PAX East was full of plenty of big games like Deus Ex, Knights of the Old Republic, and Battlefield 3 but one of the games that caught my attention was a much smaller one called Outland. As I stopped at the small separate Ubisoft booth housing Outland and Beyond Good and Evil HD, the first thing I noticed about Outland was a strong Flashback vibe.
That is a huge compliment for those who know the older game. For those who don’t, it was an atmospheric and intelligent platformer that set the bar for games of that type. The feeling of Flashback came from Outland‘s demo levels set in a forest, which is where the first level of Flashback was based. When I spoke to Adam Sarasohn from Housemarque about the comparison he laughed. “It’s funny,” Adam said, “Internally we call it Flashback or Prince of Persia meets Ikaruga”
Intrigued by the references I took a turn at the game and I could see the comparisons perfectly. The mythology of the game states that two sisters, representing light and dark, helped make the world, but are now trying to shatter it. Your character starts off normally in the present day but starts having visions and develops light and dark powers. You seek out a shaman who explains that every 30,000 years the sisters try to break free and a hero rises to stop them and you are meant to be that hero.
At this point you flashback (see, further comparisons!) to your ancestor from 30,000 years ago and you are given a taste of the full light and dark powers. As in Ikaruga there are light and dark enemies and obstacles. Light obstacles or platforms can only be used or resisted if you are in light mode and the same goes for the dark ones. You also have attacks with your sword and the ability to jump off walls. The game will be very dynamic, with many challenges requiring you to change between light and dark on the fly.
Once you complete the flashback, you are returned to your time and sent on a quest to stop the Sisters from escaping and destroying the world. You start with a few basic attacks and as you progress on your journey you develop more powers and abilities to navigate the world and eventually face the Sisters.
Housemarque is no stranger to making great-looking games (see Super Stardust and Dead Nation) and Outland is no exception. The world is represented with silhouette style graphics, but small details stand out, things such as the designs and colors on the characters and creatures. The world itself is lush and vibrant despite the silhouette framework. The change between light and dark is also stunning and the lighting effects on your character and the world need to be seen.
The animation is equally amazing and reminds me of the original Prince of Persia but with modern day technology powering it. Adam mentioned that those games (Flashback and Prince of Persia Classic) were great, but the playable characters in them felt so slow and lumbering, he wanted this hero to be smooth and fluid.
Outland will be an XBLA and PSN release arriving late April and it is definitely one to watch for. Housemarque has another promising title on their hands with the dynamic puzzle mechanics, amazing look, and smooth animation. It was definitely one of the better games at PAX East this year.