It seems like whenever a game is “inspired by” classics the developers are really only trying to mask the lack of originality. Of course this isn't always the case, as there are instances where new games build off of gaming ideology of yesteryear for the better. Outland is one such example where a game can be packed full of old concepts yet still still shine as a truly unique and worthwhile experience. For $10 I see no reason to miss out on this extremely enjoyable hybrid of genres.
The first thing you'll notice about Outland that sets it apart from other titles is the graphical style. While completely colorful and outright gorgeous, the characters and enemies are very abstract. More like silhouettes than detailed beings, all of the game's living creatures fit in with the environment to create a perfect blend of animation. Still-images really don't do the graphics justice, as when everything flows together it's quite mesmerizing.
One aspect of the game that I wasn't too fond of at first was the progression of the game. While I don't wish to spoil any of the rather vague and unexplained story, I can say that you begin the game very weak, completely human. At this point in the game there is almost no difficulty whatsoever, and the platforming and combat is rather lackluster. It was a chore to get past the rather long “intro” portion, especially when the game offers you a “sneak peak” (flashback?) of the gameplay to come. The selling point of Outland is the interesting usage of Light (Blue) and Dark (Red) powers. Depending on which power you currently have equipped, the environment and enemies will react differently to you. Light can only attack Darkness, and vice versa, whereas equal forces cancel each other out. Sadly you won't get both powers until you're about 2/5th of the way through the game.
It took me five hours to finish the single player, so it's a safe bet to say that I was almost two hours into Outland before the gameplay really shined. This progression does work nicely for difficulty though, as the pacing is quite relaxed and introduces new enemies and platforming elements in a slow manner. The difficulty gaps between the 3rd and 5th “dungeon” are remarkable, but since you get stronger as you progress this isn't a huge problem. There are several abilities you unlock through natural progression, most of which greatly impact your damage-dealing skills. Though there are also many hidden items that first yield only concept art, but eventually reward the player with added damage, platforming skills and so on. One thing I would have liked to see was a superior checkpoint system. Each portion of a stage has at least one checkpoint to trigger and respawn at in case you die, but it's poorly done. For starters, certain bosses include very long openings before the actual battle begins- why make me play that ten times before I finally learn how to win? Also any secret items or upgrades you find do not save until after you find another checkpoint, often requiring you to go very far out of your way for what may feel like a minor enhancement.
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