There has always been a special place in my heart for platformers. The first video game of the genre that truly had me enamored was hands down Crash Bandicoot. Since the early days of the Playstation when a good platformer came around I always sought to get my hands on it. Luckily there has been no lack of strong installments into the genre the past few years, especially through the Xbox Live Marketplace. Games like Shadow Complex, Braid, and Super Meat Boy are only some of the names that have asserted themselves as must play titles for anyone that appreciates a good 2D platformer. Outland is one of the newer games that have been brought to the public through download on the Marketplace and it has already been placed in league with some of the elite titles that are part of the genre. The game is nothing short of stellar with little to no drawbacks.
The Awesome: Incredible Visuals, Challenging Game Play, Unique Level Design, Boss Fights
The Not So Awesome: Music Becomes Repetitive, Story is Irrelevant
The Awesome Stuff
Challenging Game Play
Outland shines and separates itself from the pack based off a unique part of the game play that in turn creates the stunning art style and visuals for the game. This piece of the game involves the Light of Creation and Shadow of Death. The ladder comes fourth as a deep red, while the former reveals itself as a shade of blue. Initially your character, the Hero, starts off as a shadowed figure with streaks of tribal tattoos that shine yellow. As you gain abilities to shift from Light to Dark your character is constantly shifting from blue to red, which is made easy by simply using the right bumper on the Xbox controller.
Hmm.. What to Do?
What makes this great is that enemies, obstacles, moving platforms, and puzzles also begin to illuminate in one of these colors. When fighting an enemy the opposite color must be equipped to damage it, while all of the physical obstacles must be matched by the player in order to use them. Platforms that are the opposite color of the Hero are visible, but see through and undefined, and result in the Hero falling through them if trying to use it without the proper color equipped. Another large part of the game involves small protrusions in the game that release red or blue orbs that travel in distinct patterns. When the Hero is blue, red orbs will hurt him, while blue orbs will fade away harmlessly as they hit him. Along with these color coded obstacles comes other traps and obstacles that don’t rely on the color scheme, such as a rising spike pit and walls that must blow up by using timed bombs.
Outland has a multitude of different enemies that provide different means of attack always keeping the combat within the game fresh. The game really provides a challenge when there are a slew of red and blue enemies on screen that forces you to shift from on color to the next while jumping from place to place and all the while avoiding flying orbs and enemy attacks. The game play is also impacted as you gather new abilities like different sword techniques and special moves such as a slide move that will remind many of their Mega Man days.
As you progress through the levels in one world and come to its end, there is always a massive boss waiting for you. These menacing monsters are much larger than the Hero and contain one precious soft spot that will lead to their demise. These boss battles start relatively simply, but quickly become more difficult as the boss begins to use new moves to hinder your attack, and have you rapidly shifting from Light and Darkness. Each boss leaves a satisfied feeling after you take them down as well as a reprieve from the lesser minions.
Big Enough For Ya?
Unique Level Design
Along with a solid challenge within the platforming and combat aspects of the game there is hidden content that can be revealed by the collection of hidden totems. Firstly, these totems are hidden very well within each level. Most of them are placed in an area that takes great patience and skill to get to as there are many obstacles in the way, while some of them are hidden in areas that are not visible on the map and can be easily overlooked if your not paying attention. These areas appear as the rest of the area seems, but a sword slash or a quick slide can place you into a hidden area that will contain things such as totems, life, and tokens (which can be used to buy health and magic upgrades).
As mentioned before, the game mechanics of the game revolves around the idea of Light and Darkness. This is just as present within the visuals and artwork of the game as well. Taking place in jungle areas, an underworld, and a celestial plane. The visuals, especially the background changes from one world to the next. The level design also goes through some changes from say the jungle to underworld. Textures become different and each level has a tone that correctly defines the world. As well as the actual visual change the music begins to change from world to world, but for the most part the music can begin to lag, leading us to the…
Outland Has a Look of its Own
Not So Awesome Stuff
Music Becomes Repetitive
The music overall is pretty cool when you first start off, and when you first arrive to anew world. Other than that the music can get pretty lame as it becomes very repetitive. After playing for a few hours I learned to mute the TV and just blast tunes of my own from my computer.
Story is Irrelevant
Along with the music becoming very redundant, there is the story. The story is told through the narration of an old guy, and the lore that is delivered at the Shrines that grant you new powers and abilities. Though the story seems cool, it really is irrelevant and just not tied well into the game play. Nothing drives you to complete an objective due to a building of story with an pending climax. You seek to move from level to level and beat the game because it is genuinely fun and rather addicting.
Overall the game has much more good than bad, and for the price of 800 MS Points, you cannot go wrong with Outland, especially if you enjoy platformers. The replay value may not be too high, but there is a lot to do and collect as well as some challenging Achievements. The game itself gets an EB 9/10, and it deserves every point. You’ve been thinking of playing platformers that have graced your heart in the past…
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EB Original by funkymonk