I doubt they read my writing, but I think I better start this review with an apology to my neighbours. This game had me swearing, a lot. Loudly. Odium to the Core is a hardcore rhythm runner, sitting somewhere between BIT.TRIP Runner and Aaero in terms of style. With just a single button input you will feel in complete control, grimacing every time you die after the slightest mistake. Get used to that feeling, it will happen a lot.

An early level from Odium to the Core, towards the end of the level.

Remember kids, construction sites are not safe places to play

Feel the Rhythm, Feel the Rhyme

Something is changing in the rhythm game genre. For years there has been nothing but mechanically precise hits required. Many of my musical friends haven’t been able to empathise with the controls as you couldn’t feel the music. It focused on the beat rather than the rhythm. But now developers like Dark-1 are changing that. You need to feel the rhythm in order to get through a level.

Hold down and you’ll rise, let go and you’ll fall, always with a weighty curve that helps to predict the movement. Collectible orbs form a suggested route, landing on kicks and snares to the beat, but you can make your own line and correct your mistakes. It’s the most freedom I’ve felt in a music game in a long time.

Screenshot from Odium to the Core of a water based level

Odium contemplates whether his quest is worth it as he passes through the sewer

Break on Through to the Other Side

The choreography of Odium to the Core is incredibly tight. While that might seem like a strange word to use, it feels like the right way to describe the way you dance through a level. All sorts of creatures, technology, and shrapnel will make its way into the foreground to block your advancement. By controlling the pacing of Odium’s advance it allows what could otherwise be a boring narrow corridor to be far more visually exciting. In a style very reminiscent of Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet, coloured backgrounds attract your eye away from a matt black foreground that will kill you upon the slightest touch.

Sometimes this difficulty will get the better of you. I’ll admit this review is only based on completing three-quarters of the game as I currently cannot progress past the first 5-skull difficulty level. Despite hours of attempts and a death count in the hundreds, it is simply eluding me. There are many arguments to be made about difficulty settings in games, but the inability to skip select levels or tweak the size of the hitbox feels like a missed opportunity. I’ve “breezed” through the early levels to now hit a brick wall that I cannot pass. It’s something that may cause some players to turn away.

Screenshot from Odium to the Core of a level with a lot of worms

Your level progress is tracked across the bottom, with the first mark being your current location and the second where you last died.

Gotta Go Fast

A smattering of excellent cinematics accompany the thin-on-the-ground story, but it’s enough to pull you into the world. None of that matters though as you will undoubtedly feel the pull to keep progressing. The drum’n’bass soundtrack driving you forwards into the unknown at breakneck speeds through twists and turns. You might well be dying a lot, but with fairly snappy reset times you’ll be at it again before you know it. Some levels can be a little slow starting, which doesn’t work well with the controls, but it’s a very minor issue.

Overall, Odium to the Core is an adrenaline fuelled onslaught and it feels oh so good. It’s not without its flaws, but what it sets out to do it does well. I’m going to keep pushing through well after writing this. There are many more achievements lined up keeping count of how many times I die along the way.

The game is available now on Steam (version tested), Android, and iOS.