It has been decades since the Super Nintendo gave us some of the most enthralling 16-bit titles that still enamor fans even to this day. Luckily for retro-lovers with a penchant for nostalgia, the indie gaming community has stepped up to the challenge of making play-alike titles that capture that nostalgic feel, but add their own brand new twists. Enter, OUTBUDDIES, a very Super Metroid feeling action-platformer by developer Julian Laufer. Clear your palate as our OUTBUDDIES review is ready to give you a sizable helping of the past.
As a waylaid seamen, you are stranded in a cavernous underground, rampant with dangerous creatures, mysterious power-ups, and friendly ewok-like citizens known as the Wozan. As you regain your footing in this new world, your main focus is to find out what happened, and of course, survive. With you is a BUDDY unit, a technological marvel that is a necessity if you plan on traversing the precarious world you find yourself in. From the world to the expressions on your BUDDY unit, everything is depicted in 16-bit splendor, which is a blessing and a curse in some situations.
From the moment you step into the world of OUTBUDDIES, it isn’t even remotely hard to see the similarities between it and Nintendo’s titular Super Metroid. The movement is incredibly similar, the way you utilize your blaster, the power-ups you obtain and even some of the enemies a reminiscent of the Metroid series. Laufer even goes so far as to make the layout of the map similar, in that it is very nonlinear, which provides a challenge as you find your way through section after section of spike filled caverns and underwater corridors. In the early game, you get treated to several pieces of equipment that any Metroid player would be familiar with. Not only do you start with a blaster, but it quickly becomes an upgraded blaster with a charge ability. Soon, you find a bomb that is eerily similar to the time-delayed roll bomb of Metroid.
For all intents and purposed, OUTBUDDIES would be a near-identical homage save for some pretty cool additions, including, but not limited to, your BUDDY! With your mechanical friend, you have the ability to search areas, scout ahead as well as mark and move certain blocks which will aid players in completing puzzles and finding secrets. You can also have a real-life buddy join you in local co-op, with one player taking on the explorer, and the other taking on the BUDDY, which is something that Metroid never had. Another fantastic addition is that OUTBUDDIES is challenging but less punishing than other games. While I was not a fan of having to find a checkpoint every time I wanted to save my progress, I did like that, if I died, I would start back at the entrance to the section I was in, instead of having to reload the game entirely. One other important feature to take note of is that OUTBUDDIES also has achievements that players can earn. It’s no secret that Super Metroid, while great, lacked real replayability, but the achievement system does give players a reason to revisit OUTBUDDIES aside from “just another play through”.
Not everything is perfect in the world of OUTBUDDIES. Due to the 16 bit graphics and the way some enemies are designed, they blend into the background really well, which makes them hard to see. Whether this was a design feature to make the game harder or just something that happened, it’s still a nuisance that I find myself dealing with often. In addition, OUTBUDDIES plays much better with a controller over the mouse and keyboard. I enjoyed making my way through the Steam version, but I could see myself enjoying this much more on a Nintendo Switch, which it is also available on. Still, OUTBUDDIES is a retro lover’s dream, bringing back a lot of the old, with a dash of new that is certain to delight fans of the Retroid-vania genre for oodles of hours.