A trip to the Outland leaves its mark, even if it doesn’t stray far from the beaten path.
Outland Games is ostensibly based on the same world as Uber Entertainment’s Monday Night Combat and Super Monday Night Combat. However, hardcore team-based third-person shooters don’t exactly make for the easiest port to touch devices. So rather than a half-featured port, the developers went with something that fit smartphone gaming a little better. Yes, it’s yet another 2D endless running game, but through polish and humor it is still worth a look.
You take on the role of an agile assassin from Monday Night Combat who has, for unexplained reasons, been sentenced to the outlands where she can win her freedom or die trying. Dying seems the far more likely outcome, as the path is littered with mines and robots out for blood, not to mention the occasional pit of molten lava.
Outland Games uses familiar two-button controls, with the left side of the screen used to jump while tapping the right side attacks. Actual buttons appear on the screen at the start of your run, and fade after a few presses. You can double jump to help avoid obstacles and use the attack in midair to take out targets or get a little extra distance out of your jumps. The midair attack is actually quite the interesting wrinkle to the endless runner formula, letting you dash twice before hitting the ground. It is immensely satisfying to jump over a gap and dash at the last moment to avoid landing on a mine, and the touch controls are precise enough to actually make such last-minute maneuvers feel natural.
While Outland Games doesn’t share much in the way of gameplay with its third-person shooter predecessor, it does share Monday Night Combat’s sense of humor. The announcer returns in full form, chiding you every step of the way and shouting out ridiculous product endorsements. While the quips start out genuinely funny, there are only a handful of lines so they begin to grate on you before too long. Far more useful is when the announcer tells you how far you’ve run at 500 meter intervals, which may be the only reason not to mute it entirely after your fifth run with the same three Spunky Cola jokes.
You also have two power-ups in the form of juice and a transformation into Bullseye, the Monday Night Combat mascot. Juice makes you temporarily invincible, and causes more obstacles to spawn to help rack up points as you hit each one. Bullseye does essentially the same thing for coins, causing the track ahead to become filled with the in-game currency. Those coins can be used to upgrade both of those power-ups, as well as buy alternate costumes and a score multiplier. Microtransactions can give you a head start on coin collecting, but spending real money is mostly unnecessary since you’ll collect a healthy number of coins during each run.
Outland Games also does something interesting with the trails of coins that naturally appear as you run. Collecting all coins in a particular group nets you a small score boost, with more points handed out for larger groups or trails that span multiple platforms. It’s a small touch, but it comes as a welcome reward to encourage more precise use of jumping and midair dashes.
The biggest downside in Outland Games is that there isn’t much variety in the visuals. Everything looks great, especially in motion with some excellent high-quality animations. However, there are only two environments to run through – a deserted wasteland and a lava-filled temple – which the game alternates between every 500 meters or so. Looping constantly between the two is almost worse than only having only one landscape, since it kills any sense of progression and gives the effect of endlessly running in circles.
With striking animations, precise controls, and a touch of humor, Outland Games is well worth checking out, and will reward the time you put into it. More variety in settings and announcer dialog would go a long way toward fleshing out the experience, but there is still plenty of fun to be had in the outlands, barren as they may be.
- Precise controls. Air dashes make a surprisingly big difference. Gorgeous art and animation.
- Repetitive announcer dialog. Not much background variety. You’re probably already dedicated to at least one endless runner game already.