The sky in the background shimmers and shines through fallen ruins and temple like structures as you climb continually upwards into the unknown, all you know is that the sisters are waiting and they no longer wish to create, only to destroy. This is a scene you encounter fairly early on in this game. First off and foremost, this game’s background and environment are breathtaking. The environments are dark and often confined but the world in which you traverse is filled with the energies of light and dark, which are represented by blue and red. That may sound like nothing, but they way in which they combine and use those energies is what makes the world interesting. The game of which I speak is Outland, for Xbox Live developed by Housemarque and published by Ubisoft.
Outland is akin to side scrolling games like Prince of Persia and the Castlevania series except it has a touch of Shadow of the Colossus and a touch of the shooter Ikaruga. Ikaruga because of the energies of the light and the dark, which are very similar looking to those which you have to evade and adapt to in Ikaruga. Shadow of the Colossus for several reasons. First off, the first boss is a colusses, but not as complicated as a colusses you may fight in Shadow of the Colussus but you do have to climb him and he has the same look and feel as a particular colussus from the aforementioned game. Secondly, the world of Outland resonates with the world of Shadow of the Colussus. There are no other people of your kind that you meet, but there is plenty of minor enemies besides the bosses, and much of what you travel through is in ruins, but it is often stunning ruins with overgrowth or impressive displays of immersible background environments.
You progress through a story that takes you five bosses and five different area’s. Each area consists of 4-6 sections, some of which are quite expansive. There are many abilities that you unlock through the story, one of which channels a beam of mixed energy that destroys almost everything in it’s path. You have health, which are represented by green individual hearts, and energy, which are yellow swirls that are displayed right under your health. Both of these start pretty low but you can find shrines that allow you to spend money, which you collect by destroying containers and killing enemies, to increase your health and energy. By the time I had gotten to the last area and last boss I had nine health and five energy, while you start the game with three health and one energy. Money is only used on those upgrades but it works out pretty well. Rarely did I ever have excess money and only once did I have to go out of my way to get enough money to buy a upgrade I had found. There are also marks that you can find, secret collectabiles, that mostly unlock pictures in the gallery but it also does some pretty nifty things when you collect enough, like letting you see all the major containers on any given map.
I love them. They are challenging, huge, interesting and fun. I could add annoying to that list but it’s not fair that I lost to the second boss twice and the third boss three times. One of my favorite bosses was the fourth, a dragon that looked similar to a Chinese dragon not a traditional medieval dragon. You start out running from it and uses many of the skills you learned to escape and it destroys everything behind you, but then it progresses into a fight upon it’s back. Energies rain down from the sky to try to destroy you as you attempt to eliminate it’s weak spots on it’s back. This boss was interesting because all of the other bosses before it were different, they are all different. The first of which requires the most simplest of strategies but he can still be challenging. Each boss is diverse in the way’s it tries to kill you and you actively have to figure out it’s patterns and be quick on your feet in order to outwit them. The last boss in particular, which took me five tries to beat, is frustrating but in a challenging way that proves to be satisfying. Boss fights are also very graphically impressive. Often displaying a lot of different actions going on at the same time while also having impressive backgrounds going on at the same time.
There are three modes, arcade, singleplayer story and cooperative. Singleplayer story is fairly long , 5-8 hours depending on your willingness to collect everything and find all the hidden areas. Arcade unlocks after you beat the first area, the jungle, and each area you beat will subsequently unlock as well. Arcade is timed and it is played for points. Monsters still drop money but those are now points and they also drop multipliers which apply to your overall score. Multipliers are tough to keep high because if you get hit once the multiplier lowers by one. You have 20 minutes to finish the entire area and beat the boss. I sadly lost at this twice in the first area, the second time I lost by about 10 seconds. For me it is hard to play arcade because I want to rack up points by going off the path and exploring, but that doesn’t seem to be a good idea unless you are very quick with the boss. Cooperative is also unlocked through the singleplayer story but in a different way, also it is not split screen only multiplayer online. You find cooperative portals in singleplayer and once you touch it, it then unlocks permanently. Cooperative challenges are pretty tough, but also really enjoyable, even with random people online. Some of them are also pretty long in length, usually less than a arcade level which is usually 15 to 20 minutes long. Cooperative challenges are specific levels designed for two people, that are not just reworked levels from the singleplayer. They are pretty unique and still share the same quality as many of the single player levels.
Even after playing Outland for a couple hours it still didn’t lose it’s drive. This game makes it really fun to find secret area’s while also making it easier for you to find more areas once you obtain a certain amount of marks. The whole game is pretty satisfying and when you throw in the fact that it is a xbox live arcade game and it is only $9.99 it just makes it all the more fantastic. If you liked other high quality XBLA games like Shadow Run or Prince of Persia Classic than you will probably like this. At the very least you should check out the free trial which gives you the first twenty minutes of the game. Thanks for reading and of course drop me some comments.
-Story is presented in a interesting narrative and is well done.
-Cannot possibly get much better looking for a XBLA game
-Sound effects fit well but not too much stood out, music ranges from good to great.
-There is only a limited number of ways you can fight, but it stays pretty fresh. Combat is pretty enjoyable and is fun to master.
-Arcade mode and Cooperative mode add a good deal of length onto the moderately long singleplayer.
Violent Score: 9
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