Outland Review (XBLA)

Posted by Jim Cook, May 16, 2011 11:41

Outland doesn’t hide its inspirations, taking concepts from several games and combining them into one great 2D platformer. Its most obvious sources are ’Metroidvania’ games such as Super Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, but it also encourages players to have quick reflexes and shift between ’color modes’ to safely absorb incoming attacks in an obvious nod to Ikaruga. This may sound like a bizarre mix, but it works surprisingly well.

OutlandPrimarily a 2D platformer, Outland lets you guide a character through a series of large stages and gain new abilities to deal with problems you couldn’t previously handle; a slide maneuver might let you get beneath a narrow passageway, for example. Exploring is important, and while the game blatantly highlights the path you need to follow in order to proceed it also doles out plenty of rewards for checking out other parts of the stage; you’ll need those rewards to upgrade your character. While new powers show up fairly often, the hero is a fairly simple one whose primary moves are running, jumping, and doing basic attack combos with his weapon to defeat enemies.

While the controls and abilities open to you are pretty basic, Outland stands out by requiring you to fully understand them and quickly use them in conjunction with one another. You might have to switch to one color to defeat an enemy of the opposite color, then switch back in time to avoid being hit by the incoming wave of projectiles, then wall-jump to reach a nearby switch before you can proceed to fight a large boss. This might sound brutal, but you’re usually given plenty of time to study the challenge before you and make a good plan for dealing with it. While a few areas don’t allow that for various reasons like camera-tracking problems or design mistakes, most of them follow this ’plan and then hope your hands are fast enough for it’ pace that results in stages being tough but fair and satisfying.

Single-player content is definitely Outland’s focus, but there is some multiplayer action worth checking out. Primarily played in co-op form over Xbox Live, you can go through the game’s normal stages together or face a series of special stages built specifically for two players. These stages make great use of the premise, requiring players to not only be quick but trust one another as there will be times where it’s simply not possible to do everything by yourself. The only problem with online play is that it is very picky about network conditions; in good circumstances Outland is perfectly playable, but things can slow down to a crawl if either player has something else consuming their bandwidth or has other network problems at hand. Nonetheless, this is simply a nice bonus on top of an already great game.

At $10 USD/800 Microsoft Points, Outland is one of the best ’Metroidvania’ style 2D platformers in the XBLA catalog. It has enough content to entertain players for several hours, and while it is difficult a mix of frequent checkpoints and usually giving you time to study the threat at hand before moving to deal with it keep things fair. I would still gladly recommend it for purchase at a higher price, but Outland’s more modest cost is just another point in its favor. If you enjoy games in this genre, or just want an interesting one as an introduction to them, give Outland a try!

For more video game reviews on this and many others head to Game Rankings

Our Rating for Outland Review (XBLA)
6.0 Replay
A fairly linear game of its kind, though it does reward exploration and is built to encourage time attack/speed-run play. Collecting unlockable artwork may be of interest as well.
8.0 Graphics
The mix of dark colors contrasted by neon lighting immediately brings Tron to mind, yet it’s oddly pleasing to look at.
6.0 Sound
Basic sound effects, music, and voice acting do their job well enough but fail to stand out.
9.0 Gameplay
Brilliant stage design and great controls let players study the challenge presented to them, then pick the right mix of abilities to use for dealing with it.
7.0 Multiplayer/Online Content
While very reliant on great connections, Outland’s online co-op is great fun when it works properly.
9.0 Overall
One of the best ’2D exploration platformers’/Metroidvanias you’ll find on any system, and well worth buying.

Rating: 0.0, votes: 0

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