SNES A Day 177: Outlander


Approximate Release Month: April 1993
Genre: Action
Developer: Mindscape
Publisher: Mindscape

Outlander is a lot of really cool ideas mashed together in a way that has not aged well at all.

One of the downsides to creating games that are a hybrid of multiple genres is that the different gameplay types aren’t usually as good as would be in games that could dedicate themselves to a smaller set of ideas. That’s true here, too. Outlander tries to mash together Road Rash-style vehicular combat with little side-scrolling action segments. Neither part is worth playing individually; as a whole the game is a slog.

You start Outlander in a car being set upon by goons on motorcycles, so naturally your goal is to drive forward and blow them up. The easiest way to take out the bad guys is to just run them over. Your car has a forward-facing machine gun that is really hard to aim because of the muddy graphics, so that’s not a great option. When bad guys drive up beside you, the shoulder buttons let you fire a shotgun through your windows.

It’s very hectic, especially when you take into account that you are also driving a car! The road twists and turns with a ridiculous number of barriers blocking the road in spots. Managing everything is ridiculous. Your car doesn’t take a lot of punishment, and the stream of roadblocks and bad guys becomes more annoying than anything. And I don’t think the Super Nintendo is doing an okay job handling everything Outlander is trying to do because there’s noticeable slowdown here and there, plus some weird graphical distortion from all the sprite scaling and fake 3D. Keep your eyes on the painted lines on the road and watch them warp.

Eventually, you’ll run out of gas and ammo and will have to pull over. Outlander lets you get out of the car and play some really awful side-scrolling stages to find health, ammo, and fuel. These parts are beyond tedious. You can punch or shoot enemies, and when they die they’ll drop something you need. Just do that over and over until you reach the end. Or die. You’ll probably die.

Outlander is unforgiving. The unending waves of enemies and constantly depleting resources means you’re going to run out of ammo before too long even if you manage to live. Is there a goal? Is there an ending? I don’t know! I never made it too far. The driving half was fun enough though difficult, but I found myself dreading the side-scrolling part. Scavenging for supplies in a post-apocalyptic world was a novel game idea then, so it’s too bad it falls flat.

Too often on SNES A Day I fall into the trap of calling a game “interesting,” which is my Midwesternly passive-aggressive way of saying an awful game could have been better. Outlander fits that perfectly. It’s too ambitious and shoves way too many ideas into the game without being able to make any of it fun.

Tomorrow: It’s another fighting game! It’s Street Combat.

One thought on “SNES A Day 177: Outlander”

  1. This game came out just when I was in the midst of my love of “The Road a Warrior,” which started in elementary school and, well, hasn’t ended for some reason. I wanted to like this game so badly I wasted too much time trying to get better. I thought I just sucked until I read your review. Thank you!

    This was one of the hardest games I played on SNES and could have been the best (given my interest). I think I even rented it twice thinking it would get better!

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