Platform: Playstation Network [reviewed], Xbox Live Arcade
I set out this summer to cover more downloadable games; however I was worried that I may lose out on some of the bigger retail titles that would be coming between now and the Fall season. But when a game like Outland finally lands in the PlayStation Store, I began to question if some of the bigger titles coming out in the summer can give me the feeling of fulfillment and excitement like Outland gave me.
Outland is a wonderful 2D side scrolling platformer that tests the player’s ability to use all of the game’s mechanics to succeed. I have to say that this title may be one of the toughest downloadable games I have played thus far, almost resulting in a few thrown controllers. With that said, I never felt that I was being cheated by a spike in the difficulty, or bogged down by spaced out checkpoints.
You play as a man haunted by dreams of two ancient sisters that created the Earth, and then sought to destroy it. The main character learns that the world is once again in trouble and he sets out to fight the sisters and their minions that helped create Earth. The narrator refers to your character as hero and warrior, but beyond that, I felt no connection with him. This is the only issue with the game that I have, and it is something that I can’t let go unnoticed. Without some sort of an emotional connection with the character, I was left uninterested with the story, but thankfully, the game offers a lot more to hook me back in.
Gameplay revolves around light and dark spirits, which the player can switch at the click of a button. Often times I found myself having to switch spirits in less than a second to avoid taking damage from obstacles or to attack an enemy with an opposite spirit. In later levels, the intensity of this challenge increased, forcing me to switch spirits while constantly avoiding obstacles and enemies.
Outland starts with a comfortable pace that allows the player to familiarize them self with the controls, and to understand how and when to switch between spirits. As the game progresses, the difficulty rises, and the game tests your ability to use the different game play mechanics, and utilizes different combinations of those mechanics to really mess with you.
Outland offers a variety of puzzles, enemies, and boss encounters, all of which are provided with a beautiful backdrop that made me feel immersed in a new world. The game looks great with its ink cell-shaded art direction. I got a sense of depth between the characters and background, which is awesome considering this is not a 3D game. Player animations felt fluid enough for a downloadable game, which worked well with the controls and emphasizes having good reflexes to dominate Outland. Mixed with a good soundtrack, carefully thought-out level designs, the world in Outland is as immerseive as any full retail game.
Speaking of level design, it is important to note that the developers crafted each level to be open for players to explore. Now it’s not exactly a free roaming game, there is, of course, a somewhat linear path to follow, but being adventurous and traveling to dead end areas of the level can reward you with collectibles or upgrades to your health and energy bars.
Outland offers two other game modes to pump a few more hours into its replay value. Arcade allows players to return to any level they like, and search for collectibles they may have missed during the story. An online co-op mode is a great addition to Outland. You can play the entire story with a friend, or tackle some of the co-op specific challenges that are offered. Having an online co-op mode makes the game more enjoyable, but does not make the gameplay any easier, so beware of that.
The Final Word: Outland is a wonderful downloadable game that kept me very busy with its increasingly tough game play, and immersesive world. Housemarque proves that downloadable titles can be just as fulfilling as a $59.99 retail game. If you’re looking for a refreshing game to play and want to save some money, I highly recommend Outland.
– MonsterVine Rating: 4.5 out of 5 – Great