Outland review

  • Crazy bullet-hell madness
  • Cribs from the classics
  • Gorgeous art style
  • Crazy bullet-hell madness
  • Forgetting to hit checkpoints
  • Not much else

There are enough borrowed core mechanics from other popular games found woven all throughout the fabric of Outland that you could make a drinking game out of calling them out. Developer Housemarque did its due diligence in strip-mining classics like Super Metroid, Ikaruga, and Prince of Persia - to name just a few - for ideas to inject into Outland. This 2D action platformer may be a pastiche of well-worn ideas found in games that came long before it, yet its many disparate elements blend together to create an experience that still manages to feel fresh and original.

Let's forget for a moment that the game's nimble neon hero looks like he was yanked straight out of the movie Tron or that the story revolves around some mystical mumbo jumbo concerning a troubled world struggling to find balance between order and chaos. Outland delivers a hearty dose of pure platforming bliss wrapped in one of the most spectacular creative presentations we've seen. From the deep layers of scrolling scenery in the background to the soft glowing colors that silhouette against the dark foreground, the game's distinct art style is simply beautiful.

The mix of platforming and brawling action is tight too, featuring responsive controls that make the frenetic encounters with foes, traps, and flying bullets a lot of fun to navigate. You start out weak, with only a meager number of powers as you run, jump, and climb your way through a dark realm filled with lush backdrops and bursts of neon luminescence. Once you nab a sword, you can dice up the unfriendly beasts and humanoid foes you encounter and smash obstacles to collect coins for upgrading your hero. Many other basic abilities are uncovered while exploring, and most of these coveted enhancements, like the floor smash and the ground slide, serve as a means to open up new areas to venture through.

There's one ability in particular obtained early on that becomes one of the most defining features of Outland's increasingly hectic gameplay. Gaining the power to shift your character's elemental polarity between light and dark unlocks a whole new level of complexity. A quick button tap can rapidly swap your hero's neon aura from red to blue on the fly. You can only slay certain hued enemies when you're donning the opposite color, and it also lets you absorb energy blasts that match your current color without taking damage from them. This simple twist is key because Outland has an unexpected and very cool bullet-hell element that grows crazier as you progress. Since it's impossible to dodge all of the hypnotic bullet patterns that blossom outward with increasing intensity, you have to shift colors in order to absorb some of the energy blasts in order to stay alive while you leap and bound through levels.

Though the difficulty spikes steadily once you get through the early portion of the game, frequent checkpoints save you from having to replay lengthy stretches of challenging turf. There are areas that feel like punishing gauntlets of bullet doom, but they're not as painful to endure when you can bounce right back after getting mauled. Beyond the substantial and enjoyable main campaign, Outland also has an arcade mode worth exploring if you feel like revisiting some familiar territory from the main game on a strict time limit. There's also an online co-op mode that lets you tackle the main game with a pal or try your hand at several unique challenges that require careful teamwork.

When you get right down to it, Outland cannibalizes a lot of tried-and-true gaming elements and turns them into something entirely new and exciting. The magical realm you explore is visually captivating, overflowing with elegance and mystery. More importantly, it serves up some damn good gaming.

May 9, 2011

More Info

Release date: Apr 27 2011 - Xbox 360 (US)
Apr 27 2011 - Xbox 360 (UK)
Available Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3
Genre: Action
Published by: Ubisoft
Developed by: Housemarque
ESRB Rating:
Everyone 10+: Fantasy Violence

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  • bram00 - August 26, 2012 4:11 a.m.

    Free on PS+, looks like I'll finally take a look at this game.
  • eliguy83 - July 18, 2011 2:11 a.m.

    I'm playing this right now, and I have to say that it's actually kind of boring. I dunno, I just can't get into it as much as I thought I was going to. I'd actually probably give it a 7.
  • Spybreak8 - May 11, 2011 3:02 p.m.

    Man they used the composer who worked on Tron, no wonder it totally feels perfect for the Tron visuals.
  • Imthedoctor - May 10, 2011 3:16 p.m.

    Looks like a good buy for my xbox..i shall get it
  • AxiamWolfe - May 10, 2011 12:02 p.m.

    Oooh, it's like a sidescroller Ikaruga!
  • SpadesSlick - May 10, 2011 5:46 a.m.

    Might have to check this one out.
  • FreedomPhantom - May 10, 2011 1:06 a.m.

    this looks SWEET! wow I'll have to check it out
  • MySistersMenstruationTastesFunny - May 10, 2011 12:07 a.m.

    C'mon Chris. You gotta call first. it's the rules!
  • Higgins - May 9, 2011 11:42 p.m.

    *ahem* I meant : "Steam release please!"
  • EwoksTasteLikeChicken - May 9, 2011 11:41 p.m.

    I don't know if it's just me, but I played the game and really dindn't like it.
  • Higgins - May 9, 2011 11:40 p.m.

    Steam release plase!
  • HaVoK308 - May 9, 2011 10:23 p.m.

    Comparing it to Limbo? Odd. Been playing Outland and enjoying every second of it. Excellent title and well worth the price of admission.
  • StoneDreadnaught - May 9, 2011 10 p.m.

    Y'know, I played the demo of this and... wasn't exactly drawn in. Yes it's a very stylish game, but I just kept comparing it to LIMBO the whole time I was playing it. I just couldn't get into it.
  • eliguy83 - May 9, 2011 9:52 p.m.

    Saw this on some other site and came immediately here to search for it–and what do you know, the review is right there on the front page. Goddamn I love GR :D Can't wait to play it.
  • BladedFalcon - May 9, 2011 9:41 p.m.

    ...Dammit, and with the PSN store being supposedly the last thing to come back, this is gonna be a damn long wait >.< Say Sony... Give us this game for free, and I'm pretty sure most victims of the PSN Fiasco will forgive and forget.
  • 510BrotherPanda - May 9, 2011 9:03 p.m.

    Robx is right, it does look a little like an HD Patapon +Tron...
  • ThatGuyFromTV - May 9, 2011 8:49 p.m.

    ...platformer Ikaruga?
  • BlackElement17 - May 9, 2011 7:42 p.m.

    I'll put it on my to play list.
  • IntimidatingStair - May 9, 2011 7:35 p.m.

    Bought this along with new Black Ops maps (I know I'm part of the problem, but I off set it with the purchase of Outland).Demo was incredibly brilliant, and the art was perty, so it made the purchase as easy as a narcoleptic to fall asleep.
  • Kisokuiki - May 9, 2011 6:44 p.m.

    I hadn't even heard of this game before, but I think it looks brilliant. Definitely the type of thing I'd go for.

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