New genre for us this time. Did somebody say TYPING? No? Oh ok, bummer… Yeah well ok, ok, ok, this will knock your socks off. What if typing game meets infinite runner meets bullet hell? When I was younger I really got a kick out of the Typing of the Dead, and so I was VERY excited to try this one out. And my goodness is this one pretty easy to get into and it’s really addictive. It’s an auto runner, but you have influence over which “lane” you’re in to maneuver, although that aspect I gotta touch on.
You have to use the left and right shift keys to move, which if you’re using HOME keyboard position, means you gotta rely on those pinkies to keep your typing unobstructed. I ended up yielding some sense of optimization and set my arrows to move, which had me repositioning myself and completely moving out of position from typing until I felt safe to return. There is also the tab key to put up a slowly depleting shield, and honestly, I really don’t know the optimal setup for keybindings, but I just know I could never get it to feel 100% natural. But that’s mostly a nitpick that I think is almost assuredly a feature, not a bug, and intended by the developers to be a part of the natural learning curve and challenge of the game. There are a good level of difficulty levers to mess around with: I was playing on the second to highest difficulty for the most part, but switched down to one lower whenever a boss was stonewalling me. I think the novelty and simplicity of its gameplay loop really makes Outshine, well, shine.
This typing game definitely FEELS like one: enemies have words associated with them, though I swear some of them feel completely nonsensical. Typing the words to completion eliminates that baddie, and clears the way for you to reach the end of the stage. Outside of moving and deploying a slowly depleting rechargeable shield, you have a limited number of screen nuking missiles that can help you in a pinch. There’s something sooo satisfying of typing at max speed and mowing down hordes of polygonal TRON beings, that’s the best I got to describe them hahaha. You have lives to carry you across three levels before you finish out a stage with a boss. Mechanically, the game also pulls inspiration from on-rails shooters and a bit of bullet hell, especially when bosses throw a bunch of waves of letters or words at you to dodge or type.
One aspect I did find a bit inconsistent and annoying was for the most part, when you start typing a word on the screen, but switch letters that would start another, you immediately switch to the new enemy. But against bosses, I would find myself stuck on a word, unable to type letters or other words until I completed the one I was on. This would cause situations where I wouldn’t be able to defend myself despite actively typing the letters that were coming my way. I would come in with full health going in, and just feel utterly helpless when the targeting would get stuck and I’d take a bunch of damage for no reason.
A lot of the level design seems predicated on make players multitask their inputs, whether it’s moving or typing many words in succession. When it flows properly, and you’re able to chain destroy like-colored enemies for maximum points, the game is at its best and it’s super fun albeit stressful! But at its worse it feels like it’s sucker punching you if you aren’t ready for things to suddenly jump in front of you, for example. Overall, presentation is pretty basic and streamlined, with basically a single story mode that doubles as a leaderboard chaser. There’s little bits of melodramatically written backstory that you type at the end of each level, which I found simple, yet oddly charming. Enemy designs themselves are mostly distinguishable by color, but later on start having new properties, new movement options, and other abilities such as spawning MORE blocky bois.
Honestly that’s kinda it: the game is unapologetically minimalist, but knows exactly what it wants to be and executes near perfectly. I will say that the weird targeting at times, as well as the controls can be an uphill battle to deal with, but the sheer flexibility in terms of the difficulty modifiers compensates a lot. The art style isn’t amazing, but it gets the job done and fits the music very well for this cool, synthwave vibe. Gets the seal from me.
A review copy was provided by the devs
Hellfirebam has proudly awarded Outshine the Indie Gamer Seal of Approval.