What do you get when you develop a game that draws inspiration from awesome games like Metroid, Prince of Persia, Castlevania, and Ikaruga? The answer is simple: a masterpiece. That’s where Housemarque’s Outland on the Xbox Live Arcade comes in. The game takes bits and pieces of all the aforementioned titles, and creates an amazing and unique experience all in its own.
The story takes place in a fantastical realm where to mystic sisters, of both light and dark elements, seek to break free from their prison to bring the world into ruin, and then remake it once more. The story is not the game’s strong suit, however it does what it needs to do… propels our hero to go out and save his world from utter destruction.
In the beginning, you start off with only a basic set of abilities, however as you advance you unlock different powers, like slides, charge attacks, stomps, and plenty more. You also unlock the games most interesting feature, a polarity system that allows the hero to change between light and dark element. You’ll have to cleverly use this ability to get through all kinds of different traps, and defeat enemies, and large bosses.
As you progress through the game, you will enter different zones with their own maps. Each zone is surprisingly large and ripe for exploration, however, for those not interested in such things, you’ll be happy to hear that the game is quite linear in design, and as long as you follow the map from point a to point b, you will never get lost. If you’re the polar opposite of that kind of player, you’ll also be happy to know there’s plenty of a secret to find, walls to knock down, and a large map to explore. There’s something here for everyone.
The graphics in this game are truly something to marvel over. The shadow puppet style really works well for the vibe too. Each zone looks a tad similar in the foreground, however it’s the backgrounds that truly make this games visual appeal shine. Each zone has such beautifully 3D rendered backgrounds, that I was caught guilty of just putting down the control at times and simply staring at them in wonderment. Truly some awe-inspiring stuff to be seen here.
On top of all this good stuff, the controls are extremely tight and respond very accurately. The hero has a very generous jump range, a fast running speed, and a simple to use wall jump ability for traversing through the different zones.
As you might have guessed, Outland is a challenging game, especially in the later portions. Thankfully, you get a hang of the combat quickly since as the game progresses it doesn’t evolve all that much from the way it was from the start (minus all your special abilities, of course). However, it’s not impossibly difficult, and with enough dedication, you can easily master this game and romp through it, which by the way is incredibly satisfying. The bosses are really big, and a lot of fun to fight. Each one has their pattern and mechanics that you must learn in order to defeat them.
The sound and music in this game is very well done. Each zone has a couple of different tunes as you make your way through them, and they are all fitting to each corresponding place. The sound effects are sweet, especially the whistle of the hero swinging his massive sword. Sometimes I would just stand in place and swing it around just to hear the sound it made, seriously.
Outland will probably take most players around five hours to finish on their first run, which is pretty impressive considering this is an Xbox Live Arcade title. To top it off, there’s a ton of reasons to replay the game again from the start. First, and most important reason being, it’s so much damn fun. Other reasons can include: finding all the money vase’s, god marks, health & energy upgrades, going at it with a friend in co-op, playing the arcade mode for some epic speed running goodness, and plenty more.
Outland is not just ten dollars well spent; it’s practically a steal at the asking price. Matter of fact, I reckon that to really get what you’re paying for, you should buy the game once for yourself, and a second time to give to a friend. There’s no excuse to pass up this amazing, and one-of-a-kind experience.
Final Verdict: 8.5