Title: Outbuddies DX
Developer: Julian Laufer
Release Date: June 13, 2020
Reviewed On: Switch
Publisher: Headup Games
It’s not uncommon for games to be influenced by classic Metroid titles. It’s also not unusual for those to be mostly unmemorable. When Outbuddies released on PC, I don’t think it received the recognition that it truly deserved. However, one thing I’ll say about that initial release is that it had a problem with direction, controls, and slowdown.
However, developer Julian Laufer seemed to take community feedback to heart to release an updated version called Outbuddies DX. Not only does this version improve many of the confusing and lacking elements of its predecessor, but it’s also available for Xbox One and Nintendo Switch.
Outbuddies DX has players assume the role of Nikolay Berstein, a seemingly crazy adventurer who finds himself crashing in the middle of nowhere and waking up in Bahlam. However, he isn’t alone as he is joined by a Buddy-unit who travels alongside him through this mysterious new world. From the initial moments of the game, I will admit that I was lost. The story doesn’t slow down for a second, and the next thing you know, you’re running around the map trying to find your way.
Outbuddies DX attempts to introduce its core mechanics at a steady pace, but I feel like it focused on gameplay elements that are never really returned to. Features like sneaking and rolling past enemies are good to know, but once you get the gun, you won’t feel the need to do those actions. The game also tries its hardest to make teach you its control scheme, but let me tell you, it never gets easier.
Controller support in this never version has wildly improved the responsiveness of exploration. However, it felt like my fingers were using every button at once just to move a rock or get up a cliff. It’s not intuitive at all and adds a decent layer of frustration to getting around.
Outbuddies DX markets itself as non-linear, and to an extent, this is more true in the later parts of the adventure. Still, you’ll be quickly reminded if you’re somewhere that you shouldn’t be after you find yourself behind a locked door or at the bottom a high ledge.
Like Metroid, abilities, and skills are gained to access new areas, and the same can be said for Outbuddies DX. Not only can you acquire new features for your weapon and for your suit, but your Buddy-unit also is able to receive upgrades. Buddy is a strange inclusion in the game, as it is the cause for some of the more confusing moments of games. Controlling the powers of the robot is twitchy and random. In the first hour of gameplay, you’ll most likely be very confused as to what this thing is actually good for. However, that becomes more clear in the later parts, but I ultimately never liked Buddy, unless I was playing in 2 player mode where a second player controls him.
Outbuddies DX provides you with some interesting environments to explore that are dark and eerie. You’ll quickly figure out that you are not in a safe place, given that everything seems to want to kill you. This game is not an entry-level adventure game by any means. This game gets incredibly tough, although some times this difficulty is caused by surprise enemies or random spike traps at the bottom of a fall. Still, be prepared for a challenge, especially during the boss encounters.
I personally enjoyed the minimal handholding that the game does, but some elements just appear to be cryptic for no reason. Such as introducing a scale that needs a weight, but the required block blends in with the background, so it’s hard to spot. This becomes more tedious when some moveable blocks are used as non-moveable blocks in other sections, so you’re left taking time checking everything.
I think I sound like I didn’t have a good time with Outbuddies DX, but it’s quite the opposite, I had a great time with it. However, getting lost or not being able to defeat a boss is still maddening. Luckily, death only sends you back to the beginning of a room and not to the save point, so revenge happens rather quickly.
The visual style of Outbuddies DX borrows retro influences from games that you might see on MS-Dos. It works for the game’s dark themes and provides a sense of dread as you make your way further into the depths of this labyrinth. However, its incredibly easy to get turned around or waste time trying to find secrets since they aren’t clearly defined.
Outbuddies DX is a far more accessible version of this Metroid-inspired adventure. However, there’s still a lack of direction that causes many moments of frustration, which stem from the game’s complex control scheme and maze-like design. Regardless, if you’re looking for a challenging and intuitive retro adventure, then look no further than Outbuddies DX.
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