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SummaryHelp me find my toothbrush, Ulukai
The GoodThe graphics are good, very good. The sight of the huge twin moons hauntingly filling the horizon will take your breath away. The controls are almost always intuitive. You feel immersed in a rich, entrancing world.
Your first chores are actually a well-designed tutorial, fair to you player, with no fire-breathing dragon eager to pounce upon you, without even a plague-carrying sewer rat to bite you into writhing agony. Just tasks to familiarize you with the interface.
The Bad"Can you help Bippy-Poo find his toothbrush, Ulukai?"
"Where is Bippy-Poo, Shazam-Kaboom?"
"I cannot see him from here, Ulukai, but he is somewhere north-west".
Ulukai is you, a cross of Clint Eastwood and Duke Nukem propelled into a parallel universe, courtesy of... well, game designers, really. Bippy-Poo and Shazam-Kaboom (not their real names, we want to protect their privacy here), are Talants, the only intelligent inhabitants of this world. Your arrival was prophesized, you are the long-awaited saviour. The world has been subdued by ... no, no spoilers... an evil tyrant, whose minions the ordinary Talant slaves, sweats, and starves for, to keep them in the local firewater and in ris (the staple food with an uncanny resemblance to rice, even down to the watery paddies where ris is grown). No women, though. They do exist (read on), but the closest whiff you'll get of the fair sex is a spoof of a poof in the fine city of Samarkand (not its real name, no spoilers please).
By now, Ulukai has run enough errands to know that Bippy-Poo hides right at the opposite end of the map. He even suspects that Shazam-Kaboom is giggling under his breath at the prospect of the Saviour of the World hoofing it for the umpteenth time across a land graced with not much of a fauna and as little of a flora. The Great Western Desert (that's Death Valley for you American readers) teems with life in comparison.
Hold your twon-ha there! (A twon-ha is their equivalent of a bronco, a brumby, a horse in short, only with two legs and no tail).
Have I talked, er... WRITTEN you into giving "Outcast" a miss? My apologies. There are good things which make this game worth playing. It is only once the storyline and the gameplay have spoilt it that you think back on it all.
How you had to go into god mode because, shot at from certain angles, the enemy soldiers just seemed to be invulnerable. How you had to repeatedly hit the "skip dialog" button because you got thoroughly sick of having to listen to the same lines from a Talant, when you only wanted to hear again where Bippy-Poo might hide, and so you were treated to this wonderful audio:
and so on, and so on, until you got to the bit that you were after.
By and by, you get to the finale. A movie sequence that gives you the distinct feeling that either the scenario writers were fed up to their eyeteeth with the story, or were marched off under heavily armed escort to bring it to a speedy close for commercial reasons. You stare at your screen and you remember... you remember when you learnt that male and female Talants lived separately outside the mating season, and that, as Bippy-Poo (not his real name) told you, the females were on those islands just north of the long line of power poles that zapped you to death (even in god mode) whenever you dared approach them. You remember how something you did caused those power poles to shut down. Yet, there was no way for you to travel further north. You remember all those tantalizing enigmas without answers (yes, you did download a number of walkthroughs, but to no avail). Your remember the tiny offshore island, a mountain in its middle, with a rough staircase leading up to some giant bird's nest with a giant egg in it. Who, what, built those stairs? No clue, no further quest, no answer, a dead-end good, proper and final, my fearless explorer. Too many such dead-ends, and the side-lanes that did lead somewhere were so short and narrow.
The Bottom LineThis could have been a fine game.
Graphics. Fine, well tuned to the storyline, often breath-taking, in their passive sort of way. You can even tell the time of the day by the shadow you cast. I couldn't care less, that's not my cup of tea, but perhaps it's yours.
Gameplay. There is much good about it, much bad. Those occasionally invulnerable enemies are a great let-down. Until you switch to god mode of course. It's never so bad that you quit and uninstall in disgust. It's often bad enough to make you want to strangle the culprits: "You had such a great game in the making, why did you stuff up so?" But the puzzles are logical, even though too many of them require you to travel, not only to the other end of the map, but to the other end of any one of the six maps. Oh well, at least it gets out in the fresh air, just like crucifixion does (you jammy, jammy, bastard!).
Replay value. Almost nil. I found myself playing it again only for the landscapes, once I had cleared them of hostile grunts. Those two gigantic twin moons... they are hypnotic. Of course, they are impossible, such a planetary system cannot exist, but this is where art must be allowed to take precedence over reality. If only there had been more of that. And a deeper storyline. Gentlemen, why did you let us down? (Pardon my Aramaic)