Review: Insomniac Games makes its Facebook debut with Outernauts, a smart social take on Pokémon
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, the advances of Insomniac Games will leave Nintendo rosy-cheeked. Outernauts may be coated in a space-age theme, but beneath the lavish costumes and intergalactic travel, sheer love for Pokémon resides.
This isn’t criticism. The decision to implement a copycat battle system, which forces you to hunt down and capture the universe’s deadliest creatures, provides the game with a strong base to build on. After choosing your original beast, a decent selection of tutorials sums up the basics, before whisking you off to a foreign planet. It doesn’t quite have the same effect as meeting Professor Oak for the first time, but things move on so quickly that you won’t have time to care.
Plenty of missions become available early on, as the developer aims to satisfy all types of players. After establishing your homeland, you’re advised to build a fuel pump and laboratory. These provide vital resources, such as energy for exploration, and petrol to power your spaceship. Both are essential for progress to take place. Building is quick and easy, but you’ll have to save plenty of in-game coins to unlock other helpful structures. Training dojos and armouries are useful additions, but if you’re not willing to part with real cash, they’ll take a little time to unlock.
Thankfully, this model doesn’t interrupt play too much. A variety of objectives are almost always available, meaning there’s usually a task to be getting on with. The game’s biggest hindrance comes in the form of the energy system, which depletes every time you dig, battle or create items. This quickly runs down, and if you haven’t got money on your side, the only remedy is time. Waiting an hour or so will let you continue, but it can be frustrating if you’re in the middle of looting a planet and your character suddenly falls asleep.
It’s annoying because each world is interesting to explore. A plethora of creepy, cute and ridiculous characters await your attention, providing a sense of unknown that continues to entice. When you’re loaded with gravity balls (the game’s equivalent of a Pokéball), it’s thrilling to enter alien territory on the lookout for new additions to your team.
Turn-based battles can take place with up to three critters each side, so it’s a fine idea to bolster your ranks early. Each encounter runs smoothly and, for the most part, conflict is balanced. If you’re looking to challenge one of the game’s main characters, a small amount of time will need to be spent grinding. Usually, a couple of battles is enough to guarantee a fair fight, but combined with the energy system, this can be problematic if you don’t want to wait.
Despite this, Outernauts flaunts a surprising amount of charm. The cartoon style complements a title that evokes a sense of nostalgia without ever feeling outdated. Insomniac has produced a well-rounded game that might jog a few treasured memories and have you hunting down that old Charizard shiny.