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Outer Wilds

Game review by
David Chapman, Common Sense Media
Outer Wilds Game Poster Image
Learn from your mistakes in time-twisted sci-fi adventure.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

The story encourages exploration, as well as persistence in the face of adversity. Players are pushed to learn from their actions and their mistakes, and apply that knowledge in ways to effect change.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Interactions are generally pleasant and helpful, though after a few repeats, they're often ignored as players try to make more progress in their exploration and discovery.

Ease of Play

General exploration is simple and straightforward, as players walk around, interacting with the environments, various objects, and characters they stumble across. Space flight, though, can take a little while to get used to. Also, the nature of the game means there's a lot of repetitive trial and error to cope with.

Violence

Very little traditional "violence," but still plenty of ways to die. In fact, one of the game's big hooks is that players will die often and learn as they go. Despite constant shadow of death looming over players, there's no actual blood or graphic imagery, with the screen and user interface just getting a red tinge when critical damage is taken.

Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Outer Wilds is a downloadable sci-fi exploration adventure game for Xbox One and Windows-based PCs. Players explore a star system, stuck in a time loop, uncovering clues to the situation and also using knowledge from previous loops to extend their exploration in later attempts. Gameplay is relatively straightforward, but certain aspects, particularly flying, require extra practice and coordination. There's little in the way of violence or blood, though the nature of the story means that the player will die frequently and start over without anything graphic or gory being shown.

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What's it about?

Winston Churchill once said, "Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it," but in OUTER WILDS, the challenge is to learn a bit more from history every time you repeat it. Welcome to the wonderful trippy world of time travel. You're an explorer, an astronaut from a world that values exploration and knowledge. Your home's a peaceful planet full of possibilities ... right up until a supernova wipes everything from existence. But that's not the end of your story. In fact, it's just the beginning. Somehow, you wake up 20 minutes before the annihilation and with all of your memories leading up to it intact. Caught in this strange and inevitable time loop, you must set out on a mission of discovery, using knowledge from your past loops to expand your influence on future ones. How far can you go and what secrets will you learn?

Is it any good?

If you had it to do all over again, knowing now what you knew then, what changes would you make and how far could you go? That's the premise behind Outer Wilds, the quirky open world space exploration title that brings new meaning to the phrase "speed run." With just 20 odd minutes before your solar system's sun goes supernova, you're constantly hard-pressed to accomplish as much as possible in a limited amount of time. Luckily, the solar system isn't all that big, spatially speaking, so making the jump from one planet to the next takes only a couple of minutes or so. Which is a good thing, considering just how little time you've got to discover something new before everything you know gets roasted in the ever-looming cosmic deep fryer.

It's best not to worry too much about that greater catastrophe, though, as the game constantly dishes out new ways for you to die, restarting the doomsday clock once again for another pass. It's easy to misjudge a jump, overstay your oxygen supply, or even find yourself jettisoned into the abyss of a nearby black hole.  Admittedly, this can get a bit frustrating, as the nature of the time loop is basically the definition of "repetitive gameplay." But what makes Outer Wilds so unique is that, even in failure, there are lessons to be learned and progress to be made. Rarely do you restart a new loop without feeling like you've had some sort of accomplishment and built some momentum for the next go-round. Just remember, if at first you don't succeed ...

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about learning through experience. How can the situations we find ourselves in today and how we deal with them grant the knowledge to help in future situations?

  • What's the importance of being allowed to make mistakes? What are some of the lessons we can learn from those moments when we don't succeed at our tasks?

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Themes & Topics

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For kids who love science fiction

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