|Source // RetroCollect|
I couldn't tell you what kind of game Out Zone was even if you paid me. It rings no bells, its name gives off no impression, I simply don't have a clue what I'm in for.
Turns out that it's a kind of bullet hell twin stick (but not twin stick) arcade shooter. Cyborg soldiers must repel an alien invasion in the distant future of 2097. Who'd have guessed that? Sounds great - looks great. Let's jump in.
Wow. Just. Hoo boy. Tough game, this.
Out Zone can be played online, and that's how I played it. I say 'played', I definitely controlled it to the best of my ability, but a keyboard was not the intended input method for this game. It is brutal - this invasion force isn't messing around and, sadly, the Earth and all who live on it will be consumed by this alien threat so long as I am in charge of its defence.
This is the only screenshot I managed to get from my time playing it, and I think I'm a few frames away from death even here. What is going on with this game?
You have movement in eight directions, and the screen will scroll with you such that you can take things at your own pace - to a certain extent. That's fine by me because the first few enemies seem to want to come to meet me anyway.
So you fire your gun and it'll fire in the direction you face unless you change direction while firing, at which point it'll spray out a few shots in an arc, exactly as you'd imagine a weapon firing as its wielder turned suddenly to fire somewhere else. Then it hits you. This is how you're probably going to have to deal with enemies: by swivelling side to side as you move in order to spray your shots over a much bigger area. All while dodging incoming fire. A LOT of incoming fire. Certainly for the first twenty seconds of a game at least.
There is a limited use clear-the-screen weapon. It was the only thing that allowed me to get to the first checkpoint, which was a few steps below me in the screenshot there. I collected a power-up that changed my weapon into this more useful spread weapon, but a more limiting one in that now I could only fire towards the top of the screen - until I walked over another power-up to switch back to my first weapon (you know, if I could ever get to that other power-up...).
There may be a weapon switch button, I'm not sure. I died before finding out. I died a lot. I've seen maybe 30 seconds of this game. It's ridiculous.
But damn does it look good, and doesn't it sound awesome too? I need to be watching an expert playing in order to know that for sure, but even from my pathetic attempts I had a hunch that Out Zone would impress.
It looks so crisp and polished, and figuring out which elements of the screen are dangerous and which are just part of the background is a piece of cake - you just need the reaction times in your fingers to match those in your head. Mine don't.
Stages end with boss fights to mix up the action, but it is still run, dodge, shoot, run some more, dodge some more, shoot some more. A lot more. Don't stop moving, because your energy will slowly tick down, and once that runs out, that's it.
I had to resort to watching Out Zone, but I'm glad I did. I wouldn't say it's bright and colourful, but it's certainly vibrant, both visually and audibly.
I can comfortably zone out while watching Out Zone. Sounds strange. I'm engaged with the action, I just can't comprehend how someone can do all that, and I'm left to simply go with it and enjoy it, and I'm enjoying it.
As ever, it'd be nice if I were far better than I am at it to really see what it's about, but until then, I can recommend Out Zone on its presentation at least.
You probably won't have heard of developers Toaplan, but it was their 1989 title Zero Wing that - when ported to the Sega Mega Drive and translated... to some degree... - would become known as the game that spawned the 'All Your Base' meme. Move Zig indeed.
Out Zone, developed by Toaplan, first released in 1990.
Version played: Arcade, 1990, via emulation.
Version watched: Arcade, 1990 (World of Longplays)