Video games are expensive—really expensive. Forking out $60 for a game that provides maybe 6 hours of gameplay is ridiculous. That’s why some of the greatest values for your gaming dollar are found in the Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network. Take Outland. It’s a mere $10, and provides hours of great platforming goodness.
The game starts out with you as a mere silhouette of a man, who can jump around and over things. But Outland is a Metroidvania game: You’re gradually given new powers and abilities that open up new areas to you. You’ll pound the ground to break the floor, learn to swing a sword, and slide under low obstructions. But the most-important ability is the one that lets you switch between Red and Blue. These two colors represent Light and Dark, and every enemy is either Red or Blue, and you’ll have to be “wearing” the opposite color in order to damage them. (But, of course, they can damage you regardless of the colors they or you are wearing. Evil!)
There are also waves of light that shoot from walls, and floors, and, well, everywhere. Some of these are incredibly elaborate, and it will take some serious color swapping and button-work to avoid taking damage.
The art style is simply stunning. The characters and creatures are shadows, with the blue or red tinge to them. And the environment is completely black and shadowy. The backgrounds are brightly lit, and make everything in the foreground really pop. I love games that take their aesthetic as seriously as the gameplay—Limbo is another game that comes to mind.
The enemies are varied, and include creatures that are similar to jellyfish, spiders, and seahorses; and great warriors that will try to lop your head off. There are only a few bosses, but they’re larger-than-life affairs.
The game tries to give you an epic, ancient-sounding story about Light and Dark, and how the world needs both to survive and blah, blah, blah. If the story was more developed, I’d list this as something to consider when deciding whether this would be a good game for teenagers. But the story is just barely there, and seems to just be an excuse to set up the game’s Red/Blue mechanisms.
You can play the campaign solo or with a friend—though this feels more natural as a solo game, IMHO. But there are challenge levels and an Arcade mode that are fun and much better suited to playing with a buddy.
Stuff to consider:
- Violence—You are killing creatures and human-looking beings (because of the art style, it’s hard to tell of they’re actual humans, or stone guardians, or what). No blood—things explode like fireworks.
- Other—As I mentioned, there’s a mix of polytheism and notions of needing Light and Dark to balance the universe and so forth. But story is so minimized here—and because it’s a world that is obviously not this one—that it doesn’t feel like something that would be a stumbling block. Just be aware it’s there.
Outland is a fantastic deal for only $10. The art style alone is worth the trip, but the gameplay is great, too. Check it out, and let us know what you think.
Rated E10 for Fantasy Violence
Scott Firestone IV is editor of Group Magazine and youthministry.com. You can follow his rambling thoughts on Twitter at twitter.com/firestone.