Video Game Review: Outland and Hard Corps Uprising
Well, I'm one of those old fools, I suppose, because I've had a darned good time playing some of these new side-scrollers. I'm also thankful the graphics are a little nicer than the "old days," too because those graphics really don't stand the test of time.
Your job in Outland is simple: travel through beautifully drawn levels and fight ingenious-looking creatures, solve ingenious puzzles, and leap onto annoying platforms. It's awfully difficult to put the world into words, but needless to say just because it's a 2D side-scrolling adventure doesn't mean the creators skimped on the graphics. The colors are vibrant, and the world is incredibly beautiful.
That's the first thing you'll notice. The second thing you'll notice is that your character—a soldier-like fellow who wields a sword—moves very fluidly and responds well to your controls, which is essential when you're jumping from platform to platform and over scary shadowy spikes. And while the sword attacks are a little choppy, a little awkward, they're good enough that you won't get too frustrated attacking enemies.
As you move on, you get to develop your powers, which includes harnessing both "Red Energy" and "Blue Energy," which lets you solve puzzles and get through traps. These traps get more and more frustrating and more and more annoying, too, which means you can expect to make more than a few escapes. But the premise is neat, and it helps make the traditional platforming a lot more fun.
Now for the downside: there isn't much of a story. Sure, there are a couple little cutscenes with a few words explaining what's going on (two sisters made the earth, are now trying to destroy it, but probably won't succeed because you're going to stop them, etc.). But that's really not a "story," not in the way Mass Effect has a story. And so the trick to really, really enjoying this game is to play it with a friend. That's right: it's co-op, and it's done in a brilliant way. You don't have to stick together, and you can save each other should one die. And when the side-scrolling starts to feel redundant? Well, then you just talk to your friend and keep playing.
"Oh, sweet Jesus," I said to my friend after we'd died the third time. On the first level. This game is tough. This is old-old-school side-scrolling right here. Unlimited continues? Nope. Not here. Here, you play and then you die.
The game itself is actually a remake of Contra 2, which if you remember Contra 2 should give you an idea of how hard this game gets. The story itself has been changed, and now you play as characters fighting in a resistance movement against a strange government called the Commonwealth. The story's filled in a little more with animations, but it's clearly a Japanese-made game so don't expect the story to be too solid. Still, the creativity throughout the game is pretty fantastic. Expect car chases, big bosses that come out of the background, and other fun things that give the game a real edge. That is, if you can get past the first level without wasting all of your continues.
The good news is there are two modes you can play: the arcade mode gives you a few continues. The Rising mode lets you upgrade your characters and the number of continues, which gives you an incentive to play through early levels more than once.
This is another one that really needs a second player. When you're alone, these types of games can get frustrating. When you have a friend along for the ride, though, it can also be a blast.