An Absolute Treat
I honestly can't remember where I heard about this game for the first time. It may have been a quick look or a preview trailer somewhere resting somewhere on the internet. All I can remember is that even in pre-alpha stages of this game's creation, it always looked beautiful. The silhouetted figures on bright vibrant backgrounds gave the game's visuals a unique pop, different enough from other games coming from the Limbo boom which seem to do little else but copy their visual format. Outland really is a game worth taking the time to stop playing and simply look about the scenery presented. The attention to detail is absolutely splendid, various art styles draping each area in various neo-antiquity, ranging from the Roman architecture that never existed to the Aztec temple imagery that never was. The red and blues truly pop off the screen, giving absolutely everything draped within a very bio-game grid look. It's simply a gorgeous take on how to mix minimalism and intricate detail in one stunning package. The most unfortunate thing regarding the artwork is that there isn't a good way to see it all. This is the type of game that should have you unlocking pieces of art every 5 seconds, and yet it seems we're restricted to 10 pieces of concept art, all of which are stage related. Now I haven't unlocked everything yet, there are still quite a few collectibles that I circumvented in order to keep moving through the game's story, but the detailing of the light patterns on your hero are things that should be presented with grandeur. Other than the "box art," I've yet to see one detailed picture of any of the hero's designs. And it really is a shame because the hero, the bosses, the regular enemies, the stages, the flora and fauna of the stages, it's all really magnificent. If any game ever needed an artbook, it's this one.
The game play, for the most part, is very solid. As any video of the game will have shown, this game is all about polarity. Outland does a fantastic job of combining the damage negation system from Ikaruga with the feel of an older platforming game like Flashback or Out of this World. At any given time, the screen will be filled with red or blue orbs, spreading in flower like patterns, and as long as you are the same color, these orbs will not do you harm. But the game can be tricky and there will be quite a few areas where you are quickly and frantically pressing the polarity change button in order to slip through laser fields, bring platforms into physical existence, match the opposite polarity of enemies in order to do damage, or match the color of an enemies attack, some of which can fill the entire screen much like a Japanese SHUMP. Combat especially feels particularly crisp, each hit feeling like it leaves an impact. There are enough variations on enemies that every move in your arsenal will become essential. You often have to weigh the option of fighting the enemies littered at the bottom of the screen or taking the more difficult acrobatic method along the top. But, as I mentioned earlier, it does resemble an older platforming game, which means the jumping has a very particular feel about it. Momentum is key here and changing it on the fly can often lead you to a swift death. You need to plan jumps 3 or 4 steps in advance and there are times where that means the thing you can't see off screen is going to do some damage to you. The ability to hang on walls for a moment seems like it would be useful on paper, but often ends up simply getting you stuck and usually hurt or killed. The name of the game as far as platforming is concerned is to never stop moving. With as much stuff as there is on the screen to avoid at any one given time, constantly moving forward feels like the best way to go. Much like super meat boy, standing still is simply a way of muddling yourself up (though this game is no where as mean as super meat boy). And after all, a good 30 minutes of play time should give you everything you need to know about the gravity of the game.
And while the single player campaign is relatively "short", clocking in at about 8 hours, there is a whole co-op multiplayer mode to keep people engaged. It's one of those tough ones too, where one person controls half functionality. For example, one person will be able to control the polarity switching and holding down a button while the other is navigating through a perilous platforming sequence. Timing and communication will be key to finishing each stage and challenge. And even beyond that, there is a full score/time attack mode for the single player that pits people up against one another on the leader boards. And beyond that, this game is only 10 dollars. You'd be hard pressed to get that much value in a retail game at this point.
There is honestly no reason not to get this game. It's beautiful, it's fun to play and there are enough various modes and unlockables to warrant multiple playthroughs, and it's only 10 dollars. Do yourself a favor and pick it up immediately because this game is a fantastic treat. 5/5, it really is excellent.