I have been gifted with the powers of creation and destruction, to wield both in order to reinforce the balance of all things, and hopefully to put my nighmares to rest. I must use these powers to struggle a vast and hostile world, with creatures born from these energies running rampant and mighty warriors stalking across the forbidding and desolate landscape.
I am playing Outland.
Facial features coming soon as DLC.
Outland is a downloadable title produced by Housemarque. It plays as a side-scrolling action platformer, with your character traversing numerous highly-stylized worlds (all darkly shaded yet contrasted by bright and striking backgrounds) using a variety of acrobatic moves and fast-paced combat. In essence, it plays like a faster-paced Prince of Persia game, crossed with Ikaruga`s colour-shifting mechanics, with enemy designs a cross between Mayan designs and Tron. If you are still this reading after that sentence instead of buying this game, in the words of Bad Religion, "I can't relate to you
The backstory is fairly simple - you're a chappie who, due to constant dreams about an ancient conflict, seeks out a shaman to explain what's going on. You're a reincarnated hero, and have to deal with the Sisters of Creation (one of whom controls Light, one whom controls Dark). And so, you sneak off to do battle with, well, everything.
As with many games, Outland starts the player off with little more than the ability to attack, but as you progress you gain additional abilities, including channeling both light and dark energies (controlled by a bumper), new attack methods, and movement abilities (e.g., sliding).
Your Energy alignment has multiple effects - when in Light mode, you can absorb Light projectiles and wound Dark creatures. However, you are vulnerable to all kinds of melee and cannot harm Light-aligned creatures. As the game progresses, stages become bullet-hell like affairs that require the player to skillfully switch alignments while navigating stages, combatting multiple enemies of both alignments simultaniously, and avoiding various traps.
Enemies are colour-coded for your convenience. Also, murder.
All of these elements come into play majestically for the boss battles. Most are multi-stage affairs, with bosses changing their attacks, changing the environment, or throwing additional wrinkles into your assault. Each one requires careful attention to enemies' alignment, as well as how best to use the environment to your advantage. Thankfully, the controls are smooth and extremely responsive, which is critical as stages become more complex.
Boss battles are impressive affairs.
In the end, while there are better 2D platformers, Outland stands out due to excelling in both style and substance. It constantly manages to impress, entertain, and occasionally surprise the player. It expertly blends concepts found in numerous disparate games to provide a unique and visually impressive experience. And it makes good use of its mechanics to create some memorable and dramatic boss battles. Finally, Outland possess numerous additional modes, including a variety of co-op options and a time-trial mode (with Leaderboards) for the story stages, giving it a great deal of staying power.
To hearken back to the Digital Distribution blog call, Outland also reflects the benefits that can result from digital distribution. As it encompasses an "archaic" game design (the 2D platformer), it would undoubtably struggle at retail. In addition, it isn't overly long (or so it seems, I have yet to finish it), but it appears to have avoided needless padding (as some retail games do). For $10, you get a solid, well-paced platformer that looks and plays beautifully. That alone speaks well of digital distrubution's potential.
So VERY pretty.
Outland is a creative and well-designed endeavour that deserves a look. If nothing else, I encourage everyone to download the demo. It's always fantastic to see a new IP show such a strong and entertaining debut, and Outland delivers.
LOOK WHO CAME: