04
Mar
out

If there's one thing I can say for Out There, it's that this title does not sugar coat the harsh reality of space. Things go wrong that are totally out of your control, and sometimes that means you're going to die. If that was literally the only thing I had to say, this game would be pretty lame. In fact, there's a lot going on in Out There. This is a sci-fi choose-your-own-adventure game that doesn't fall back on laser blasters and explosions to create tension – it's all about survival. And really, isn't that the ultimate challenge?

Story And Gameplay

It's the mid 22nd century as Out There opens with a quick backstory. Earth is running short on resources, but humanity has yet to develop faster-than-light travel. Our protagonist is placed in cryogenic suspended animation for a simple trip to a moon in the outer solar system – you know, the sort of thing that happens all the time in the 22nd century. He awakens sometime later alone on the ship, and he's no where near his destination... he's out there.

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You'll learn quickly that deep space is a rough place to be. You begin receiving cryptic messages from unknown sources – a way forward... a destination many light years away. But what will you find? Don't get ahead of yourself. It's not going to be easy to get there and find out. Playing Out There seems at first like an exercise in frustration – it is brutally hard. Death is permanent, but you can learn to play smarter and account for the unforeseen, just like real life.

Your ship has three stats to be aware of in Out There. There is fuel (hydrogen or helium), oxygen, and hull (iron). Each action leeches a few points from some or all of these gauges, but you can mine for the necessary elements to keep yourself breathing, moving, and protected from the cold vacuum of space. As you hop from system to system, there will be planets you can land on and mine, as well as gas giants that can be probed from orbit. You need to be smart about when to expend fuel getting into orbit around planet, and when you ought to just jump to the next system. Visiting every planet is a surefire way to die.

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Many of your interstellar jumps will end with a tough decision – thus the choose-your-own-adventure aspect. If you make the right call, it can pay off big time with more fuel, new technology, or even a shortcut. If it doesn't, well, you can die. It might seem like a good idea to investigate that strange reading in the asteroid belt, but what if it's nothing and you waste all that fuel for no reason? This feeling of constantly being on the edge of oblivion makes every action in Out There intense (I might even say stressful). The writing in this game is absolutely whip smart too.

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You're going to find more than just the main elements that keep you chugging along – there is gold, carbon, tungsten, cobalt, and some other stuff that isn't even on the periodic table we know. What do you do with it? You'll have to ask the aliens. When you land on a habitable planet, there will probably be some local creatures to meet. This is one of the most common choices to make as you try to talk them into revealing new technology. The elements you find can be used to make devices that improve your chances of survival (a little).

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Out There forces you into gut-wrenching decisions frequently as well – do you disassemble the interstellar drive to salvage the materials to repair your mining equipment, then hope you find the resources to continue your journey, or do you make one last jump and hope you happen upon exactly what you need? It's the same cold calculation when you find a new ship (well, new to you) floating in space. It might be really fast, but if there's no space for cargo and equipment, you'll be at a serious disadvantage. The depth of problem solving and planning is excellent, especially when you consider the simple multiple-choice gameplay mechanics.

Graphics And Audio

The screenshots don't quite do Out There justice – it's lovely, but not in the way a lot of other games are. It's all 2D and the animations are simple, but the style is just so interesting. It looks like a comic book came to life and invaded your screen. The space backdrops are also very easy on the eyes.

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I feel like the developers missed an opportunity to make use of immersive mode (or even lights-out mode) in the Android release. Instead, those soft buttons are staring at you the whole time. This game draws you in – it's really a perfect example of something that would benefit from clearing the screen of clutter.

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The audio in mobile games is usually a bit of a throwaway, but not in this case. The soundtrack was composed by Siddhartha Barnhoorn to be perfectly complementary to the gameplay. It's atmospheric and a little eerie. You absolutely want to play Out There with the sound up.

Performance is perfectly smooth, but I feel like battery consumption is a little high on the Nexus 7. Otherwise I have no complaints.

Don't Be A Dope, You Want This

Out There can be a totally engrossing experience. It's definitely not the kind of thing you play for a few minutes in line at the store – you need to sit down and get into it. The spectacularly unforgiving nature of Out There is tempered by the speed with which you can get into a new game. Each game is like a roll of the dice – you might play for an hour and make poor progress before dying, then manage to cover more distance in a fraction of the time in your next game.

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The story elements are revealed very slowly as you make decisions and get better at the game. Everything you do matters in Out There, which is uncommon for a mobile game. Even though death is almost inevitable in Out There, I still want to play it – a lot. If you have even a passing interest in adventure games or science fiction, buy this for only $4. Note, the Play Store says there are in-app purchases, but I haven't seen them anyplace in the game – could be a mistake.

Ryan Whitwam
Ryan is a tech/science writer, skeptic, lover of all things electronic, and Android fan. In his spare time he reads golden-age sci-fi and sleeps, but rarely at the same time. His wife tolerates him as few would.

He's the author of a sci-fi novel called The Crooked City, which is available on Amazon and Google Play. http://goo.gl/WQIXBM

  • flosserelli

    I have been tempted to get this, but I am reluctant to drop $4 on something that may not be what I expected. I have no qualms spending $4+ on apps that are useful or enjoyable, but the 15 minute trial window is probably too short to really judge this game. I wish more developers would offer fully featured time- or level-limited demos.

    • Kevin Aaronson

      I find the 15 minute window more than generous, especially considering any other platform (Xbox, PS, iOS, PC, etc.) doesn't offer it. And its 4 bucks to support not only an independent gaming studio, but one that is churning out products for the anroid platform, that I'm assuming you love (you are posting on an android fan boy site).

      • flosserelli

        Obviously I didn't make myself clear enough. I don't mind paying $4 (or even more) on an app/game that I use a lot. And when I find a freebie that I like, if there is a "premium" or "licensed" version, I buy it to support the developer, even if I don't need the premium features.

    • sssgadget

      And that is exact reason Freemium games were developed.

      Not that I support the Freemium model but many users think like @flosserelli.

      • flosserelli

        There is a difference between freemium/IAP and time- or level-limited demos. Call me cheap, but I do not want to blow $4+ on something that turns out to be completely different that what I expected, nor do I want to pay money to essentially be a beta tester (for some apps).

        • Simon JB

          I'd say the game is entirely worth the $4, but then again you might have different tastes than mine ; agree that a demo would be nice.
          Then again, 15 minutes is enough in that case to see if you're hooked.
          And I'd say $4 is a good price for a game that is original, not a platformer / endless runner / angry birds clone, made for mobile play and with a very strong replay value. I'd spend them just to reward the devs :-)

          • flosserelli

            Thanks for the feedback on this title. I'll go ahead & pull the trigger if, as you say, 15 minutes is enough to make the call.

          • Michael

            Well its 15 minutes from purchase, not downloaded and opened.

          • flosserelli

            Actually I think it is 15 minutes after installation because if you are on a slow or flaky connection, a large app could easily take more than 15 minutes just to download. Someone please correct me if I am wrong.

    • Cory_S

      I really want to get a cup of coffee, but I have issues dropping 4 bucks on one and have it not be what I expected..They offered me 15% of it for free to see if I like it...but still im so scared to drop that kind of cash.

      • Dario69

        I never spend four dollars on a cup of coffee. Maybe two, tops.

        And I always found this analogy weak sorry. I know what to expect from my coffee or those expensive premium drinks from past experience. In this case there is no frame of reference.

        Some people are not cheap, just careful with their money. That would be the same as calling those that would drop money on something they have no idea about as being careless with their money and that isn't a fair assessment either.

        • Cory_S

          Nope. You're cheap. You have zero options on a console or PC game unless the rare demo is provided but yet you complain about a 4 dollar game with 5 star reviews.

          BTW the 15 minutes is just the automatic refund window. 48 hours is still the policy and there is a form to complete for it.

          • WhyWai

            Sadly that's mobile gamer mentality, when the market is full of F2P apps...

            @dario69 you need to try the premium coffee first to get your "past experience" right? And what got you to make the first try? a review or mouth of friends?

        • Nick Cowling

          You've never been to Melbourne then

  • ProductFRED

    No death is ever permanent.

    Titanium Backup.

    • https://plus.google.com/108596272537415356460/posts Jason Farrell

      Cheating's no fun.

  • jeffhesser

    I've been enjoying this quite a bit too. I used my chunk of amazon coins i earned somewhere for free.
    I beat it once and I'm ready to try one of the other paths that open up.

  • Nathan Stoltenberg

    Their logo looks like they took the Starcraft II Marine portrait and ran a filter over it.

  • René Simonsen

    Too bad it lacks cloud save - I'll skip

    • Eric Jones

      That is the only thing stopping me from buying this. Bummer, it looks good.

      • René Simonsen

        Yeah same goes for me. I don't want to waste money and time on a game without cloud save :(

  • Crispin Swickard

    Comic Sans: The Game

    • ya dingus

      That's not comic sans.

  • hoosiercub88

    Looks a lot like an upcoming mobile release *it's already on PC, and it's very good* called FTL - Faster Than Light, based on an older tabletop game.

    • mirindonian

      This is not an FTL clone. This game is about resource management, there are no enemies, just you and the vastness of space. Explore star systems, find new (not always better) ships, learn languages, and remember, you WILL run out of fuel. Both games are Rogue like, but they do differ.

      • hoosiercub88

        I don't believe that I said it was?

        I said it looks a lot like FTL in visual style. It's actually more like Starbound and FTL had a baby. I bought it, played it for about 30 minutes, got bored.

  • Adam Jordan

    I'd been wanting a choose your own adventure type game. After my first play through and death I've gone through atleast a dozen times always death lol but to get there was worth it.

  • Martin Nilsson

    I agree with everything in this review. But then the other day I sort of won the game and that sucked. Dialogue is otherwise great, but this felt very forced. Might even be that I didn't win, maybe I lost? The game ended and angered me. But there is more to find and explore so I'm back playing. Hopefully it won't disipoint again.

  • primalxconvoy

    If I can't save my progress and just keep dying, then I don't think that this game is for me.