Outland Games: a pretty shallow, blood-sport take on the endless runner formula

Outland Games brings to iOS some of the charm that Uber Entertainment’s Super Monday Night Combat had going for it, but once you get past the initial chuckles, their first mobile foray does little to keep you hooked.

The idea of transplanting the gladiator ideals of ancient times into a futuristic atmosphere has been tossed around in video games for years, usually in the form of first-person shooters. Some titles re-imagine the feeling of competition well. The Unreal Tournament franchise is the first to jump to mind in this category, but many others like 2012’s Nexuiz have struggled to make the concept fun. And I’d put Outland Games in this second category as well.

Outland Games introduces your character as a prisoner who must run to the ends of the world to entertain the patrons of your pain. There’s an obscure promise that you might earn your freedom at some point, if you manage to run far enough, but realistically, there’s no end to your marathon. Outland Games, like most endless runners, just hopes that you enjoy the ride.

The game boast a handful of pretty animations for the robotic obstacles that you must destroy or avoid in order to progress, as well as for your own character who acrobatically dashes through the air and can perform triple-jumps by stringing attack and jump controls together. 

Many of these animations and the look of your character can be altered by purchasing upgrades from an in game shop, but other than the minor aesthetic changes, there isn’t much of a reason to save your coins for a purchase.

OG2

Woops, I lied. If you opt to play with the default outfit for too long, a condescending  arena announcer who typically just eggs you on will throw out a jab like “If you do end up wining your freedom, is that the outfit you want to be seen in?” or “Ohoho nice outfit, ahahahaha, ahahaha – not.”

It’s frustrating. While the announcer’s lines may have originally been included to alert less astute players of the in-game store’s presence, the disappointing lack of meaning and depth in the shopping centre just makes the tactic annoying.

I’ll concede that some of the announcer’s persistent heckling every time I died, and his faux-cheers when I completed trivial activities, did make me laugh a few times, but his act, along with the game’s, got old fast.

While the action on screen might look pretty, and some detailed and adequately varied backgrounds may help to spice up each of your sprints, Outland Games fails to captivate long enough to warrant spending your time or money on it when compared to other endless runners.

(Outland Games is available for free on the iTunes App Store until April 29, when it will return to it’s launch price of $0.99.)

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