summon floating swords.
Each trip through the demo proves to be different. On one occasion, I was able to find a room in which an NPC played a flute on a tree stump. On another, I found a thief-like creature who gave me more insight into the surreal world of The Onus Helm where every character has been cursed with a similar helmet that they can't remove. Should you fall in battle, the next playthrough mixes up the dungeon, shifting the rooms in new and interesting ways.
A small array of weapons can drastically how one approaches the enemies in-game. Players start out with a sword and an infinite ammo slingshot. However, there are many other treasures to be found or bought that can help the player survive. A larger sword upgrade can be obtained that makes melee combat much easier, a powerful bow with limited ammo or a boomerang can replace the slingshot, and bombs prove to be a necessity for both secrets and strategic combat. Potions, health upgrades, and other non-weapons can be uncovered, too.
The look of B-Cubed Labs indie project is certainly arresting. Mixed with a more retro throwback aesthetic, a lot of influence from the original Legend of Zelda appears readily apparent. It manages to straddle the line between homage and novelty really well in a way that feels both familiar and different.
The final version of The Onus Helm is planned to include simply more stuff than is in the demo. More rooms, enemies, items, weapons, NPCs, and bosses will offer a more fully rounded experience. The planned PC release will offer both keyboard and controller support and a built-in speedrun clock for those who feel the need for speed.
The core game has been mostly finished so even if the Kickstarter fails The Onus Helm will likely see the light of day. The Kickstarter seems to be for funding additional assets and mechanics with stretch goals for even more stuff like more music, co-op, a console release, and a larger development team to add even more stuff into the roguelike generation system B-Cubed has set up.
Overall, my impression of The Onus Helm was that it's a game worthy of time and attention. I hope it meets its goal in the next nine days and I encourage everyone to check out the Kickstarter and demo. It should release sometime later this year.