Sawbuck Gamer

Outernauts

A Space Odyssey

You already know Outernauts because you’ve already played it.

By Derrick Sanskrit • August 28, 2012

Sawbuck Gamer is our daily review of a free or cheap ($10 or less) game.

Sometimes combining things is a great idea, like the peanut butter and chocolate of Reese’s cups or the lemonade and iced tea of Arnold Palmers. Sometimes it’s just okay, like the Bright Eyes/My Morning Jacket supergroup, Monsters of Folk. Or like Outernauts, the Facebook debut from Insomniac Games which combines resource gathering of the Farmville variety with the story of a standard role-playing game and Pokémon-style combat. It certainly feels like the “throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks” school of design, but play sessions are the same as any other Facebook game: play for a little while, run out of energy, ask your Facebook friends for help, come back a few hours later, repeat forever. The axiom is that these games are always “better” when your friends are also playing (which is, in fairness, the whole point of having games on a social network to begin with) and that, as in all freemium games, you get better gear if you pay real money.

As far as Facebook games go, Outernauts is at least an extremely well-polished plea for your time and/or money. It doesn’t change the paradigm of social network gaming, but then, nobody should expect it to do so. Insomniac made their name on console series (Spyro The Dragon, Ratchet & Clank, Resistance) that weren’t all that different from the competition. Those games were just well-made and generally fun, which are two of the best things that we can reasonably expect games to be. As such, Outernauts might just represent the most well-reasoned item on your Facebook wall because seriously, people, half of those memes don’t even make sense.

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207 Responses to “A Space Odyssey”

  1. Aurora Boreanaz says:

    I will never, EVER play another freakin’ game with an energy meter attached.  That is the #1 reason I boycotted all of Zynga’s games except Words With Friends.  I don’t need an artificial timer telling me how long I can play a game, because I already have one – it’s called FREE TIME.

    “Hey, Aurora, check out this fun new game!  Here’s a quest to click on these ten things.  OOPS, sorry, you can only click on five of them now, then you have to wait a half hour.  OR you can spam your friends to start playing so they can experience the fun too!  And then you can play for maybe ten more clicks before hitting the energy wall again.  Are you having fun yet?  Here, help this space cow find a home by spamming your friends some more!”

    Yes, this is a major irritant to me.  Sorry.

    • George_Liquor says:

      Believe me, I quite understand. I hate those damn freemium games, and the constant stream of obnoxious invites they spew onto Facebook. I don’t see how a business model based on constant irritation could possibly be sustainable.

      • Aaron Riccio says:

        Nicely put, although I admit that I’m still playing Hidden Chronicles. Then again, I’ve got enough patience to not be frustrated. I play a little, and then I don’t. 

        The timer isn’t the issue nearly as much as the having to pester friends for items, or, to a larger extend, having all of your annoying requests recorded on Facebook itself, cluttering up what you might want to be a more pristine and flattering Timeline/self-portrait.

  2. Free-to-Play Makes-me-Rage!

    But seriously, has anyone other than Team Fortress 2 done Free-to-Play right?

    Also, subtracting 12 hipster points for neglecting to mention M. Ward as an integral part of Monsters of Folk.

  3. Raging Bear says:

    No wonder the latter Resistance and Ratchet games have been so half-assed. Insomniac were pouring all their creative resources into shuffling gently into the ranks of thousands of identical facebook developers. Way to go, gang!

    Seriously, Insomniac pisses me off. They used to be one of the few developers I came to know by name for their consistent high quality, then they started this campaign of aggressively doing whatever everyone else was doing but not quite as well, of which this fucking facebook nonsense appears to be the perfect culmination. What a ridiculous waste.

    • Arthur Chu says:

      That happens if you stay up too long without getting a good night’s sleep.

      • Aurora Boreanaz says:

        I’m surprised their games don’t involve more aura hallucinations and little bald doctors.

      • Raging Bear says:

        Oddly enough, it took me way more seconds than it should have to get this because I slept really badly last night.

    • WORDS CAN’T EVEN DESCRIBE HOW DISAPPOINTED I AM IN INSOMNIAC GAMES. ALL CAPS FOR RIGHTEOUS ANGER.

      Seriously, though, Insomniac Games began screwing up with Ratchet & Clank: Tools of Destruction and Resistance 2. Both were, at their core, great games, but the flaws were there that would be expanded upon in the follow-ups.

      R&C’s main draw was its awesome cast of characters, especially with the villains. But they got really lazy, focusing on Qwark and Nefarious like their VOs were dying of some kind of disease and they needed to squeeze out their voices before they croaked. Resistance 2 I kinda liked, and had a lot of stuff they could had build upon for R3, but the 2 weapon setup and other minor issues held it back.

      Then R&C: Crack in Time comes out, which, AGAIN, stars Nefarious, who is beyond annoying at this point. The story is a lot of fun, but damn, they don’t even bring back the robot pirates to mix things up. It’s a fine game, but that follows up with All-4-One, the most ill-advised multiplayer game in existence and YET FUCKING AGAIN involves Qwark and Nefarious. Where’s Drek? Angela? Sasha? The Galactic President? Also… multiplayer?

      I don’t quite understand why IG lost so much faith in the story it was telling – it was fun, expansive, crazy, exciting, and surprisingly deep. Now this new game, Full Frontal Assault, has tower defense? It’s like they’re looking for ways to end this potential series.

      And, man, Resistance 3… holy shit, was that a disappointment. Other than that one cut-scene speech the main character gives when he’s all alone in that bunker, that game was a half-assed clone of Half-Life and Halo. The only interesting level was the prison, and they didn’t even bother to build upon that. What a bunch of shit.

      How and why did IG get so lazy? They have so much potential, especially nowadays, and they let it squander.

      tl;dr Insomniac Game made fun, clever games, then got lazy and made either rehashes or stole shit from other, superior games without doing anything interesting with it.

      • rvb1023 says:

         What’s with all the R3 hate?  That was the best one in the series.  I’ll agree Ratchet and Clank went downhill (A Crack in Time was still pretty good) but R3 was pretty much the swan song.  And Overstrike doesn’t look terrible either.

        Also, given that Half-Life hasn’t done anything in 5 years it’s not a terrible thing for someone to give us something similar (Though I still miss a lot of the comparisons, Resistance is far more combat focused).  Yeah, it sucks that the series identity was lost along the way but given that identity only lasted one game it’s not like R2 was far worse and more disappointing.

        • Raging Bear says:

          I do think R2 was far worse, and that R3 improved on 2 in some ways but was worse in others, and that neither of them hold a candle to the first.

          They made one fantastically well-executed FPS, then said “wait a minute, Resistance isn’t nearly enough like absolutely every single other sci-fi shooter ever made,” so for R2 they made the chimera into any-shaped boogeymen, took away your weapons, and gave you squadmates to yammer idiotically in your ear nonstop.

          Then for R3, they thought “ok, now it’s just like every other sci-fi shooter ever made, but it isn’t nearly enough like Call of Duty,” so they strung together a sequence of set pieces, on-rails segments and other equally uncreative contrivances in lieu of proper FPS design.

          And the story…I’m not even going to talk about the story. I’m too upset already.

        • Pretty much everything Raging Bear said. While I think I kinda like R2 over R3 (the huge war-esque battles were awesome; it kinda felt like indeed being part of something bigger), the story did get ridiculous, and the various on-rails shooter segment, the OBVIOUS Ravenholm knock-off level, and the lengthy snow level that went to no where at the end was cloying, lazy, and silly.

          It’s a solid FPS, but IG is capable of SO much more, only if they put a little more thought into it. It could’ve been as cool as the severely underrated Singularity, but ultimately is a Frankenstien of Halo, Call of Duty, and Half-Life – which isn’t bad, but, in this day and age, a company as creative as IG shouldn’t be stooped to something so derivative. There’s a reason they stopped making new games for that IP.

  4. Aaron Riccio says:

    And didn’t the once-fun (and perhaps still-fun) Spyro franchise become the ultimate kiddie cash cow with the whole “Buy Real Objects To Insert Into Your Fake Game” (sort of Disgaea-like)? Succeeding where The Eye of Judgement failed and where Yu-Gi-Oh shied back from? 

    • Deceleration Waltz says:

       Well, the Spyro series hasn’t been in Insomniac’s hands since the Playstation era.

  5. Deceleration Waltz says:

    The original Spyro trilogy was godly. Glorious, iridescent environments with well-crafted platforming and hand-tailored music by Stewart Copeland? Sign me the fuck up! I couldn’t even touch 3D platforming again until Super Mario Galaxy came out.

  6. woca397 says:

     http://al.ly/OwB