Sony's Senior Social Media Specialist Sid Shuman has revealed today that Outland is hitting PSN this Spring with two Co-Op Modes and more, as follows:
Last fall, I got a first look at Outland, a side-scrolling action game that casts you as an urban sophisticate-turned-spiritual warrior.
The dreamlike visuals, fluid platform mechanics, and sharp sword-based combat pointed to a fascinating PSN game.
Since then, developer Housemarque (creators of PSN classics Dead Nation and Super Stardust HD has been busy fleshing out the game with details that will make fans of the classic 2D side-scroller Castlevania: Symphony of the Night beam with delight.
A gorgeously illustrated introductory cinematic introduces you to the protagonist, a nameless, faceless modern-day urban dweller haunted by visions of a vast wheel, endlessly turning.
Maddened by the visions and unable to find relief, the protagonist seeks out a mystic shaman who guides him on a path of spiritual awakening and alerts him to a timeless, cyclical battle with a pair of god-like Sisters who created the world and now seek to destroy it. Guess what? The fate of the world is now in your hands. Lucky you!
"The Sisters are the final bosses in the game," explained Producer Adam Sarasohn. "They are the ones causing this conflict." You'll learn this firsthand in the opening moments of the game when you dive into a playable vision set 30,000 years in the past.
Re-living the conflict as an ancient hero - your spiritual predecessor - this short flashback scene gives you a taste of the most powerful abilities and weapons in the game and sets up the final struggle against the Sisters, though it cuts short just as the ominous battle begins.
Overall, Outland's single-player experience will be familiar to fans of action-platform games such as Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. You start out with a limited skill set and gradually gain abilities and more powerful swords as you conquer enemies, uncover ancient artifacts and traverse previously inaccessible locations.
But in addition to the sword-swinging combat, Outland's gameplay features a twist. A quick tap of the L2 trigger shifts you between blue and red (light and dark) energy alignments. If you shift to the blue form, you'll harmlessly absorb blue projectiles but remain vulnerable to red projectiles, and vice-versa.
Outland's most challenging moments tend to pack the screen with a dizzying number of red-and-blue projectile patterns, forcing you to rapidly shift alignments to survive. This is easier said than done, as many platforms are color-coded as well and require tricky timing to land.
We also learned new details about Outland's massive boss battles, particularly one encounter against the High Priestess. Armed with telekinetic abilities, the High Priestess attacks by hurling pieces of the surrounding environment at you.
"After a while," Sarasohn teased, "the entire room breaks apart and starts falling, and you're jumping up pieces of rubble while you continue to fight her in mid-air." Then there's the final boss fight again the Sisters, hinted at in the beginning of the game, which will be "particularly challenging" according to Sarasohn.
In addition to the single-player campaign, Outland includes an Arcade mode that will challenge expert players to speed-run through scenarios with the highest score possible. But at PAX East, Sarasohn also revealed that Outland includes robust two-player co-op play in two distinct flavors: Story Co-op and Co-op Challenge rooms. When playing the Story mode with a co-op partner, you'll occasionally uncover portals that unlock Co-Op Challenges.
These challenges aren't for the faint of heart. "In the Co-op Challenge rooms, we mess with the existing gameplay rules of Outland," Sarasohn revealed. "In normal co-op Story play, it doesn't matter what your partner does - either player can switch between light and dark alignment as needed."
That rule is turned on its head in one Co-op Challenge in which one player controls alignment switching of both players - a tall order when the air is thick with red-and-blue projectiles and you're forced to watch your partner's back. Then, in a sadistic twist halfway through this particular Co-op Challenge, the other player assumes control of alignment swapping. Like I said: it's not for the faint of heart!
Though Outland's co-op modes are limited to online play, Sarasohn says it's for a good reason. "The reason we did online-only is because we wanted each player to have a full screen so they can see all the puzzles and not have to make blind jumps."
Sarasohn explained that Housemarque experimented with a couch co-op mode that constrained both players to one screen, but that players found it frustrating because their movements were limited by the edges of the screen.
With its late-April/early-May PSN release date fast approaching, Outland is shaping up to be a major departure for developer Housemarque. What do you think about their new gameplay style? Let us know in the comments!
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