Friday, May 13, 2011

Outland-ishly Good

Outland is a 2D platformer unlike most in the same pool. The game has you switching on-the-fly between light and dark to avoid dangers from both. Switch to light, and you can pass through light bullets, activate light platforms, or kill a dark enemy. Switch to dark, and you take damage from light bullets, cannot activate light platforms, and do no damage to dark enemies. So in a few ways, its a lot like Ikaruga, a bullet hell shooter very popular on the Live Arcade.

Switching from light to dark to avoid danger is a puzzle in itself

The first thing you notice about the game while playing it is the visuals, which are fantastic. The backgrounds are very well designed, and the characters movement are very detailed and interesting, reminding me a bit of the old Prince of Persia type games, but with much more speed. The game progresses at a steady pace, and you gain powers after mastering a power you got before. So in a way, its a lot like Metroid as well, as you can backtrack to gain more power-ups and extra content. The game also includes a co-op mode, allowing two players to solve select stages together. It works better than you would think at first, as the transitions from dark to light get harder to nail down, but I found it to be very rewarding when finished with a level.

The swordplay, while a bit repetitive, it fun to execute

So, the game is a lot like Ikaruga, Metroid, and Prince of Persia. While it would seem like these different game types would clash, it actually works really well. After a while you find yourself switching from light to dark mid-air, and mid-combat taking on more and more foes. The bosses in the game are also very challenging, but are visually pleasing and tons of fun. During the bosses, your ability to switch from light to dark gets tested, as bullets fly at you at increasing speeds.

The first of many bosses you will encounter

If the game has any real downfalls, its in the story. It's bland. I honestly didn't expect to be blown away by it, but the way this game presents its story and characters made me want to nod off. Also, while the combat is really fun in my opinion, I could see how it could be a bit repetitive to others. While saying that, I still find the swordplay and air combat to be lots of fun.

All in all, try the demo. The demo gives you a really good taste of what to expect. If you find yourself liking it, it's only $10, and trust me, I've paid more for worse games. I'd give Outland for the Xbox Live Arcade a 9.5 out of 10.

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