I first experienced Ubisoft’s latest XBLA title, Outland, while attending PAX East 2011 in March. Even then the title was as good as complete and the levels I played left me wanting more. Outland was promising to deliver a solid new adventure unlike anything I’d seen before and it was an absolutely beautiful looking game to behold.
With a slew of recent new releases, I lost track of this one and was pleasantly surprised when I realized that, on April 27th, Outland was finally released for XBLA. I immediately downloaded the game to give it a run through and to see how it would fair in my @1hr2impress test.
Outland is, at its heart, a side scrolling adventure platformer. The movement animations of the game’s protagonist are so fluid and life-like, they truly remind me of the animation of the Prince of Persia series of games. I pointed out this fact during my introduction to the game at PAX East and was informed that this was one of the goals the developers had in mind when designing the characters. They’ve definitely succeeded in that goal.
Outland is actually quite visual feast to look at. The colours used are minimal but very effective. They are mute, yet radiant and brilliant all at the same time. In fact, colours are used for a purpose in the game to signify the difference between Light and Dark powers; red alignment (dark) protects from Dark obstacles, while blue alignment protects from Light obstacles. Besides this brilliant use of colour, there is also the brilliant use of no colour, leveraging an almost silhouette look to the scenery. Most ingenious is the design of the title character here as he is only a silhouette similar in nature to that of the child in LIMBO, yet very Tron-like, as he is accented by coloured symbols that glow either red or blue depending on your current alignment. This marriage of shadowed silhouettes accented by the bright and vibrant colours presents a very peaceful and calming experience.
The soundtrack in the game also lends itself to this serene feeling. The sounds during the first hour of my gameplay were right out of a jungle soundscape. Birds chirping, leavings blowing and general jungle-like sounds littered the gameplay along with a quiet but effective soundtrack. Balance this with the aforementioned imagery and you’ve got yourself an action adventure game that doesn’t create a nervous, on-edge feeling in the player. Only during a boss battle sequence does this mood change as the music becomes a much more upbeat native drum beating sountrack, perfectly changing the feeling of the game.
Scattered throughout the many levels in the game, Outland has hidden objects waiting to be found for those true completionist who love the search and discover aspect of adventure games. Additionally, there are sections of the game dedicated to co-op play allowing you to bring in a friend to complete these areas. Each map includes several different routes, requiring a return once more abilities have been obtained, truly adding to the replay value of this game. During my first hour in Outland, I obtained only 3 of a possible 11 abilities, so there is still plenty of gameplay left.
I was quite impressed with Outland when I played it briefly at PAX East and after sitting down with the final release and giving it a good hour play, I am still very much enjoying the entire experience. From the beautiful visuals, to the calming and peaceful soundtrack, Outland really delivers the perfect XBLA experience. At only 800 MSP, I highly recommend trying out this game. I don’t believe you’ll be disappointed.
Ubisoft, I gave you an hour and I am IMPRESSED. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to attempt to defeat the first boss again.