In Outer Terror, you'll play through various levels — which are presented as comic books in-game — with different horror settings and narrative, and your main goal is to outlast the never-ending wave of enemies. Aside from having various stories, each chapter brings with it two characters — each with their own ability — and myriad enemies and gimmicks. I'll get a bit into that in a moment.
Before I go on to the review, I'd like to say something that I think is very important to keep in mind. Outer Terror is an arcade action roguelike title if you check its Steam tags, and a Crimsonland, Diablo 2, and Gauntlet mash-up if you ask the team behind it. However, if you ask me, I would say it can be all of that, but above all else, it's a very faithful love letter to retro titles. I think this is a fundamental distinction to make because indie, retro-inspired, and retro genres are similar yet not the same, and judging them by the same standard is a mistake. Therefore, I will be mostly judging Outer Terror based on what it aspires to be — retro.
There are five comic books for you to explore, and among them, you'll find tons of different horror themes mixed in. From aliens and zombies to toasters and fridges — and no, that isn't a typo; the game pays homage to classic and beloved horror titles — both old and new — and among them are Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead franchise. This means you can look forward to all sorts of silliness and jokes mixed in with the gore and horror, which I really appreciated. And although the stories are very short and there isn't much lore to explore, it gives enough for you to get a feel for the setting and characters.
In addition to a tiny bit of context, each comic offers a unique gimmick and some quests to complete, which helps keep the game fresh. For example, in the Frost Bite comic, you'll need to explore the map to find some fuel canisters and return it to a safe house where some survivors are holed up. This adds a certain pressure to the run, as you must go out to find them, bring them back, and use them intelligently to avoid wasting the resource. However, because you're out in the snow, you'll sometimes need to use them throughout your journey to keep yourself (and your partner if you're playing co-op) warm and safe. Similarly, during the Other Side chapter, you'll play as Kaja — a character who lost her sister and has to go through an otherworldly maze to try and find her. The gimmick this time around is that you'll need to survive long enough to get to the last obelisk in the level, all the while getting lost throughout the corridors.
This is one of the most charming aspects of Outer Terror — it's not punishing, overly demanding, or irritating just for the sake of it; none of these tasks are annoying or unfair. As an example, during the Frost Bite chapter, you have more than enough time to find the fuel and bring it back, and the hypothermia mechanic is also very generous. Likewise, in the Other Side comic, you have plenty of ways to collect useful items — such as heals, stuns, and extra XP gain — to keep you alive throughout the waves while you find the way out.
This sense of freedom and fun is found in more than just the different goals set by each chapter, too, as there are several settings and options in-game that let you better customise your experience. From being able to toggle whether the level-up menu pauses the game or not, having several co-op options, and being able to play every character in any comic, Outer Terror gives you the ability to decide how you play. This is very important to me, as I'm big on customising my experience, even in the little things.
As for the combat, I thought it was phenomenal. As you fight through waves, you'll level up and get to pick from a set of weapons and abilities, and you can buy more in the upgrade tab in the main menu. Whilst your character attacks automatically by nature, you can take the wheel and aim the attacks yourself or mix and match both styles, which I heavily appreciated. And possibly my favourite feature: there's a dash, which really helped manoeuvre around the infinite waves of enemies.
Whilst I enjoyed Outer Terror alone, I truly started loving the game when I jumped into co-op, and I heavily suggest that if you pick up the title, you find someone to play along with! The combat feels more fulfilling, as you can mix and match your styles and abilities, and the added pressure of who gets the items really helps with the post-apocalyptic/horror setting. Plus, it never hurts to spend some time with a friend in-game!
That being said, Outer Terror doesn't come without flaws — for starters, the game has a ton of grammatical mistakes, it has several bugs, and it is very vague when it comes to the goal. Although it was a rare occasion that I had to restart a comic due to a bug — such as when my wife and I got separated and couldn't advance — there were several pesky ones throughout our journey. Two of the most prominent ones were that whoever was player two couldn't use one of their items and that when we'd use the Minions ability, they'd get stuck and then glitch out, which caused us to lose the 2.5k money we spent on the upgrade. Other minor issues — like abilities having the wrong icon or pop-ups being blank — weren't game-breaking or annoying, but they were common.
Lastly, whilst I am a huge fan of the faithful recreation of arcade and retro games, I feel like a warning is due: if you get frustrated easily because you have to figure things out on your own (or search them on Google), or it irks you when the second player doesn't have too much agency, then perhaps this isn't the game for you. Outer Terror doesn't hold your hand at all — once you're inside the run, the game offers you a vague explanation of what to do, and it's up to you to figure out how to proceed. Although it's not rocket science, it can become a bit frustrating when you keep failing the chapter, especially when you're unsure if it's a bug or just part of the game. But if you don't mind the challenge, then I don't see why you shouldn't pick up Outer Terror — it's fun, it's inventive, and the setting is truly unique. It's a great game — especially for one created in eight months by a solo developer — and fans of horror and old games will surely find a ton of references and nostalgia.
Outer Terror (Reviewed on Windows)
This game is good, with a few negatives.
Outer Terror is a beautiful love letter to both old-school horror and early gaming; if you love both, you'll love it.