What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Outland is a downloadable side-scrolling platform game with mild violence. Players do battle against fantasy creatures using a sword and dash attacks, but the game’s silhouette-style graphics show no blood or gore. Plus, the focus isn’t on violence so much as acrobatically navigating tricky environments. Parents should note that this game offers online play with open voice communication, a feature that Common Sense Media does not recommend for pre-teens.
What's it about?
A downloadable side-scrolling platformer available through Xbox Live Arcade and the PlayStation Network, OUTLAND has an aesthetic strongly inspired by ancient tribal cultures of the Americas. A narrator with the cadence and tone of a wise old shaman tells a story of a clash between gods and conflicting spiritual energies. Players take on the role of a warrior dedicated to ensuring the world stays in balance. He does battle with fantasy creatures while skillfully moving through environments populated with lethal traps, such as spiky pits. Along the way he earns several new abilities, perhaps the most important of which allows him to switch between red and blue spiritual energy alignments at will. This allows him to absorb energy balls of similar color, attack enemies of opposing hue, and select specific environmental elements -- such as platforms -- to interact with or avoid.
Is it any good?
Outland stands out as one of 2011’s best downloadable games. Once you finish admiring its arrestingly artistic world, which features layers of intricately designed shadowy backgrounds and a hero who looks like a tribal version of a character from Tron, your focus will center on the game's wonderfully enjoyable movement mechanics. Sliding under hazards, leaping between canyon walls, jumping over a series of moving platforms -- everything feels natural and intuitive. Running and jumping is rarely this much fun.
Beyond movement, the game's clever system of earning abilities that permit further progression -- borrowed from games like Super Metroid -- makes for compelling play. Once you earn a new ability, you'll want to search out opportunities to play with it. Then you'll want to keep playing to find the next ability. And we haven't even mentioned the plants that spew glowing pellets in beautiful, intricate, and deceptively lethal configurations (think top-down shooters like Ikaruga). They really put the player’s pattern recognition and timing skills to the test. It’s a sure-fire hit for platformer fans.
Online interaction: This game can be played cooperatively between two players. It supports open voice communication, which means players may be exposed to inappropriate language and topics of discussion, or share personal information.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about games as art. Do you think games can effectively express emotions and ideas through their visual design, audio, and narrative? Do you think you can learn things from video games?
Families can also discuss the perils of online play. How do you protect yourself when playing online? What do you do if you think you’ve run across an online predator?