Balancing Light & Darkness is the key to salvation in Outland... or is it?
The story in Outland is pretty vague to say the least. You're a Warrior who uses the Powers of Light (blue) and Darkness (red) to battle ancient foes. There isn't really any CG Cutscenes or Dialogue, save for the sparse intermissions from the Narrator who tells the story as you make it unfold. The story is simple yet mysterious, the majority of the game focuses on the gameplay, which will grab you in from moment one.
The gameplay is pretty unique: You can "harness" the power of Light and Dark by switching between the two (red & blue) to complete the level. The majority of the gameplay involves jumping around from side to side, up and down and all around trying to get to the end of the level. There are obstacles that challenge you, the most obvious and constant threat being the blue and red energy balls being shot out of stationary and moving beacons.
You can deflect Dark energy balls by switching to Dark Energy Harness, and vice versa. Getting hit with the opposite Energy to what you are currently on will cause you to be injured. A typical level involves expertly timing your changes from Dark and Light to pass through these beacons and stay alive, though the Energy Beacons are not simply your only threat.
There are Light enemies and there are Dark enemies. Light enemies must be attacked with Dark energy and Dark enemies with Light. You face a wide range of enemies, including standard Armored Soldiers (different types), Giant Spiders and other creatures as well as flying jellyfish and insects that shoot Energy balls at you.
This Platformer is an exceptionally well designed game, albeit for a few perceived flaws. The enemies you face will tend to be challenging, until you've figured out the secret to each enemy type. Without spoiling the game, there are certain enemies in the game that can be killed constantly by using the same attack over and over, rather than switching it up and using your various standard and special attacks you earn throughout playing the game.
This does help the overall difficulty, which is rather steep (the learning curve is NOT big, you will understand the basics very soon, but the game will remain challenging throughout), but it sometimes makes you wonder if this was intentional or an actual flaw.
The sound/music of the game flows perfectly with the surrounding gameplay. The graphics are superb for an Arcade game, helping to pull you into the game on an even deeper level.
Overall, I would HIGHLY recommend purchasing Outland for the 800 MS Points ($10) price tag. The game lasts roughly 4-6 Hours (which can easily become 6-8 Hours or more due to the difficulty) and provides you with an enthralling experience that grips you to the core. It may be challenging, it may be another platformer, some may say it is simply a redone game from the past, but nevertheless, "Outland" is an Xbox Live Arcade game you DO want.