With the success of games like Axiom Verge and Hollow Knight, Metroidvania games – a blend of open-world exploration and combat – are better than ever. And ever developer is trying to get a turn at making one, just to see what uniqueness they bring to the table. But just because everyone thinks that they have a good idea doesn’t mean it always translates well.
Case in point – Outbuddies DX. There are some blueprints in place for Headup Games’ latest release, but it doesn’t quite come together as it should. That’s because the gameplay and general design often conflict with one another. You can see the classic intentions the developers had in mind, but it can’t quite get to where it wants to go.
Meet Your Buddy
In the game, you’re a scientist, sent to a deep underground area to do a little bit of exploration. Joining you in the game is a secondary robot friend, who can assist in dragging items around.
What’s neat about introducing this character is that a second player can jump in and take control of him. Having a co-op aspect in a Metroidvania-style game is a rare feat, to be sure. And pulled off well, it can make for hours of fun. Pulled off well.
The problem is, the robot doesn’t really have the same general gameplay as the main character. Most of the time, you’re in assist mode and don’t get to do anything really cool. As such, your friend or whoever’s playing along with you may be entertained, but it’s only for a short while.
But the gameplay in general just feels like it drags when it should be getting better. The combat, for example, doesn’t feel gratifying when you defeat enemies. Instead, because of the game’s tedious control scheme, it can actually feel like a struggle mixing it up with others. What’s more, needing to scan each room you step into becomes rather boring, instead of, well, actually exploring it yourself.
The secondary tools aren’t much help either. The map is pretty much useless, as it can take a good while just to even pinpoint where you need to go. You’re usually needing to turn to it as a quick resource. But that’s just not the case here.
It Almost Has That Retro Appeal, Almost
Headup did do some decent stuff when it came to Outbuddies’ aesthetic with its presentation. On the one hand, the sound is excellent, with fun retro tunes that sound like they fit into classic games of yore. The effects are great too, right down to the individual sounds of things happening in-game.
And yet, the graphics throw us off a little bit. Sure, they’ve got a retro-style motif, but they’re also not as clean as they should be. It’s like you’re running through some kind of muddy filter instead of seeing everything for what it is. What’s more, the level design is tedious. Instead of getting excited about new areas to explore, you just feel the tedium as you go, “Not this again.” Throw the need to scan pretty much everywhere you step and, well, it just gets old.
These Buddies Aren’t Exactly Friendly
I know the developers meant well when it came to creating a sweet experience with Outbuddies DX. But it just can’t get the job done. The muddy visuals, frustrating gameplay, fractured design, and tedious secondary items just don’t do enough to merit its existence. Maybe the team can patch everything up and show us the game that this was meant to be. As it stands, however, you’re probably better off digging into Axiom Verge instead, especially since it’s about the same price.
Outbuddies DX has some good ideas, but can’t take advantage of them enough to procure a memorable game experience.