Game Review: Outland
Release: 4/26/11 PSN, 4/27/11 XBLA
Available Platforms: PSN, XBLA
Players: 1 (Campaign), 2 (Online Coop levels)
MSRP: $10 / 800 Microsoft Points
ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+ (Fantasy Violence)
You are a young man in ancient times, haunted by visions and searching for the truth. You finally meet a shaman who tells you of the Sisters, the imprisoned creators of the world. Imprisoned by the Hero, because they sought to destroy what they had once created. Your visions are those of your Hero ancestor, telling you that the Sisters are coming back, and they want to finish what they could not so many years ago.
Outland is a very fast-paced, action-packed platformer. When I first started playing, I immediately had feelings reminiscent of Prince of Persia. There is a ton of running, wall jumping, pulling yourself up onto ledges, and other seemingly impossible physical tasks that our man is able to accomplish with ease. It doesn’t take long to get your hands on a big sword and other powerful abilities. As soon as you acquire the forms of Light and Darkness, the game truly takes shape.
As all gamers know by now, there cannot be light without dark; such is the case with Outland. Our hero wields those powers to his advantage and bends them to his will: Light, represented by blue, and Dark, represented by red. Once acquired, you may freely switch between the two to conquer enemies and obstacles. This is the key element to the game and switching between Light and Dark (Xbox users tap RB) will quickly become second nature.
In your Light form, you are immune to blue projectiles. You can defeat Dark enemies, but you won’t be able to harm Light foes until you get the Power Swing. It is important to know that Light enemies will still harm you if they hit you or you touch them. When you encounter a Light enemy, simply switch to your Dark form and take it out. The aforementioned is true for the Dark form.
I am always wary of new platformers; they never seem to be able to get it right. Outland has laid those fears to rest. The level designers have done an excellent job of combining game elements. It is often necessary to jump and fight while switching forms multiple times. This keeps you focused on the game and I found myself sitting on the edge of my couch during challenging sequences (See: High Priestess).
The art and animation are best described as “clean.” It feels natural to run, wall jump, slide kick, then sword combo into a Power Swing finisher. The art is unique and just…cool. Everything seems to be silhouetted against the colorful background, and each level has its own theme. I don’t have a bad thing to say about these aspects of Outland.
After watching preview videos, I was disappointed to learn there is no local coop. That fact is puzzling, especially since there is online coop. Cooperative levels are unlocked and made playable after discovery in single player. Coop play is functional, but lacks the excitement and challenge of single player.
The other mode, Arcade, is actually pretty fun. It is essentially a time attack on any of the levels (Jungle, Underworld, City, Sky, Eternity) you have already cleared. You basically play through the entirety of the level as fast as possible. After selecting a level, you are shown what powers you have at that stage of the game. A timer starts counting down and off you go! Enemies drop score multipliers when slain and you lose a multiplier when you are damaged. Arcade forces you to take risks you normally wouldn’t have, but it is a delicate balance: you don’t want to lose your score multiplier, but you have to push the envelope to even finish the level.
The most important question anyone can ask of a game is: Is it fun? I lost a couple of hours into Outland before I knew what happened. Everything fits together so seamlessly: art, music, animation, and gameplay combine to give you a truly enjoyable experience. I think it is a good move to offer this game at $10 (800 MSP); I would take a risk on a $10 game, but $15 is generally too much for an arcade game.
- Fast-paced platforming action
- Unique art and graphics
- Unique levels for online coop
- Arcade mode for time attack
- Online leaderboards for Arcade, Arcade Coop, and Coop Challenge
Final Score: 9 out of 10