The light and dark mechanics will keep you on your toes the entire time.
20 to 40 Hours
The Bottom Line:
Outland is the story of the Two Sisters, one controlling Light, the other Dark, who used their powers to create the world. Then tried to destroy it so they could try again. A lone hero rose up, as is the way of these things, and imprisoned them. Now the Sisters are about to break out of jail and a new hero is needed. As usual, you play the part of the aforementioned hero, who on this occasion is not given an identity. It's your job to go out into the world, acquire powers, battle enemies, do a lot of jumping and fell some bosses in the name of saving creation.
The first thing that strikes you is Outland's visual style. It practically grabs your eyeballs. Everything in the foreground is basically black, but highlighted with very bright bold colours and patterns. The background is vivid colour and shapes in direct contrast to the foreground. The hero's movement is swift and swirling patterns of projectiles often fill the screen. If this game doesn't give you an epileptic fit I suspect nothing will.
At the start of the game you can run, jump, wall-jump and climb ladders and ledges. Early on you get a sword that lets you attack enemies, and later a sliding attack, ground-pound attack, beam attack, an energy shield and the abilities to use special relics in the worlds. But the main powers you acquire are Light and Dark. Within the game there are various things (enemies, switches, platforms, energy projectiles and beams) that have either Light (coloured blue) or Dark (coloured red) alignment. Switching alignment is as easy as pressing a button and is instantaneous. To be able to stand on platforms or make them move, you must match the colour, either blue or red. Same thing with switches. Energy projectiles or beams normally damage you, but not if you match the colour first, they instead impact an invisible shield around you. Enemies are different; you must have the opposite colour selected to be able to damage them, otherwise your attacks are useless. To start with the game only sends single lines of projectiles of a single colour at you, that are easy to avoid. But as you progress further, you will come across increasingly complex patterns of different coloured projectiles and beams that criss-cross the screen, and require some thought, a lot of coordination and fast reflexes to pass uninjured. Add to that the enemies of each colour, and sometimes you are forced to juggle lots of different coloured things at once as you try to find the right colour just to stay alive.
If you do get injured, find a green heart to refill part of your health. When objects and enemies are smashed or defeated, pick up the doubloons they drop to add to your cash. Attack and smash green hearts to earn extra doubloons. Later on some of your moves consume energy, which is replenished by defeating enemies. And if you ever come across an upgrade statue, spend some of your cash to upgrade your health or energy levels. There is a constant feeling of character development thanks to the regular move upgrades you receive, and these moves are vital for getting past certain areas although how useful each move is varies. The slide attack for example is vital against most ground enemies and makes them easy to kill. The ground stomp however is seldom used, unless you need to get through a cracked floor.
The enemy variety is good and they attack and move in different ways, although the game does stop introducing new ones about half-way through. Not that that's a problem, given the size of the challenge the game presents. Indeed you may count it as a blessing. Bosses are suitable huge and follow the same colour-coded rules as the rest of the game, but make no mistake; these guys don't go down to simple sword swings. They are set up as movement and combat challenges in their own right, have multiple stages of battle and are far from easy. The narrator does a good job of delivering the story alongside the colourful frescos, and the in-game map is easy to read.
The colour on-screen is pretty enough to distract you, but you must remember those pretty orbs of light are trying to kill you. Overall this game does a good job of taking the platforming concept and doing something new and interesting, and certainly does it in style.
Outland presents all the fundamentals of a great platformer and so much more at an excellent value not to be missed.
10 to 20 Hours
The Bottom Line:
+ tight, fluid controls, making platforming a breeze
+ brilliant level design that makes excellent use of the game's unique mechanics
+ top-notch pacing and spot-on difficulty
+ compelling boss battles
+ immersive presentation
+ a wealth of challenges and collectibles offer plenty of replay value
- frequent and grueling lag hampers online co-op
- no local co-op
Within the past year, there has been an inexplicable surge of remarkable 2D platformers, including Super Meat Boy, Donkey Kong Country Returns, and others. Continuing the 2D trend is Outland, a game that continues to show that there's still much fun and creativity to discover and behold in the realm of planes. Outland boasts all the essentials of an exemplary platformer: precise controls, creative level design, and a superb difficulty, but it goes well beyond these genre staples to deliver something truly special. While some of its features are callbacks to previous games, its various twists, original qualities, and gorgeous world give the game an identity all its own. A generous amount of extra content and replay value accompany an excellent campaign, sealing Outland as one of the best downloadable games of the year at a value not to be missed.
The game tells a mythical tale relating the ancient past to the anonymous protagonist's present mission to prevent the destruction of the earth. At several points during the game, a dramatic narrator will chime in about the tribal lore or the hero's progress of his journey. Other than this simple context, there are no story distractions that keep you away from the brilliance of Outland's gameplay. Even at its most basic core, the game is exceptional; the faceless hero runs and jumps with such ease, style, and precision that every action performed feels so surreal. It's also very easy to alternate in a fluid process between the speedy traversal and impacting combat, both of which exuberate with finesse. It's rare for a game to receive such praise simply for its movement, but it's a significant part of what makes playing through Outland so rewarding.
Because you're so in control, every mistake is your own fault, and you'll be making plenty of mistakes along the way thanks to an excellent difficulty curve that offers consistent challenge. This steady ramp is paralleled with the fantastic pace at which your repertoire is expanded. You start off the game with no more than your basic platforming techniques and quickly acquire a sword for melee combat. You'll obtain many more upgrades throughout the entire adventure, many of which both allow access to new areas and enhance combat. For example, the slide ability lets you pass under crevices and also pops enemies up in the air, and a powerful dash attack crumbles stone walls and stuns enemies. There are also a few last-resort powers that require energy to be used in life-threatening situations; a beam of pure energy and a strong smite with your sword are effective ways to quickly dispatch some tough foes with little health. You can string together combos using your different abilities, and since every blow against an enemy feels effective, combat is satisfying. Outland rewards you with new skills at such a rate that constantly piles up more and more depth while not being overwhelming.
Within one power, though, lies the pinnacle of Outland's brilliance, making it shine bright among its peers. The simple ability to alternate your spirit energy between light and dark is the highlighted element of this superb platformer, immensely deepening this experience while relying on a press of just one button that changes the skin of your character between blue and red. The same idea appeared in the classic shoot-'em-up Ikaruga with similar success, but the mechanic is still a great innovation for this genre because of the clever and challenging ways it is used. Your color affects defeating enemies, certain platforms, and the effects of some environmental hazards. To deal damage to your opponents, you must be the color opposite them, platforms fade in and out according to your spirit energy, and energy beams and bullets don't cause harm when your color corresponds with them. These basic functions of the spirit energies are put to use in many and often tough ways through some very tricky level design, forcing you to alternate between colors at quick paces, some rhythmic and some sporadic. For example, you may have to watch out for both blue and red bullets spewing from fountains in a fireworks-like fashion while traversing on moving platforms that are also color-based. Concentration, timing, and patience are required when pitted against these chaotic scenarios.
These extreme setups are dispersed in a world laid out like a Metroid game; an overworld connects several distinct areas, each containing their own set of stages. Unlike Metroid, however, you'll only need to visit each area once to complete the game, and a group of lights guide you on your journey so that you never have to figure out how to get to your next destination. Despite this hand-holding, there are plenty of separate paths, hidden items, and health and energy upgrades to discover, many of which require powers you'll obtain in other areas. Of course this means backtracking is necessary if you want to find everything, and it is rewarding in and of itself because of the dreamlike traversal. Because revisiting areas in nonessential in completing Outland, though, it wouldn't be inaccurate to describe it as "Metroidvania light," with its little emphasis on exploration. Considering the level design of the game, this is a good thing. Perilous obstacles plague every stage, which would make heavy backtracking an extremely punishing task. Even the linear adventure itself poses many formidable challenges where you will die. Thankfully, checkpoints are forgiving and don't have you replaying large chunks of stages to return to where you last fell.
Some of the greatest trials in Outland are its amazing boss battles. Five massive evils provide varied and fantastic pattern-based fights you must overcome. Each of these magical and mythical creatures has a different weakness you must exploit while avoiding barrages of their attacks. These hectic battles are exhilarating and keep you on edge as you search for a way to deal out damage while both light and dark projectiles and traps constantly endanger your health. The boss fights are the most exciting portions of Outland, and like the rest of the game, can be difficult but never frustrating.
The world of Outland is a beautiful place to explore thanks to the bold contrast of violently radiant blues and reds and stunning backgrounds with dim silhouetted foregrounds. The game's areas all have their own visual themes and include different artistic details, such as the gnarled, lush vegetation of the Jungle and the various ancient structures of the City. The protagonist animates with as much fluidity and grace as he travels, and the smooth animations of the enemies and ornamental objects bring life to land. An ambient soundtrack does a great job of matching the tone of the visuals and further characterizing each area. The somber tribal tunes add to the overall atmosphere, making Outland's environments wholly sublime and very engrossing.
After you've completed Outland's excellent campaign, you can tackle Arcade mode, which slaps a time limit on each of the game's main areas and awards points for killing enemies. This encourages you to work through stages quickly and proficiently, so you can rack up high scores that can be compared with other players on leaderboards. Both the campaign and Arcade mode are playable online with a friend as well as five special co-op challenges. Unfortunately, extreme cases of lag completely erase the magic and polish found when playing alone. Your character takes time to respond to the simplest of actions in co-op, completely throwing off your required precision and timing. Not to mention that it's very rare to even get into a game using matchmaking, so you'll likely need a friend who has the game to even attempt co-op since there sadly is no option for local multiplayer. These problems make the co-op challenges such terrible letdowns, especially when you find how magnificently designed they all are. Each of them puts a different spin on the spirit energy mechanic that requires constant teamwork, such as giving one player the power to alter both players' colors, and the levels will punish you if you're greedy for a second. If the online would function correctly, co-op challenges would be a truly special part of Outland.
While the nearly unplayable co-op is ultimately a huge disappointment, Outland's superb single player experience alone makes it worth a purchase. Wonderful controls lay a solid foundation that is continuingly built upon with amazing mechanics and increasingly complex level design. The great pace in which layers of depth are added and a smooth difficulty curve keeps this 6-7 hour adventure fresh and exciting the whole way through, and collectibles and Arcade mode give plenty of reason to return to Outland's immersive world. The game is both so polished and so innovative in gameplay that no platformer fan should think twice to miss out on this ethereal journey, and at a $10 price, there's absolutely no reason to.
This game is an eyegasm!
100 or More Hours
The Bottom Line:
OMG! this game is epic. some of the best visuals ive seen in a game, and the sound is stellar as well. i usually go into downloadable games very apprehensive because almost everyone that i've played was kind of a let down, which is why i usually only stick with full blown retail games, as that's where typically most of the quality goes into from what i've seen, but Outland broke that cycle for me. the difficulty, is just the perfect amount to where i don't get frustrated when i lose because, while the challenge is there, i feel there is hope to beat it at the same time. i love how amazingly complex the game is because i love having to think. the boss fights are incredibly unique, especially the final boss. i really hope that there will eventually be a sequel or at least an expansion. More games like this need to happen. i grew up on 2D, so every time i see a new 2D game, it's a sight for sore eyes, especially when the game is good. 2D platformers are back!
Overrated/ Boring in some parts
10 Hours or Less
The Bottom Line:
Start the game seems to be very good, you start with a differential that is the aura of alternation between darkness and light, but only that, eventually, among the powers that you earn during the game are the best Launch Pad and one that you throw energy, otherwise it's just hack and slash, the game is shorter, you memorizes the movements of enemies and bosses (perhaps the "best" of the game).
Very simple, no depth in the story, nothing compared to other platform games, very boring in many parts of the game, the graphic is good for someone who is a mosquito and is attracted by bright lights.
There are alternative pathways that lead to nothing, only a few coins or a bright helm (which is only a trophy without justification in the history of the "hero"). I think the alternative pathways could be targets for new alternatives.
To conclude, the story lacks depth, the game lacks intuition.
Outland is an amazing platformer with a simple but great concept that is well suited for games
10 Hours or Less
The Bottom Line:
Outland is an easy game to get into, the mechanics are very simple in concept but become challenging in practice. The structure of the game is well made and will start out simple making sure you get the hang of each mechanic and power before moving on to new ones.
This challenging platformer will have you defeating enemies and evading tricky traps at every step. You get both light and dark powers, which are represented by colors blue and red. By shifting into each of those attunements you become immune to the same colored projectiles and traps but cannot harm the same colored enemies, so much of the gameplay is about using the colors effectively both in platforming and in combat.
The platforming works well, your character runs fast, jumps high and automatically grabs on ledges. Visuals are artistic and colorful, where black is everything inanimate like terrain and walls, and colored stuff are enemies and projectiles, but the backdrop comes in many different varieties.
The bosses play a big part of what makes Outland great, but there are only 5 of them. Each of them becomes more challenging and varied in attacks, but most of them play the same, you avoid their attacks and then strike them once they open a weakpoint.
There are about 20 levels to play across 5 different themed environments. The levels themselves are kinda short, but you will often stop to study the patterns of enemy projectiles and traps, so the length of each level depends on your skill. Outland isn't a particularly a long game but it also isn't a very short one, an average time to complete it is probably at about 6 hours. If you're into action/puzzle platformers, it doesn't get any better than Outland.