Thursday, June 23, 2011

Outland Review - It's a Jungle out There

Score: 9/10

Xbox 360 Arcade/PSN
Developer: Housemaque
Publisher: Ubisoft
Release Date: April 26th, 2011

  • Unique look and style for a platformer
  • Challenging platforming requiring timing and determination
  • Hidden collectibles has you backtrack and explore
  • Memorable boss encounters
  • Difficulty spikes in the later game can take time to overcome
  • Online community oftentimes absent

Xbox Arcade and PSN host a slew of fun, engaging titles that is ever expanding. Among these recent releases is Outland, a new arcade platformer from Ubisoft. The unique look and overall presentation of the game hooked me in, and I decided to give it a peek.

Rumble in the Jungle

Outland's story acts as little concern. Your character is donned the "chosen" one of your tribe, gaining powers of your ancestors. It's forgettable and overlooked as the game lacks any dialogue besides a narrator. This actually works for the game, giving it the feeling of a classic folk tale.

It's the overall artistic style that caught my attention and kept it throughout. The game features shadowed figures with small spurts of color adorning their armor or extremities. The contrast between the vibrant colors and dark foreground really give the game a unique look. Artistic backdrops help to differentiate the worlds and breathe life into their setting.

Polar Opposites

Outland has you progress through a series of platforming and combat scenarios, unlocking more areas with each power. In most cases defeating a boss in one area, opens the path to a new one, much like that of a Metroid title.

The main element of Outland is the ability to switch between dark (red) and light (blue) powers on the fly. In dark mode, red beams/dots/etc will not harm you, but blue ones will and vice versa. What starts as a simple switch to dodge cannons soon becomes a frantic session of polarity shifts and running for your life.

Sounds simple until you throw in the combat. The combat in the game functions in the same manner as the platforming; only dark can hurt light, light can hurt dark (red hurts blue, blue hurts red). This means while you are dodging lasers you must also be in the appropriate form to damage the enemy in question.

The game does a fine job of slowly getting you accustomed to the system by introducing a new hurdle to overcome with each encounter. What starts as a simple fight between an enemy and dodging a laser, soon turns into a constant switch and strike to damage the enemy. Though the difficulty can get a bit crazy after a few hours, you are beaten into learning how to play and learning how to time the polarity switch.

Like a Boss

The bosses in the game prove to be the most memorable experiences. Not only in look and style, but in combat mechanics. Some start fairly straight forward, while others require much better timing and thinking. The final boss in the game felt like a final boss should, with it being the most challenging fight of the lot. Each battle was memorable, and stuck with me well after the encounter.

Besides the typical combat and bosses there are a few collectibles to be...well...collected. These are strewn about the level, usually off the beaten path and unlock concept art...yay? There are also upgrade stations to increase max health and power. Needless to say, it is usually worth your time to check out the corner in most rooms.

Buddy System

Another interesting addition to the game is co-op. These rooms are slowly unlocked as you progress through the main game, and usually require you to get to the end of a level before the time limit expires. It's fast paced and requires a ton of teamwork to make it work.

The mechanics are fine, but finding a person is not. Unfortunately, not enough marketing was really done for this game so the Xbox Live servers were blatantly absent. It's not like your typical game where you can hop in and find a dozen people on at three in the morning, so you'll have to play during typical hours.


Outland is a unique and enjoyable arcade title that any platformer enthusiast should enjoy. Despite the difficulty spike in a few areas, the overall world and combat is a joy to behold. It's a throwback to classic titles with a modern look and feel. Take the time to download the demo at the very least, because this is a game worth the purchase.

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