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Outland Demo Impressions

Recently a new XBLA title piqued my interest as I shuffled through the new releases. Actually, it wasn't the title so much as the cover: a shadowy figure etched with glowing blue and red runes and wielding a massive sword. Outland has a style that borrows tiny bits from other hit games. While the description in the Marketplace says that Outland is "inspired by Prince of Persia" (and both were produced by Ubisoft), there's very little similarity between the two games. Both heroes climb ledges and use a sword, I suppose, but then so do Link, Dante and BOTH Assassin's Creed assassins, and none of those are even remotely similar games. But this game is...different.

My point is that Outland is a unique amalgam of various games and aesthetics and it all meshes wonderfully. The story (without giving too much away) revolves around a man who wants to stop the bizarre visions he's been having from persisting any further, and as you journey through the demo you'll start to piece together the importance of his hallucinations.

The art style is a cross between Limbo and Tron and is somehow more amazing than that sounds. Colors on your character and enemies POP out at you, and the vivid and wonderfully detailed backgrounds are dazzling. The flat black foreground is a sharp contrast to the backdrops, and sometimes the only way to tell where your little fighter is located is from the day-glo neon strips on his outfit.

The strips will come into play once you acquire the "Blue/Red powers" (again, not trying to give anything away) later in the demo. Each corresponds to obstacles, enemies, and platforms in the environment, and knowing which to switch to at what point is crucial. As you slice away at enemies using the simple yet fluid combat controls, switching colors to deal/avoid damage (similar to shooter Ikaruga) is intuitive and fun. Likewise, switching colors between jumps to dodge giant clusters of lasers makes for frantic and fun platforming thanks to the fantastic controls.

Outland is a well-polished, brilliant game that shouldn't be missed. It's available on the XBLA Marketplace for 800 MSP.


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