Outer Terror Co-op Review
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Outer Terror Co-op Review

This Vampire Survivors-like is quite spooky, but the local co-op could be better.

Since its debut a few years ago, Vampire Survivors from Poncle has sparked a huge following and created its own genre: the Vampire Survivors-like, a subset of the roguelike genre in which player characters automatically attack while being swarmed by huge hordes of enemies. One of the many games to follow in Poncle’s footsteps is Outer Terror from Salt & Pixel & VoxPop Games. Outer Terror and its ilk face an uphill battle in that they will inevitably be compared against the game that inspired them, a game that continues to receive updates and command a loyal following. This one nearly justifies its existence with its cool horror theme and 2.5D perspective, but it fumbles in the important areas of approachability and user experience.

Outer Terror Xbox

Outer Terror consists of five seemingly disconnected levels (here called “volumes”) that can be played in any order. Each one begins with a quick digital comic-like intro sequence, and the narrative will progress through short, rough cinematics during the level. The stories involve spooky events like suburban residents turning into Lovecraftian monsters, an underground plant in which aliens process humans for food, a woman’s quest to meet the spirit of her dead sister, and more. There are spelling and grammar issues, but the text is generally understandable. Although the lack of an obvious connection between the stories diminishes the cohesion of the overall product, the dark vibes of each volume (and thus, the game itself) are appealing.

Before starting a level, players will select from ten characters (two from the story of each level). Each character has a unique starting weapon and possibly different stats, but you wouldn’t know that from the character select screen. The only things it displays are character names and portraits, so you can’t tell what someone will play like until you try them. This is one of several instances in which the developers have failed to do something as well as Vampire Survivors despite having that successful blueprint readily available. A bad character select screen doesn’t bring the game down, but those papercuts start to add up after a while.

Outer Terror Xbox Character Select

The basic gameplay is quite like Vampire Survivors in that hordes of increasingly dangerous enemies will constantly attack the players, players constantly fire at regular intervals, and leveling up will allow players to select from three weapons or upgrades that stay with them for the rest of the run. One big difference is that Outer Terror allows players to manually aim their primary weapons via the right analog stick. You don’t have to aim, but doing so makes things easier since you can carve pathways and focus on imminent threats. Manual aiming is a relatively small deviation from the established formula, but it adds to the fun and survival horror feel of the game. Dead bodies on the ground can be searched for consumable items, and characters can also use dashes and special moves that recharge over time.

Outer Terror Xbox

The other major gameplay difference is the objective-based structure of the levels. Instead of simply trying to survive for a set length of time, each level has its own story-based objectives. In one level, players will search for a road, then for a scientist, and eventually enemy spawn points to torch. Completing all of those goals will cause a big boss to appear, its defeat necessary to beat the level. Another level has players navigating a strange maze between two planes of existence. That navigation was painful, but I did eventually finish the level. Sometimes, however, the objectives are poorly communicated, making them difficult or impossible to complete without seeking outside help (of which there exists precious little). In the Grey Hell level, I spent ten boring minutes fighting a badly rendered polygonal boss before I just gave up and died. The game didn’t communicate the win condition or even whether I was hurting the big monstrosity. It’s possible that the game had just glitched, as we definitely encountered progression-stopping glitches in another level.

Outer Terror Xbox

The audiovisual front is a mixed bag. The character selection and cinematic artwork looks good. During gameplay, however, the character sprites lack definition. Many of the enemies, in particular, don’t look like anything. Those nondescript blobs of nothing just aren’t as enjoyable to fight as the more capably drawn foes of Vampire Survivors. Polygonal background elements are too rudimentary to be attractive. They also have pop-up/fade-in problems on Xbox. The 2.5D angled camera is a plus to my eyes, but the sprites and backgrounds aren’t up to snuff. I also recommend turning off the ugly CRT filter that is on by default. As for sound, the music is creepy but repetitive.

Progression between runs is important to roguelikes in general. Here, enemies sometimes drop money when they die. If the heroes beat a level, they get to keep all the money they picked up. If they die, they only get a reduced payout. Money can be spent on upgrades outside of runs. The upgrade menu is ugly, however, with tiny text and a lack of artistry. There aren’t that many weapons and upgrades to buy, so they’ve been made fairly expensive and grindy to compensate.

Outer Terror Xbox

Outer Terror has always supported 2-player local co-op, and thus, it seems to have beaten Vampire Survivors to the punch on that front. When playing co-op, both players start with half health instead of full health. This is probably meant to balance the difficulty somehow, but it’s a truly terrible idea. Health is too hard to refill, and nobody wants to start out close to death. The second player can wander off-camera if they’re not paying attention, so it’s important to stick together. When either player dies, there is no way to revive them. The lack of a respawn mechanic really kills the fun potential of playing with a partner.

It’s hard to outright recommend a clone when the original game is so much better. True, Vampire Survivors is so financially successful that smaller indie developers could hardly create as refined a product. Still, Outer Terror suffers from a lot of obvious jankiness that its creators have never gotten around to fixing, and that can’t solely be attributed to team size. If you can look past those rough edges, Outer Terror manages to distinguish itself with its cool horror atmosphere and the novel camera angle. For fans of the genre with sufficient patience, this one worth considering.

Outer Terror Xbox

Outer Terror sells for $9.99 on XboxPlayStationSwitch, and Steam. The Steam version is Steam Deck compatible.

Download codes for Xbox and Steam were provided by the publisher.


Co-Op Score

The Co-Op Experience: In co-op games, both players start with half health for some reason. The camera follows the first player, and the second player can leave the screen if they're not careful. When a player dies, they cannot be revived.

Co-Optimus game reviews focus on the cooperative experience of a game, our final score graphic represents this experience along with an average score for the game overall. For an explanation of our scores please check our Review Score Explanation Guide.