Available on: Windows PC, (PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One at a later date)
Developer: Julian Laufer
Publisher: Headup Games
Version Tested: Windows PC (Steam)
Official Site: https://www.outbuddies.com/
Release Date: October 15th, 2019
Where to Buy: Steam
Another day, another Metroidvania to review. Seriously, these days it feels like a new game in this genre is released on almost a weekly basis. Which is great! Risks of over-saturation aside. The number of choices gamers have these days is startlingly high. It’s a wonderful time to be alive. In fact, one of the highlights of my year was getting to play a Metroidvania where I got to play as a cat. Gato Roboto was a ton of fun. On the flip side, I have had to waste hours of my life struggling through a few stinkers as well. So you might be wondering where today’s subject falls on that scale. Will I be remembering Outbuddies fondly? Or will I add it to the pile of games I try desperately to forget I had to play?
Well, before I dive into my thoughts about Outbuddies, I wanted to take a moment to talk about what an achievement the game is. Anytime I hear a game is a one-person project I am already impressed. I have dipped my toes in the game creation pool myself. As I suspect many video game fans have. I’ve toyed around with RPG Maker and Unity. And what I learned right away was that just to make a tiny piece of a game is a ton of work. I can only imagine the work that would go into creating something the size and scope of Outbuddies. So the fact that developer Julian Laufer has spent 6 years bringing this game to life is completely understandable. And is a feat to be respected and admired. Regardless of whether or not you personally enjoy the game. So with that out of the way, let’s talk about Outbuddies and see what I really thought.
When I first started up the game I was presented with a short cutscene setting the stage for the game. You are adventurer Nikolay Bernstein who was just shipwrecked on the island of Bahlam. A city of the Old Gods. If that sounds like something you’d hear in an H.P. Lovecraft story, you aren’t wrong. The story and setting are very much Lovecraftian in nature. With that said, I wouldn’t say the narrative is very strong, or important, in Outbuddies. The game presents its story in a show-don’t-tell way. With some environmental storytelling. This is not uncommon in this genre, and in fact, many of the best Metroidvanias handle things this way. But I wouldn’t give this game any awards for it’s writing. It’s not weak. And it doesn’t take anything away from the game. But it doesn’t blow your mind either.
On the visual and audio side of things, I was consistently happy with Outbuddies. The game overflows with a 16-bit charm. It is very clearly trying to capture the look of Super Metroid. That being said, it doesn’t look quite right. At points, it kind of looks like an MS-DOS or Flash game trying to look like a SNES game. The animations are well done. The character and enemy designs themselves though weren’t always to my liking. The main character just doesn’t look as good as he could. And since you will be spending quite a bit of time staring at him, that could be a problem. Of course, that’s just my personal taste. You might find his design charming.
The environment and enemies do get better in visual quality as you get further into the game. And as far as the sound design goes, we get a very serviceable score. The tracks are mainly ambient sounds. Which is pretty standard for this kind of game. The sound effects are fine but don’t stand out in any meaningful way. It gets the job done. I don’t think I will be adding it to my daily listening playlist anytime soon.
So we have addressed the look and sound, what about the gameplay? Well, I will start by saying that had I judged this game by my first hour with it I would have given it a pretty low review score. It’s a tedious trudge. The controls took me quite some time to get used to. And the opening areas can be obtuse and frustrating. I will go on record now as saying I don’t think casual players or anyone who has disliked a Metroidvania title in the past will find anything of value in Outbuddies. It throws a ton of stuff at you and expects you to understand it pretty quickly. You will enviably and frequently hit a wall that is this game’s difficulty curve.
When the controls eventually clicked with me, I did find quite a bit of fun to be had. The developer clearly understands the genre as the giant open world and non-linear progression are done very well here. You also get a ton of different weapons and gadgets to make use of. This is Metroidvania in every aspect. I should also mention the boss fights. If the normal enemies are a challenge for you then the bosses are going to wipe the floor with your face. I found most of them to be insanely difficult and I died many, many times.
Verdict: Outbuddies is a solid Metroidvania experience. It does have some flaws and shortcomings. But nothing glaringly bad. If you can exercise patience and make it through it the game’s opening hours, you will find a fun and rewarding experience.
- Challenging and rewarding gameplay
- The developer clearly understands what made Super Metroid a classic and recreates it here
- A well-designed world with great non-linear exploration
- Visuals are inconsistent in quality
- Controls are tough to master
- The very steep difficulty curve
Brian Cowan loves playing video games, football, Magic, and pretty much anything else that he can use as an excuse to waste time. When he is not doing the above or working, he is usually writing or reading.