If there’s one thing I’ve learned this week, it’s not to give up on games when they initially prove to be incredibly frustrating. Calculords is a fine example of a game I would’ve gladly damned for all eternity at one stage, but one hour later I was literally jumping for joy having defeated two wily opponents back-to-back.
On a similar note, I could’ve easily scribbled a damning 2/5 review of Out There, labelling it a steaming pile of random horse poop, but it’s now one of my favourite games of the year so far. Go figure.
Out There is part space-based choose your own adventure, part resource management simulator. Yeah, it’s every bit as odd as that sounds.
The back-story is that you’ve awoken from cryogenic sleep, many space miles from your intended destination. You’re… out there. Get it?
Apparently, “something happened”. What that “something” is matters not; the important thing is getting back to the relative safety of planet Earth.
That’s easier said than done, however, as space is a hostile place – not just in terms of previously unencountered races, but when it comes to gravitational pulls and black holes and what have you.
Putting all that into gaming terms, you’re tasked with guiding your tiny little ship from star system to star system via the magic of the Space Folder. It “folds the space-time continuum and allows interstellar travels”, obviously.
Within each star system, the Interplanetary Reactor invites you to hop from planet to planet, where you might find precious fuels or metals, or even potentially friendly alien races.
Off-planet, you’ll encounter various bizarre floating space monsters (Star Trek springs to mind) and artefacts and the like, with the App Store description promising “300+ handwritten game book adventures with different choices”.
Out There is nowhere near as story-based as, say, Sorcery! (which is excellent, incidentally), but there’s a fair amount of stuff going on, and the story does crank up the more you progress.
Throw in a handful of ships with different characteristics and a number of buildable items, and you’re onto a winner.
Where Out There seems to rub some people up the wrong way is with the randomness. See, key to survival in Out There is resource management, specifically your fuel, your oxygen, and the condition of your ship’s hull.
Alas, even the most careful space adventurer might suddenly find his or her resources impacted by a random event. Maybe you’ll be attacked by a space monster and find yourself having to expend precious fuel in order to escape. Or maybe a sudden meteor shower will destroy a component vital to exploration – and in turn survival.
That is, admittedly, annoying, but by that same token you’ll also find random events working to your benefit, such as crashing through a giant space whale and being covered in its nourishing juices (no, I didn’t make that up), so quit yer whining.
As I said, at one point I was ready to can Out There, but I put in one final, lengthy, incredibly satisfying run, and immediately fell in love. I was genuinely gutted when I realised I’d reached one of the three conclusions, and I’ll definitely be going back to experience the other two.
Seriously, stick with it and Out There will win you over. Throw in procedurally-generated galaxies and a suitably eerie soundtrack, and we have one sexy space-based package.
- Interesting blend of genres
- A generous number of choices
- The soundtrack (thanks, Siddhartha Barnhoorn)
- “WARNING : This game is hard ! Prepare to die”
- It’s a bit random at times
- Starting from scratch can be a bummer
Summary: Out There is a toughie, and potentially a huge pain in the bum, but hang in there and you might well discover one of the best games of 2014.
Developer: Mi Clos Studio
Price: £2.49 @ App Store
Compatibility: Requires iOS 5.1 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. This app is optimized for iPhone 5.