In some respects, Outland wears its influences on its sleeve. Described by developers as a cross between seminal shooter Ikaruga and classic platformer Out of this World, Outland forces players to constantly juggle the polarity of their character while they engage in combat platforming. The polarity mechanic is almost identical to that in Ikaruga; as the player traverses through the game, they must change the polarity of their character to match bullets and to oppose enemies.
This is where Outland's fiendish difficulty lies. While avoiding bullets of the opposite color, the player must fight various enemies, most of which have polarity themselves. In order to deal damage, the player must change their polarity to oppose that of the enemy - if the polarities match, the enemy can still deal damage but the player's attacks are rendered useless. This polarity mechanic persists into platforming puzzles. Certain platforms remain stationary unless the player is the correct polarity, others simply disappear, and ornate patterns of light won't illuminate unless they are of the correct alignment. The staggered introduction of these different mechanics makes for a gradual learning curve, and a punishing final world.
The game's combat, similar to Prince of Persia, involves simple but effective swordplay, with a basic three hit combo at its core. Over the course of the game, the player will face a variety of foes ranging from spiders to soldiers, flowers to jellyfish, and armadillos to dragons. Each enemy has larger, more complex variations, like the shielded, mace-wielding, soldier. As stated, the polarity mechanic persists into combat, and damage can only be dealt to enemies of opposing polarity. This fails to prove much of a challenge in the early game, but Outland employs a timing mechanic in later stages that constantly changes the polarity of enemies, forcing the player to repeatedly change polarity to deal damage.
This visually outstanding game employs a silhouette art-style, superimposed on artistically striking backgrounds. The game's aesthetic draws heavily from ancient civilizations, most notably Mayan and Aztec, an influence seen predominantly in enemy design and structural architecture.
Throughout the game, various temples grant the player with various navigational and combat abilities. There are similar, harder to find, temples used to increase health and energy capacities. These abilities ease the flow of combat, and, drawing heavily from the Metroid framework, allow the player to access areas that were previously inaccessible. Learnt combat abilities consume energy, energy which is gained from slaying enemies.
- Slide: A simple slide which allows traversal through small holes and deals damage to enemies.
- Pound: A forceful smash into the ground which breaks rubble and does damage to enemies
- Boost: The protagonist charges his power and breaks rubble blocking his way.
- Launch Pads: These magical spheres allow the player to be propelled by godlike forces.
- Energy Beam: A large beam which does a large amount of damage to any enemy it hits
- Force Push: The player absorbs any bullets around him and uses the energy to send a large wave damaging all enemies on the screen.
- Smite: A powerful sword swing that will decimate enemies in a single blow.
Outland's campaign can be played cooperatively with another player and there are also five challenge rooms that can only be played in co-op. Last up, is an Arcade mode where the player (or players) must complete one of the game's chapters in under a time limit -- do well in either of these modes and you might wind up on the Leaderboards.
- El Dorado: The duo have a set amount of time to collect as many dubloons as they can and race to the finish in under a time limit.
- To Be Used Wisely: Both players must work together to shatter walls using bombs and reach the exit in under a time limit.
- Keeper of The Alignment: One player controls the polarity shifting and must frequently switch between the two alignments in order to keep both players alive.
- Shared Spirit: Both players must stay near one another, if one deviates from the other, both players will lose all of their abilities until they are reunited.
- Two of A Kind: Both players must be in the same alignment in order to damage enemies, keep alternating between dark and light to emerge victorious.
The story of Outland revolves around a tale of the world's creation. Two godly sisters, respectively representing light and darkness (or blue and red), have come together to form the world, and over the course of many thousands of years, now aim to destroy it. The silent protagonist finds himself on his sickly deathbed and travels the world looking for a way to be healed.
He finds himself collapsed at the feet of an old shaman who relays the story of the sisters and tells him that only a hero looking to save the world from destruction can allow the man to be reborn anew.After a flashback where the protagonist is catapulted into the shoes of the last hero, fighting the same gods 30,000 years ago, he sets off on his journey to again defeat the godly sisters. The player is given more and more clues into the motives of the goddesses and their minions as they progress through the story mode, each nugget being presented post boss fight or learned ability. Along the way, the player will travel to five worlds: Jungle, Underworld, City, Sky, and the final level. Each level is then divided into various stages as the main character adventures on through them. Finalizing at a final confrontation with the Twin Sisters.
The bosses in Outland require the player to mix various abilities in order to defeat them at the end of each level. There are a total of five bosses through out the game, each with a significant role within the world Outland inhabits. Below, are the in-game descriptions which followed a dichotomous structure. The game would first reveal what the bosses old, glorious role and follow it with the method of their fall.
The player finds the golem at the end of the Jungle level, where he stands watch in a half-eroded state with his mighty hammer. The elder guiding the protagonist then reveals the following about the Golem:
Carved from the bones of the earth, the Golem was the protector of the land. The gods themselves set him to stand guard on the Temple of Eternity. But his heart betrayed him. For love of the prisoners of time, he foreswore his sacred duty. Now he crumbles into rubble and dust.
The High Priestess
The High Priestess resides in her temple at the end of the Underworld and uses illusions in attempt to foil the player. The elder reveals the following about the priestess:
Once the High Priestess lead the gods in their holy rites. She knew the secrets of the heavens and the earth, blessing their creation, and she studied the Cycle of the Ages. Alas, she learned too much, and sought to join in the unmaking of all things. Who will sing the sacred songs, now that the High Priestess is gone?
The Mother of Eyes
The Mother of Eyes inhabits the deep under layers of the city. This behemoth resembles the various spiderlings the player has struggled against throughout the game, implying that the Mother of Eyes is the source of these enemies. The player fights through her layer, facing her, and her brood. After her defeat, the elder states this about the boss:
The Mother of Eyes knew the order that underlies the world, for She wove it out of nothingness. With Sister Moon, and Sister Sun, she established the very rhythms of existence. Perhaps she envied the sisters, who chose their own path. Following them, She abandoned all her labors save those of death. Now it has claimer Her, too.
The Winged Serpent
The Winged Serpent, boss of the Sky level, resembles a large serpentine dragon, and the fight takes place in both the earth and the sky. As with the Mother of Eyes, the Serpent resembles another enemy found beforehand, however, the connection between the two is not as clear.
The Twin Sisters
The Twin Sisters are the gods who helped create the very universe in which the player inhabits. They were locked away after they attempted to destroy the very same world they had created due to the joy they felt when they created the world, they sought to destroy this world, in order to build a new one. The sisters share the opposition of color the hero has, one being blue, representing light, and the other being red, representing death. These representations mirror the iconic symbol of Ying and Yang which is an undercurrent throughout the game.