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Outpost 13

Outpost 13

 

Developer: Cantina Games The title screen.The title screen.
Released: 2015.10.27
Genre: SciFi / Horror
Graphics: Pixel art / 2D
Perspective: Third person
Gameplay: Point-and-Click



 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Dogs (and cats) are nice companions and fun to have around, especially on remote space research outposts. Unless, of course, the pet happens to be one of those animals that get to be possessed by some kind of demon spirit, and eventually try to kill all living humans around. That tends to be a bit problematic. One would expect such a scenario being something that the player will be fighting against. Time to think again, in Outpost 13 the pet is the protagonist, and the task is simply to get rid of all humans.

If the premise of the plot sounds familiar, it should - the game is an intentional homage to science fiction and horror films from the 1970's to 1990's. The Thing, Alien, and few other titles have even been named as inspiration by the developer, and it really shows. The concept of the game couldn't be much better: traditional science fiction horror, with pixelated splatter, on an isolated research station where the culprit is the least suspected character: the dog. Or cat. The game gives player a choice to choose between two different dogs, and a cat which is supposedly an exclusive to Kickstarter backers, but seems to be working for everyone. The game is otherwise the very same, the choice only affects the visual appearance of the pet. Even the name remains the same in all cases: "Fen", or "Fenrir" as the spirit calls him, even though the selection menu actually lists different names for all pets.

Available protagonists.Available protagonists.
The original pitch for potential backers of the game promised stealth, strategy, and character development, which sound very cool elements to the game. Unfortunately character development has officially been scrapped for the current state of the game, which consists of Act 1, with an Act 2 coming later on. By the time of writing, the Act 2 should have been released long time ago, but it hasn't, and there have been no news regarding the game. It can be that it won't be coming, and the current state of the game is the final release. If that is ever going to change, this review will be updated accordingly. Whether there is stealth and strategy elements in the game can be debated, but it's safe to say that this isn't a strategy game, and stealth means that you can't get caught doing what you do.

The game has a suspicion meter of sorts, which will change every time the player as Fen does something suspicious, such as picking up or using strange objects. When the bar reaches its limit, someone will come and get rid of the poor doggie with a flamethrower. Oddly enough, the characters in the game world don't seem to be reacting at all to their collegues being killed in very cruel and graphic ways, but go on about their own life as if nothing has happened.

There is a clock in the game, which means that there is a daytime, nighttime, and a weird resting period when nothing actually happens. Some things can be done only during day, whereas some others only during night. The game has a unique save feature which will save the game by guiding the pet to its bed, and at the same time advance the clock to next period. Advancing the clock also changes the day, but that seems to be a purely cosmetic indicator, as it makes no difference whether some action is performed during Day 2 or Day 3, as long as it gets done.

Planning evil schemes.Planning evil schemes.
As already stated, the pet can get killed by a flamethrower if things go wrong, which means game over. In addition to this, there are unwinnable situations and dead-ends. Some might be due to bugs and glitches, which the game has plenty, unfortunately, but some are clearly intentional. The way the game works is that there are rooms inside the outpost, and each room has a different puzzle to be completed. In plain English this means that the player must find some room-specific way to kill people inside that room. At least in one room it is possible to kill the people inside one way, having the game announce that room to be completed, but the overall game progression getting stuck with no new events being triggered nor any game over message being shown, an unwinnable state.

Altogether there are five rooms to solve in the game, so the scope of the game is very small. Because of the unique way the save feature works, loading a save game is not always helpful, because you can save the game in some unwinnable state meaning that you must try to play the game through all over again. If the player knows for sure what to do, the game can probably be completed in just 1-2 minutes (at least in its current state, with no Act 2 available), but for anyone trying to solve it without a walkthrough much more time is needed. For instance, some daytime actions can't be done without doing something during nighttime, which in turn can't be done during daytime. Playing the game for the first time will also require some time to go through all locations, while there aren't that many places to go, there are some places inside the outpost that are not needed in any way, and nothing can be done inside them. There is a map feature available, which is kind of nice, although not really necessary, as it is almost impossible to get lost in the few rooms the game has.

Busted! Game over.Busted! Game over.
Graphically the game relies on pixel arts aesthetics, although not real pixels, as the game can be run in many resolutions, including full HD 1920x1080. Some parts of the game are not even attempting be pixelated, such as character conversations which are shown with one kind of font, and some display screens in the game world showing another kind of font, neither of them really fitting in the pixel arts style. It is unclear whether some character animations are missing, as for instance characters moving on z axis, that is closer to and further away from the screen, are shown in the same animation as they are moving sideways. This could be a design choice too, but with some aspects of the game admittedly being dropped from the release, there's no way to know for sure which is what.

There are some nice fitting sound effects in the game, and some music which is very good actually. The composer of the music is Rich Douglas, who has quite a long list of credits from other works too. There are no voiceovers at all, unless one wants to count the dog barking at one point of the game as being the protagonist voice. Everything is fully controllable by pointing and clicking with a mouse, with the odd single exception of one question choice being answered by hitting either A or B key on the keyboard.

When analysing the strengths of the game, one has to mention the wonderful science fiction horror feeling that the game has, as did its paragons. Sadly it doesn't go much beyond that, as bugs, glitches, unimplemented features, unclear puzzles, and questionable dead-ends ruin the experience for most players. On top of everything else, the ending of either Act 1, or the entire game in this state, is one of the weirdest ever, and really makes the player wonder who actually won the game, and what was the point. But at least the death scenes in all their red pixelated gore are well animated, and actually amusing to watch, with a touch of old Sierra death scenes in them.

It is a bit challenging to know what to think about Output 13. Clearly it has a wonderful premise. Clearly the developer has put much effort into it, as evidenced by internal day and nighttimes, death animations, and some amusing gimmicks. But with so many things not being where they were supposed to be, and so many things simply not working, the overall experience is simply lacking. We can only hope that the game gets completed one way or the other some time in the future, as the very starting point is so different from most other games. The world needs more games which take a completely opposite point of view in their story-telling, and that is the one strong thing that Outpost 13 has to offer.

The door is locked.The door is locked.

 


 

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