“Maybe the only significant difference between a really smart simulation and a human being was the noise they made when you punched them.” – Terry Pratchet
Outsider: After Life is a compelling puzzle game and existential adventure with a post-apocalyptic sci-fi setting. Players take control of a lonely android named HUD-ini as he embarks on a range of tasks in a bid to escape the now lifeless planet.
Developer: Once a Bird
Released: 2nd July 2020
Price: £3.99 – £7.19
Platforms: Windows, Android, iOS
Available on: Steam, Google Play, App Store
This game is being reviewed as part of the Indie Game Collective (IGC) showcase.
The game begins centuries after the human race ended, amongst the ruins of a curious science complex where an accident restores power to a unique android who may be the only one who can save the universe.
Outsider uses dynamic storytelling to deliver the surprisingly moving narrative visually, through narration and cutscenes and also through the gameplay itself. The combination of the post-apocalyptic setting, HUD-ini’s story and the tidbits that are revealed about one of the last humans, Aida, make for an engaging and emotional narrative experience.
The narrative is progressed by solving a diverse series of puzzles, these relate to the tasks HUD-ini needs to complete such as aligning satellites or repairing different machines. There is a vast range of puzzle styles to prevent the game from getting stale, they include memory, logic, jigsaw, matchmaking as well as puzzles based on timing and precision. All the puzzles are styled to fit the Outsider’s narrative and aesthetic and blend seamlessly with the other game elements.
The game utilises simple mouse only, point-and-click controls. These are intuitive and easy to use but are a stark reminder that the game was designed for and first released on mobile.
Outsider has a 2D art style that uses simple shapes to create detailed environments. It mixes muted tones and dark colours with much more vibrant shades for a high contrast look that adds to the lighting and overall atmosphere. More textured backgrounds and effects are used sparingly to create further contrast and add more visual interest.
The game makes great use of ambient sound effects and background noises such as machines whirring, static, electronic beeps and clicks, all adding to the sense of immersion. Similarly, the voice acting is nicely done, ranging from eerie to robotic, HUD-ini is a highlight in this regard.
The beautifully varied soundtrack is one of the game’s standout features. Tracks range from simple electronic background music to evocative, ethereal, sci-fi synth rock and melancholy piano tracks. Each track perfectly fits its scene, often with an evocative effect, further connecting the player to the scene.
Outsider: After Life can be played within a few hours and its linear narrative and single solution puzzles don’t allow for much replayability, at nearly half the Steam price the game is undoubtedly better value on mobile. Despite this, the game is an original and engaging adventure game with captivating and varied puzzles, clever narrative design and a moving story making it very easy to recommend on any platform.
For more sci-fi puzzle games, take a look at the following:
Still There – An Existential Space Adventure – Transient: A Lovecraftian Cyberpunk Thriller – Mutropolis: Brand New Archaeological Adventure set in the Year 5000!