Over the years, the market for independent gaming has exploded. With a flood of options to choose from, indie games really need to establish their unique qualities to stand out. Outpost Delta by the developer, Hidden Achievement LLC, is another 2D side-scrolling Metroidvania style experience adding to the ever-growing list of similar games. The genre has been around for decades, and in that time seen classics such as the namesake, Metroid, to renowned modern entries like Hollow Knight. That said, this homage sets itself apart by combining elements of the twin-stick shooter genre to its Metroidvania base. Sadly, despite being two of my favorite game genres, there are some serious issues lying beneath the enticing exterior, so keep reading this Outpost Delta Switch review to find out more.
Story – One Worth Exploring
When it comes to story, immersion is key for a memorable experience. The game starts with a lonely, abandoned space station under siege from an attacking force, the Klaath. Activated by the station’s AI, players take control of a defense drone, Delta, to quell the invading threat. From there on out, players follow orders from the AI to reestablish control of the station. There is a sense of urgency present from the start, which is a plus for getting players into the action. The orders can occasionally be open-ended, providing a sense of freedom in a genre that usually relies on linearity.
But, with so many indie games on the market, writing can end up as a hit or miss regarding the quality. Fortunately, the dialogue is serviceable and written well enough to invest players in saving the station. Between the AI explaining lore and the Klaath leaders popping in to smack talk, there is always a reason for Delta to keep pressing on. Personally, I think interactions between Delta and her AI, rather than just commands from the companion, could have heightened the experience. In addition, there is no way to ask the AI for hints or recaps, which can be rather annoying if unsure where to go or what to do next. While nothing to write home about here, I found the narrative for this Outpost Delta Switch review solid enough.
Gameplay – The Best of Times; The Worst of Times
The overall gameplay experience is where the game both shines and takes a nosedive. One aspect that drew me to this indie was the promise of Metroidvania platforming with the twin-stick shooting. After playing through, I can say the experience delivers in this regard. The space station is full of areas to explore, each with its own range of challenges. Whether jumping around in anti-gravity or solving dangerous laser puzzles, there is plenty of excitement within. The open-ended nature of the space station depends on memorization and backtracking, adding to the difficulty of the game. Optional upgrades for health, grenades and jet pack fuel provide justification for going off the beaten path. Metroidvania fans will feel right at home exploring Delta’s world due to its consistency with the genre.
Overall, it is the tough, twin-stick shooting action that I found the most enjoyable. Delta’s fast-paced and fluid movement reminds of the mechanics in Metroid Fusion for the Gameboy Advance. But unlike the old days, the twin-stick shooting allows for Delta to shoot in any direction, resulting in far more dynamic gameplay. As players get further, they unlock various upgrades too, including highlights like the Magnet Boots and Anti-Gravity control. The freedom of movement, along with different types of weaponry, makes for an experience that does not get too stagnant. Enemy types are unique and require different strategies to take down. They can power through multiple shots as well, which should keep players on their toes no matter how seasoned. My Outpost Delta review for Switch would have struggled to find any redeemable qualities if not for the fun moment to moment action.
This brings me to the issues I had while playing, which sadly are prominent. Some of these problems are hard-baked into the design of the game, while others could possibly have been resolved with some more development time. One of my biggest qualms with the core game is the intelligence of enemy AI. Sometimes they will be rushing the player as soon as an elevator door opens, but other times will get stuck on boxes and remain motionless, taking a barrage of bullets to the face. Immersion breaking, to say the least. Adding to the mundane elements throughout, boss battles seem to rely on being high health meat shields for a challenge. This is a disappointment, especially when comparing to the heart-pounding boss fights of other twin-stick shooters like Enter the Gungeon or Resogun.
The qualities that soured me on the twin-stick shooter are the numerous game-breaking bugs and glitches. One example is the inconsistency of the Magnet Boots. While they are a cool upgrade, I found them not working almost as often as when they did. Failing the Magnet Boot jumps typically ends in death, sending me back to a previous save frustrated. Less extreme, there were times where Delta got trapped inside the walls of the space station, leading to a reset. But the worst is poor level design, where players can unintentionally make choices that soft-lock their save, and therefore need to start a new file. The game also suffers from intense frame rate drops at certain points, which for less patient players, could be the final nail in the coffin. These downsides hurt the overall experience for this Outpost Delta review, but updates could salvage an otherwise fun game.
Graphics & Audio – Limited Originality
The graphics and art style do meet the mark for creating a believable game world. While fans of the genre will immediately notice the inspirations from older games, the pixel art stands on its own. Terrain, objects and enemies all have distinguishable designs, which are important given the limited scope of the game. The dark, neon tones match the moody tone, which brings the futuristic space station to life. However, with most locations utilizing the same style, the graphics can get a bit drab after multiple hours of play. And for a game that does not break the mold graphically, the aforementioned frame rate drops seem especially offensive. Do not expect tons of diverse maps to explore because what you see early on is what you get.
Audio walks a similar path to graphics in that it is original but repetitive. The well-made sound effects of the weaponry, enemies and space station immerse players in the game world. As one may suspect from the atmosphere, the soundtrack is full of heavy, synth melodies, creating a feeling of isolation. Unfortunately, there is not a whole lot of variation to the background music, so players may find it rather bland in the long run. The same area music even plays during a boss fight, which lessens the climax of battle considerably. After reviewing Outpost Delta for Switch, I believe that the graphics and audio check off all the boxes, but I wish there was more variation overall.
Outpost Delta was reviewed on the Nintendo Switch console with a review key provided by Hidden Achievement LLC.