Cheap and Dirty Gamer: Oniken Goes Back to the Basics


When the going gets tough, the tough go shirtless.

I look back on the gaming of my youth from time to time, trying to determine what I loved most about the 8-bit days. Was it the difficulty that those games inherently had or did I just appreciate the simplicity of the production values that came with the infancy of gaming?  As much as I’d like to say those items were the source of my nostalgia, in actuality I just really liked the bad-ass characters that sprung up during this era and fought their way through random and often times absurd scenarios. This is the reason that Oniken, a retro platformer set in the future but created by those from the present, has found a special place in my heart as well as the zone in my brain that lights up when things explode.


I am the Zaku!

It’s 20XX and the world is on fire, like literally on fire. While it’d be pretty easy to blame environmental factors or irresponsible campers, the real culprit is a group of bad guys with access to robots and an assortment of other crazy crap. At this point in the story, a small resistance has formed to combat these jerks, but because the bad guys are basically unstoppable, the resistance hasn’t had a whole lot of luck. Fortunately for them, a warrior of legend has stepped from the flames of a world gone mad, a man with the tools to take down EVERY bad guy on the planet single-handed. They call him…Zaku.

Now Zaku may not sound like the most intimidating name, but don’t say that to him. Zaku is a more than capable protagonist who can slice things to pieces with his sword (that can be powered up ala the Castlevania whip) or blow them up with his steady supply of hand grenades. Sharp objects and explosives; that’s how this cat rolls.

Oniken is probably the closest game that I have played that actually feeels like an 8-bit title, both in mechanics and looks. The Brazilian duo that developed Oniken obviously loved the old school sensibilities that came with games like Contra or Ninja Gaiden as they stick to a strict blueprint that could have been utilized 20+ years ago. It has a D-pad/two button control scheme where one button jumps and one attacks (hitting up a+ attack throws grenades). From there you move about the levels filleting bad guys and avoiding obstacles until you happen upon one of the numerous boss fights that are waiting for you. The first boss I ran in to happened to be a robotic caterpillar that shot flames and tried to smash me under his fat robot butt, though I eventually bested it by using my keen power of pattern recognition.

Robot caterpillar

I thought these things were supposed to snack on leaves?

The game is good, great even considering the limitations that Danilo Dias and Pedro Paiva placed on themselves in order to get the retro feel they desired. They did stray outside the norm of the classic control scheme a wee bit though since the game actually controls really well, something that can’t be said for many games birthed back in the day. Outside of that, you’d have thought this was a hidden gem that just missed coming out on the NES.

Oniken is currently $4.99 on Desura and with 18 stages, online leader boards and a Boss Rush mode, is worth every penny.

Cheap and Dirty Gamer – Being cheap used to be an insult, but with the economy in the dumps it’s now a survival skill. Being dirty also used to be an insult, but that changed after Christina Aguilera’s song came out. Not all gamers have the funds to play full priced games, but that doesn’t mean that gaming quality has to suffer. There are good free and cheap games everywhere, games specifically made for the sexy survivors among us.