I’m not so much into platformers unless it has anything to do with Commander Keen. So when I found out about Ubisoft‘s 2011 XBLA/PSN platformer title, Outland, which was recently ported to PC, I was actually intrigued by the story. Basically, you play as a man who has dreams of the past and he goes to his shaman to take medicine in order to relieve his symptoms. Instead, the medicine proves ineffective. The shaman tells the protagonist about a battle that happened roughly 30,000 years prior to the events of the game. The world was threatened by the Sisters of Chaos, one who controlled the Light of the Sun and the other the Darkness of the Moon. They sought to destroy the world and make it their own from within the Temple of Eternity. A hero from the old times defeated the Sisters and imprisoned them, giving his life in the process. The shaman reveals that the hero’s spirit dwells within the man, as the Sisters have escaped imprisonment and threaten to destroy the world once again. You control the new hero as he travels the world to gradually unlock the old hero’s powers in order for him to defeat the Sisters and the four Guardians they corrupted (The Golem, The High Priestess, The Mother of Eyes [a gigantic spider], and The Winged Serpent).
Among two of the powers you unlock are the souls of Light and Darkness. These allow you to swap between them at will, which comes in handy given that the game is filled with areas where you need said immunities to cross the map. Being attuned to Light (blue and white) grants immunity to Light energy attacks and being attuned to Darkness (red and black) grants immunity to Darkness energy. The immunities do not, however, give you immunity to any physical contact, be it with enemies, their weapons, or spikes. The game gives a great amount of guidance, as there’s the presence of these white and black butterflies(?) that act as directional pointers to your next objective. There is, however, a lot of backtracking, and I mean a lot of backtracking. As an example, one area of a map will have a gate that can’t be unlocked until you have the appropriate power unlocked later to reach it and its corresponding switch, and to get that power, you have to cross at least two or three areas to find it, thus causing you to back up all the way to the point where the gate was after finding the shrine with the necessary power. Also, if you’re not a huge fan of repetition and/or not terribly great a platformers to begin with, be prepared to fall a lot. The one good thing that comes out of this whole falling business is the fact that the new hero is able to catch ledges. Other points for the game come from the scenery (which is amazingly beautiful) and the music (very soothing 😀 ). One of the most frustrating points of the game was the boss fight against The Winged Serpent. Spiked bombs fall everywhere endlessly until you can find space between them to reach the Serpent’s head when the time comes to finish him off. Otherwise, if you die, you gotta start the whole fight over. Another frustrating point that took away some of the experience was the final fight against the Sisters themselves. You fight on rings of platforms around them with only a Launch Pad to save you if you fall; if not, you lose a point of health (represented by green hearts). I fell a lot, then, too, especially since some of the targets I had to smash were outside of the furthest ring of platforms.
Overall, Outland was fun in spite of having to deal with a somewhat weird setup for the keyboard (abilities were tied mainly to the keys U, I, H, J, and K). I don’t know if this was a leftover bug or not, but the PC port had me shoot an energy beam (tied to K) every single time I unpaused the game, forcing me to waste a whole orb of magic power. On top of that, I found that chaining key presses in rapid succession to clear a particular segment of the map sometimes failed, which added to my
frustration annoyance the more it happened. Beyond all of these flaws, the game was enjoyable but great for a single playthrough unless you want to hunt down every last collectable in the game. If you wanna take a look at it, the game’s $9.99 on Steam, but since it’s from Ubisoft, no doubt you’ll likely need uPlay to run it.
Verdict: 7/10 (Bite It and Leave It)
+ Beautiful scenery and great soundtrack || + Good and relatively simple story
= Repetitive falling may be an annoyance if it happens frequently
– Lots of backtracking || – Sticky controls (sometimes buggy) on the PC port if you don’t use a controller