Version Played: Android – Also available on: iOS, PC (note: screenshots throughout this article are from the Steam version but – orientation aside – are representative of the Android version’s aesthetic)
Based on the tabletop card game of the same name, Onirim is a solitaire game in which you’re cast as a Dreamwalker, trying to find your way out of a labyrinth by unlocking oneiric (meaning: relating to dreams or dreaming) doors in order to escape.
It’s relatively abstract, but given life with the excellently dark, yet colourful and expressive visual design. It’s a straightforward game to learn too, in which you’ll either play one of the five cards in your hand or discard one.
When you play a card, you add it to a row – the only rule being that you can’t play a card with the same symbol as the previously played card. Play three cards of the same colour on a row and you’ll earn a door of that colour; get three doors of each of the four colours and you win. Doors can also be unlocked if they’re drawn and you have a key in your hand that matches its colour; unlock it using the key and it’s claimed without having to play three cards in a row.
There are a few extra rules – it’s possible to trigger a ‘prophecy’ and manipulate the deck to a limited extent with one of the card types, for example – but by far the most important and adversarial is the Nightmare card. Drawing a Nightmare means dealing with it immediately; you can either rid yourself of it by discarding a key, losing a door you’ve already earned, discarding your entire hand or by discarding the top five cards of the deck. Given that you lose if there’s no cards left to draw and that you need to earn three of each of the four coloured doors to win, by far the least damaging option is to discard a key that’s in your hand, but of course you won’t always have one.
Though a straightforward game that’s easy to pick up, Onirim can be pretty punishing in terms of its difficulty. It doesn’t always feel fair, either – with so much of your success being down to the luck of the draw, rather than any skill you may be able to apply to get yourself an elusive win. My win rate is currently just under 20% according to the app’s statistics page – and each of those wins were hard fought for and tense right until the end.
Though initially very addictive, after a number of plays the game just ended up feeling frustratingly unfair most of the time. The options of which cards o play next never felt particularly interesting and far too often relied on the aforementioned luck of the draw, with Nightmares seeming to be far too prevalent in the deck and way too damaging in my opinion.
I realise I’m in the minority here, as Onirim is a highly acclaimed and commercially successful game, but I found it too frustrating to be much fun. The app itself is well designed and has an excellent soundtrack, however, so if you’re already a fan of the card game you’ll definitely enjoy the digital representation.
Paid for expansions are available, but these – reportedly, as I haven’t purchased them – apparently add further challenge to what already seems to me to be a frustratingly difficult game. I do need to make it clear that I don’t have a problem with a stern challenge, but when it feels like your chances at winning are so heavily dependent on luck rather than skill, that’s when it becomes a problem.
Still, fans of Onirim will enjoy the app; it may be worth checking it out for those players unfamiliar with the tabletop game, as Onirim is highly regarded and – despite how frustrating it can be – satisfying to beat. It’s certainly not a game I had much fun with, however.
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