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Vol. 2, Issue 1
November 10, 1999

The Top Shelf:

Outcast

by Noel "HB" Wade

 

 

 

hat comes to mind when you think of the term “Adventure Game”? For most of us, these words are immediately associated with various Sierra and LucasArts games. These games, while having fun and a good story line, can be reduced to location-based puzzles involving various props strewn about a defined area. However, Outcast re-defines the “adventure” part of that tried-and-true phrase; and old adventure games really do seem less grand after playing Appeal / Infogrames' offering.

The opening story is cliché enough to bore most experienced gamers: Scientists have been fiddling with the fabric of reality in an attempt to reach an alternate universe. The experiment goes awry, and triggers a black hole that is destroying the Earth. You take the role of Cutter Slade, a troubled ex-Navy SEAL (whose career was cut short by a mishap that you learn about both in the manual, and during the game). Cutter is sent to the alternate universe along with three scientists, to safeguard them while they try to repair the damaged military probe that is the cause of the whole mess.

click to enlarge!

Low res? You bet...but it sure is pretty (49k)

Luckily, the clichés pretty much end there with the back-story; which gets itself out of the way enough for the game to come through. The game starts with you arriving in Adelpha (the alternate world) barely conscious, and with a horrible headache. What’s worse, you don’t know where anyone is – nor do you know where the probe lies. This sets the stage for a breathtaking, exciting, and sometimes hilarious romp around wilderness areas, across seas, and through crowded city streets.

As I mentioned before, this game really is different from your “standard” adventure game. To put it as simply as possible, Outcast is a huge game of fairly free-form exploration and interaction. This may sound boring; but the immersion, story-line, dialogue, and a million other details make this every bit as engrossing as the best games I can think of.

The game bills itself as being open and non-linear, and they did a fabulous job of this. Obstacles and quests can truly be solved in different ways; and are often given an equal chance of succeeding. There are other things, too – like events happening without a particular order – that really lend an “open” and “non-scripted” feel to the game. Even conversations with characters are malleable; and while snippets of them are scripted, your options on what to talk about and how they respond is all dynamic. And cut scenes, dialogue, and special events are all handled directly in the game engine (much better than with previous games that have tried to do this). In the end, you feel much more immersed in the game because you get to do what you want to do, at any given moment. No one thing forces you to go in any particular direction or do any one thing (though there are times when you are given really strong reasons for a course of action). Care to run off and hunt wild animals for a little while? Feel like ignoring your larger tasks and helping out individual natives’ needs? It's all possible, provided you haven’t been playing so long that you pass out at the keyboard!

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Credits: Illustration © 1999 Dan Zalkus. This review is © 1999 Noel Wade. All other content is © 1999 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited, goldarn it.