Priced at a very reasonable 800 points and published by Ubisoft, Outland is Housemarque’s latest effort on XBLA.
The game is a 2D platform that harks back to the days of Flashback and Another World, featuring a look that fits somewhere in-between an organic version of Tron and last year’s XBLA smash Limbo.
The story features something about gods, nature and the destruction of the world, and naturally it’s up to you to prevent it from happening.
On first impression, I couldn’t help but notice how nicely the single player campaign flowed along.
With it’s simple controls, it really felt like a breeze in the wind jumping from one platform to another and then landing next to a giant neon-lit scorpion only to slice it in half with my sword.
It starts off simple enough, but as you progress it gets a bit tougher – but never tough enough to insanely annoy you.
Quite often getting past a particularly awkward section is just a simple matter of timing, but if you mess it up it could mean starting it all over again. When you have got various meanies scattered around and weird plants firing luminous gunk at you, you have to make sure you land in the right place at the right time.
There’s also a number of traps to consider – pits that naturally have spikes at the bottom and kamikaze bugs that run towards you and then explode, all that jazz.
The game starts off with a few basic levels and then things get a little more hands on.
Every now and then a new mechanic is introduced that forces you to play things a little differently.
One of my favourite elements of the game see’s you having to change your characters colour so he can absorb the various projectiles fired at him that are of the same colour and fight off the enemies of the opposite colour. This also allows your character to use different platforms that weren’t previously accessible, with some sections requiring you to switch colours between jumps.
The level design is brilliant and much of the fun relies on you exploring the world as your progress.
It’s not as linear as other platform games out there and the levels are pretty huge, so the developers have wisely included a map that can be accessed simply by pressing the select button on the controller. There is also a sparkling trail that points you in the right direction.
This map can also help you find the various loot that can be collected – such as coins and upgrades.
The single player campaign takes around 5 hours to complete, however Housemarque have wisely included a co-op option that opens up sections of the game that cannot be accessed when playing on your own.
Visually, with the neon colours in the background and the dark silhouettes representing the foreground, the game is completely arresting. As mentioned earlier, the colour plays an integral part to the game and as a result, it looks and plays fantastically.
Outland does have a few minor snags.
With the checkpoints, you do find yourself going through the same old things more than a couple of times – this can get a bit irritating and the game does require you to do quite a bit of backtracking every now and then.
However, there is something about Outland that draws you in.
With it’s visual style, it’s responsive controls and the simple fact that it is just a damn good platform game that is both rewarding and fun to play, I’d certainly recommend checking it out.
Outland is out now and available on XBLA for 800 Microsoft Points.
Verdict: 8.5 out of 10
Easy to pick up
Good level design
Bit of backtracking