Outbuddies DX promises to be a classic metroidvania experience including a varied open world, environmental puzzles, multiple ways of movement and interesting boss battles. It manages to deliver all the core metroidvania elements very well with some clear references to the classic Metroid games. The story focuses on an explorer who following a shipwreck gets stuck in a complex system of underwater caverns and ruins of an old city. Using a futuristic underwater suit, a robot sidekick and various gadgets found along the way you have to find your way out while uncovering secrets of a lost civilization.
True to the genre the basic gameplay consists of the player having to navigate through various areas in a 2D platformer fashion while overcoming enemies, environmental hazards and puzzles. The world is broken up into five different biomes each consisting of many small, interconnected areas of varying sizes. Each of the biomes features a unique aesthetic, different enemy types, hazards and each has a boss to defeat.
The player starts off the game with the ability to run, jump, dodge roll, wall jump, crawl as well as swim underwater and soon after unlocks a projectile weapon and an ability to plant bombs with many more combat and exploration oriented upgrades to come. The player is also always accompanied by a floating robot called Buddy which can be controlled and used to safely scout the surroundings, scan the area for secrets, hack the enemies and use telekinesis on movable props.
The platforming gameplay is very solid and easy to control without requiring major finger gymnastics. Platforms have generous collision boxes that let the character climb up an edge if the feet almost reach the surface which made it rare for me to fail a jump that I thought was manageable. The combat meshes well with the platforming allowing for dispatching enemies in various ways and from various angles right from the start and more different options can be unlocked over time.
One low point of the gameplay for me was controlling Buddy to find secrets. With his scanning ability you can find walls that are breakable with bombs and which most of the time hide useful upgrades. The scanning requires to stop moving, switch to Buddy and slowly move along every wall in the area as the breakable walls look just like the regular ones. Having to do this very often hurt the game’s pacing and made it drag a bit. I think this could be fixed by having Buddy passively scan walls as it is passing them while following me around and mark them on the map when they were found. Alternatively they could be slightly hinted at in the environment making finding them easier.
The game has a retro art style reminiscent of NES and SNES games. It does very well at conveying creepy, mysterious and unknown using colours and shapes. Ingame environments range from dark, wet caverns through coral formations and ancient structures to earth’s core. The colour palettes for various areas consist mostly of purple, navy-blue, blue-green and magenta which usually aren’t bright but saturated which contrasts well against very dark, desaturated backgrounds.
Generally the visuals work great for creating an atmosphere and for gameplay with enemies, hazards and interactable objects communicated well. The HUD is also easy to read and menus easy to navigate. However some visuals can be problematic. Some of the enemies can blend in with some environments leading to unexpected damage or deaths. Another thing I found problematic was the map screen with some of the markings counterintuitively indicating locations where I already picked up a power up or an item leading me to backtrack a long way for nothing several times early in the game.
The audio side is very good like the visuals and compliments them perfectly. The background music adds to the mysterious atmosphere without being intrusive and I never got tired of any track. In addition the music swells up with harder sounds when the player is in danger reflecting the character’s state of mind. In terms of sound effects the game also does well at communicating everything without going against the game’s atmosphere by being too arcadey and silly and without clashing with the retro aesthetic by being too gritty and realistic.
During my time with the game I didn’t find any major issues. I tried to play the game in co-op mode several times and tried many things but could never get it to work as my joy-cons would always go back to default single controller mode. Also the controls while not hard to learn can’t be changed and I found some bindings occasionally awkward.
In conclusion the game is very good. It is a great representation of the metroidvania genre which goes back to the roots, has an intriguing, dark, underwater exploration theme and a lot of polish. It has it’s problems but those are overshadowed by a lot of good game design, art and sound ultimately creating a fun and satisfying experience.