Developed by a very small team, Outbuddies has been ported from its PC origins to consoles, outfitted with a “DX” at the end of the title to distinguish this console release. This is an exploratory adventure, often referred to as a Metroidvania, and wears its inspiration on its sleeve. In fact, the playable character looks like Samus’s second cousin and performs much of the same moves as Nintendo’s bounty hunter.
My biggest suggestion for players of Outbuddies is to stick with it. Admittedly, I got stuck during my initial hour or so of playthrough, getting lost and frustrated with the chunky controls and lack of direction. As I was just about to reach my rage quitting point, I found the one path the game wanted me to take, opening the gameplay to something more pleasurable and fluid. The quest gets better hour after hour with the biggest hurdle coming right out of the gate.
Much like Metroid, players are aware of a story but never really know any details. This is perfectly okay because the gameplay speaks for itself. Playing as some marine biologist, the player is tasked with trying to escape a dangerous underwater world with the help of a floating companion. Uniquely, this buddy will occasional speak to the player to advance the story but is also there to help with environmental puzzle solving by having the ability to scout the landscape ahead or move some blocks to create new paths. If this wasn’t unique enough, the player can take direct control of this companion at any time by using the right analog stick or a second player can hop in to and take direct control throughout the experience. This buddy capability thankfully never really becomes too tedious; these co-op events pop up with just enough frequency to occasionally break up the action.
Outbuddies might look like a Metroid spin-off with a quick glance, right down to the colored walls and mapping system, but the play control isn’t as fluid as the movement of Samus. Here, the playable character moves with a heavy weight despite taking place in an underwater world. Wall jumping, for example, sinks like a stone if not careful and actually took me a while to realize some edges are ladders to climb. Since many parts of the environment are constantly writhing and throbbing as if in pain, it can be difficult to tell what are interactive parts of the foreground and what are non-interactive background elements. The control scheme also carries some complexity that takes some getting use to. In practice, the control scheme makes sense, like having the ability to strafe in water, it just requires a learning curve.
This is not an easy game. The moment to moment level navigation might feature a tricky jump or dastardly enemy placement, but it mostly supports a tough but fair challenge. Bosses, however, are another beast entirely. Skill and patience are require to fell these alien beasts and has potential to quickly find the breaking point of players. The difficulty makes each successful battle that much more satisfying but might be a turn off for some.
Outbuddies DX, with all its little quirks, is ultimately a trial of perseverance that rewards players that have the tenacity to stick with it. This digital download deserves respect and recognition due to the fact it was developed by a very small team over a number of years. It might not be the best Metroidvania but it worth a play through if you can overcome the initial difficulty and learning curve.
Also available on the Nintendo Switch eShop.
Not As Good As: Gato Roboto
Also Try: Xeodrifter
Wait For It: Metroid Prime 4