OUTBUDDIES (PC) Review

By Eric Ace 06.11.2019

Review for OUTBUDDIES on PC

Developed by one person over the course of six years, OUTBUDDIES is a type of product that has some heart to it, if nothing else. Following an eccentric man on an adventure, you wake up with little direction, and only your new buddy to keep you company through this deep-sea mission. Following the standard metroidvania pattern of explore/upgrade, this has the added bonus of allowing local co-op for those who might have a real life buddy that would want to play.

Starting with its simplistically odd name, OUTBUDDIES clearly is different from most other games. A product of a single developer who had been working on it for over six years, some parts of all that clearly shine through in the way only a labour of love can do so, while others need serious improvement.
With the stage set of the character finding himself in an unknown, underwater environment, armed with no weapon to start, this begins with a cool feeling of wonder and mystery. For the beginning of the game there was a cool element of fear/horror of sorts with the creepy backgrounds and music, with the enemies who have to be avoided completely. It felt like a good nightmare of sorts of waking up in a foreign land and no way to fight back.

Pretty rapidly, this requires a lot out of you. Enemies hit incredibly hard to start with, and you can only take a few hits before dying - which the game grimly reminds you of your death every time it happens as well as keeps track of it. Once one gets some gear, the weapons to fight back are adequate, but largely limited by the constraints of the character's movement and aiming, rather than lacking in power. Furthermore, the platforming is highly, highly technical, with a control scheme that leaves a lot to be desired.

Screenshot for OUTBUDDIES on PC

When platformers decide to be technical, they live or die based on how tight the control scheme is. Unfortunately, this is where OUTBUDDIES comes up largely without air. From the very beginning of it all, it expects the player to be doing extremely demanding moves, such as repeated wall jumps, max range long jumps, narrow platforming, and so on. Many of these are not in a 'learning environment,' meaning when you fail them, you inevitably get hit and usually die.

The problem is that the controls are, to be blunt, a mess for how hard this is. There are eight different buttons, all for various moves, for things that really should have been wrapped up on about three that merely act situationally. OUTBUDDIES is a weird experience to play in that movement feels completely stifling in how slow and unresponsive the character is, yet there is all these potential moves that are present, such as rolls, crawls, and bombs. Far too often something that should be simple instead, is a series of three or four different button presses.

Screenshot for OUTBUDDIES on PC

To illustrate an example, when climbing there is a button to enter 'shoot mode' and a button to leave that mode - why is there a limit in this single odd circumstance when the rest of the game the player can shoot with zero problem? It feels wholly unnatural to have to stop, enter shoot mode, and be limited to up, down, and forward as the only options, then want to move and have to remember to leave shoot mode. Another example is shooting while swimming: there is a button to 'lock position' in that that player will continue shooting in the original direction. Not being able to shoot beyond forward/up/down rapidly becomes frustratingly when enemy attacks come from every direction and angle. Crawling is another example, you can press down to kneel, that makes sense; but you have to hit an entirely different button to go even lower, there is no reason for something like this. Even hours later there is still a feeling of disorientation regarding moving.

It would be one thing if the game is forgiving, and it is mostly an exploration/story game. However, this was clearly designed to be challenging, and that the point of the game is beating it, rather than the journey. It's a goal some games pursue, but when the controls and other minor annoyances get in the way it drifts from 'challenging' to 'aggravating.' It is tough to understate how painful controlling the character is. Again, if it was merely a casual adventure game, or a story based title, it would be easy to forgive, but when this is predicated on intense platforming how woeful it controls is definitely problematic.

Screenshot for OUTBUDDIES on PC

These issues aside, that is a competent Metriod-style experience. Wandering around cryptic aquatic environments, looking for new gear to power up, and fighting crazy-hard bosses along the way. Despite the very cool idea and setting (battling ancient gods in the sea) plot points come in only small chunks. It has great potential to have really dove into an intense plot, but mostly it is the player cruising around in silence, not unlike perhaps the original Metroid. The music fits in the mysterious/creepy vibe but starts to drift into repetition as the same song is short and is repeated for large areas. The graphics for being old-pixel style are largely satisfactory.

This has some great ideas that deserve mentioning. Notable is your 'buddy;' this alien creature that follows you around and can be controlled. The game itself can be converted to a local co-op, and actually allows different moves present from those in single player. Beyond that, your buddy has various moves like moving blocks or perhaps the nicest one (and something other platformers may take after), a type of 'scan' function that shows you if blocks or walls actually can be broken rather than the arduous task of bombing every single tile.

This is an experience that players will want to love simply based on how much effort and thought went into it. Things that hold it back are likely the product of a single man trying to create something as big all by himself; namely the control scheme not being quite there. In addition, the unforgiving nature of the game and a lack of much story drag down what could have been an exceptional title. It is not an understatement that with some serious polish this would easily be very, very good.

Screenshot for OUTBUDDIES on PC

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

There are some really great ideas here, but weighed down by simple problems. As it is, it freezes, the menu hangs, and the absolute precision needed for nearly every move (and an oddly complex control scheme) makes the game get in the way of itself far more than it ever should. Far too often a string of precise moves is screwed up because of a wrong button or missing a ledge by minuscule amounts. There is clear heart and effort in here, and those with a high tolerance for difficulty will enjoy it immensely, but the average player will be put off by what is required of them. A revamp on the control system and some a bit more focus on the plot could easily launch OUTBUDDIES' points higher.

Developer

Julian Laufer

Publisher

Headup

Genre

2D Platformer

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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