Outland was developed by Housemarque, and published by Ubisoft. It was released April 27, 2011 for 800 MSP.

Developer Housemarque has made a name for themselves with their previously PSN-exclusive titles Super Stardust HD and Dead Nation. It is nice to see them bring their next title, Outland over the the Xbox Live Arcade. The story focuses on the spirits of Chaos and Balance, who wage war with each other. A hero comes along to help protect the would against this universal divide. You play as that hero, and will need to skillfully maneuver through the changing world. So, is the adventure worth while or is it just a puzzling mess? Here’s our review.

Here’s what we liked:

Fluid movement – The creators of Outland were clearly heavily influenced by the Prince of Persia series, and it’s not all that surprising. This game looks great standing still, but really pops as you are taking full advantage of the acrobatic prowess of the hero. You’ll find yourself in situations where it seems that ascending up the cliffs would be impossible, but after gain a power here and there, those heights can be reached.

One of the subtle touches to the game that we fell in love with was the use of wall grip. Now, most players are familiar with the idea of a wall jump. When jumping to the edge of the  cliffs, your hero will  hang on to edges, or pull himself up if he is close enough to the edge. This is an excellent tool when tying to get away from a attack, or, to stay hidden from enemies on the platform you are jumping to.

Style – It’s hard to describe the art style that in Outland. The best way we could think to put it would be Tron meets nature. The map is defined by the dark edges of the world in the forefront, but is populated by the traps and creatures of chaos and balance. It’s that dark outline that help the red, blues and gold coins really pop.

Unlockable progression – As the hero, you periodically unlock new powers throughout the game. This game mechanic is popular in the Metroid series and allows for you to reach new areas as you gain these new abilities. So, gamers looking to just complete the game will not be required to complete the areas they have missed, but completionists out there will have a blast working their way through the newly reachable areas. It is always a plus when you can see and feel progression in a game, and this is a welcome addition.

Cooperative – Being able to play through a game with a friend is always a welcome addition. Housemarque also made the wise choice to include the co-op challenges so that those gamers that wanted to play the games with a friend could enjoy a unique experience.

The wow factor – Nowadays many games are trying to provide ways for the player to be rewarded for their actions. RPG elements are finding their way into nearly every genre. So, how did Housemarque decide to do it? Will, there are urns to break, collectibles to find, but it is the art that was the reward. Whether it was the unique use of balance and chaos spirit powers, the jaw-dropping moments at the spirit altars, or the beautiful burning leaves that are used to guide you to your next objective. The soundtrack to the game is also a fitting addition to the full experience and that’s what Outland got right. The story isn’t the focus here. It’s the experience that Outland offers that just struck the right cord with us.

Here’s what we didn’t like:

Voice acting – We understand the concept of the story, and it fits well to help bolster the focus on nature in the game’s style, but it does feel like an afterthought. Also, the audio quality of the narrator was poor. In the opening of the story mode, the audio crackles. This is a technical concern, but you asked what we didn’t like.

Difficulty may turn people off – Most specifically, the final boss seemed to ratchet up the difficulty to a point unseen in that game up until then. You may feel that’s the point, but for a game that plays so smoothly it was a surprise to battle such an immovable object. Classic gamers will be reminded of the nearly impossible NES bosses of the past and may appreciate it, but others might finish Outland with a very sour taste in their mouths due to this battle.

Outland is an amazing action platformer and well worth the price. The fast-paced platforming is accessible and effective, but comes to a halt once combat is thrown in. The ability for fluid, uninterrupted movement can make for a very addictive experience. Co-op challenges will add another layer of replayability as well. It’s games like Outland that prove downloadable games are offering unique and sometimes more refreshing experiences than their full retail counterparts. This is the 2D action platformer that reinvigorates a classic genre. The story won’t captivate you, but everything else will. Outland is an experience worth having.

Score: Buy it!

Second Opinion By Damon Fillman:

Outland borrows heavily from critically acclaimed darling Ikaruga, but the light and dark elements of that game work just as well here.  Players must constantly gauge what color projectiles are being shot at them because possessing a blue shield while being cornered by red bullets will decrease your health.  This isn’t a title for casual gamers.  Some scenarios require the player to swiftly switch between light and dark while battling the game’s countless enemies.  It becomes more of a challenge later on, sometimes frustratingly so. Still, players are rewarded with a fantastic art style, smooth controls and a distinguished sense of flow. That sort of quality makes Outland a must own title.

Score: Buy it!