Developer: Simple Machine
Price: $1.99
Version Reviewed: 0.01.1
App Reviewed on: iPhone 5

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★☆☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★½☆☆
Playtime Rating: ★★½☆☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★☆☆

Overall Rating: ★★½☆☆

Update: 8/24/2014, Version 0.01.1
The Outcast is meant to be a community-developed project that will change week-over-week with direct feedback. This review covers a very early prototype of the project. For information and updates, visit SimpleMachine’s Youtube account.

The Outcast is a passive adventure game from Simple Machine. And by “passive,” we mean like, oh wow, really passive.

Passive games – to be more specific, games that trundle along with minimal input from the player – aren’t new. David O’Reilley’s MTN is a recent example of a hands-off game that merely requires players to check in on their self-sustaining “garden” once in a while. While it’s not for everyone, games like MTN work because there’s a sense of progression, as well as a few surprises. Seasons pass, trees grow, fireflies flicker at night and then fade when the morning comes.

outcast_05outcast_04The Outcast, unfortunately, is not as compelling as MTN, nor does it share that game’s sense of natural progression. While its very concept is actually cool (a novel that writes itself via push notifications while players go about their day), the story it weaves is haphazard.

The Outcast‘s story takes place in a post-apocalyptic world that’s been militarized by unnamed forces. The player is a survivor that starts each story with a limited supply of food, water, and health. Different dangers and events cause the player to lose and gain supplies and health. Once health drops to zero, the game is over. If there’s a way to “win,” I haven’t found it; not even after repeated playthroughs. My record is 16 days.

To read the story as it happens, players merely check on their phone when they get a push notification alerting them to an event. Problem is, if the player somehow miss the notification, it’s not repeated in the actual game. In fact, there’s no way to go over the chain of events that occurs with each story, which feels unnatural.

outcast_03outcast_02The Outcast simply feels like a handful of events bound together without rhyme or reason. Sometimes the player is in the city. Sometimes they’re in the country. Then they’re back in the city. There’s no progression. It’s just stumbling into one event after another until the ol’ hit points drain away to nothing.

There’s nothing wrong with The Outcast‘s concept or setting. It just needs an overhaul to give order to its chaotic story. It also needs to let players go back and re-read missed push notifications. But Simple Machine is reportedly working on new stories, so hopefully the flaws marring The Outcast will be filed away in subsequent releases.

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