April 30, 2011

Review – Outland

A simulated wind raised the orchestral tension as I ran along the back of a flying serpent, dodging falling explosives while waiting for the chance to strike at the key points that beast ferociously sought to protect. This was around the time it occurred to me that anyone who yearns for developers to be given the time and freedom to create memorable and compelling gaming experiences, will undoubtedly fall in love with Outland, perhaps as severely as I have for the girl I immediately yearned to show that same sequence to.

The play of that boss encounter reminded me of Ico, and there is certainly a much longer list of titles that came to mind throughout the experience – few of which need to be named given the way Outland doesn’t simply patch together a quilt of influences, rather taking inspiration into its own folds to weave a game worthy of the player’s investment.

The lingering importance of citing those influences is that Outland shines with the energy of a game designed by people who don’t just enjoy games on some theoretical level, but enjoy playing games. In fact, Outland will convince you that the team at Housemarque grew up loving the same games you did, assuming you burned candles late into the night playing through the same who’s-hot list of 2D titles old-school gamers look back on today with teary-eyed nostalgia.

The only game that can’t escape mentioning is Treasure’s Ikaruga, the light and dark trickery of which gives Outland the means to teach a few new tricks of its own, giving the mechanics of the shooter strange but stable new legs to walk upon the land with.


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