Out There Review (iOS)
Space. The final frontier. In Mi-Clos Studio's Out There space is really the final frontier because it's a place you're probably going to die in. A lot. And while death by oxygen deprivation, being burned to death in a supernova, or being crushed in a black hole aren't exactly ideal ends, it's the journey that makes these perilous outcomes worthwhile.
In Out There you are a nameless spaceman (who I took to calling Dude McSpaceman), who finds himself awakening from cryo-sleep adrift in unknown parts of the universe. Your task is to traverse this strange, wide 'verse and travel to its farthest reaches in the hopes of finding some kind of lasting survival. Your spaceship comes equipped with just barely enough supplies and equipment for you to make it for a while, and you'll have to constantly balance making progress and keeping your various supplies stocked if you hope to survive. Screenshots of Out There might make it seem like it's complex, but ultimately this is a game about managing resources, risks and (possible) rewards.
Your ship has three main resources to contend with: fuel, oxygen, and hull strength. If any of these three things hit zero, you're dead, and so you have to keep moving from planet to planet, drilling/probing/gathering different elements. Out There does a brilliant job of balancing a tug-of-war between giving you what you need but never quite giving you enough that you feel comfortable. Maybe one planet has tons of fuel, but it'll have a dangerous atmosphere that damages your hull, requiring you to use iron to repair it. Maybe another has lots of rare elements you could make use of later to build new, advanced technology, but your cargo space is precious and limited— storing that tungsten now might prevent you from picking up the precious oxygen you need later. It's a tightrope to balance, but Mi-Clos Studio manages to do it well.
As with most things in Out There, random events are a double-edged sword of mystery and danger. Sometimes you'll find something unusual, and be offered a choice or two about how to proceed, like when you meet an alien species and have to barrel your way through negotiations without understanding them. While it's pure guesswork at first, after repeated contact with these aliens your spaceman learns bits and pieces of their language— enough to make it a little easier to figure out how to have a mutually beneficial relationship with them.
Out There's sharp hand-drawn visuals clearly define even the most unknown encounters, and its music is ethereal and a bit melancholy. The touch controls work nicely, which is no surprise given that this is a slow-paced, turn-based game. There are a number of quality-of-life choices that would have gone far to benefit Out There's longevity however, like giving players the ability to always skip the tutorial rather than ask them if they want to skip it every time they play. You're going to die. A lot. Having one more thing to skip before you can get back to playing is just one more reason that some players will give up and stop playing.
While Out There is indisputably a well-crafted game, it's also a game designed to cater to a specific crowd. Its harsh, survival-oriented gameplay harkens back to PC games of old, and though there are a number of choices which hamper the title's replayability, it's still a uniquely memorable experience which will provide countless hours of fun for gamers who don't mind frequently failing at a slow pace.
This review is based on a purchased copy of Out There for iOS.