In Space, No One Can Hear You Scream
I don’t often sit down to write about the demos of games, but Benjy Bates’ Outpost 9 demo is something I actually find myself wanting to write home about, purely because of how well it handles tension and how much of a “thriller movie” it manages to be with nothing more than a bunch of green pixels, some cheesy writing, and a point-and-click interface.
Outpost 9 Demo
The demo’s short, clocking in at maybe 20 minutes, but it left me not only wanting more of Bates’ stylish and tense adventure, but now I’ve got The Thing and Alien queued up to watch tonight before bed.
Design and Graphics
Outpost 9 uses its minimal, distorted, and retro visual style as its strongest tool when trying to harken back to classic thriller flicks. The UI feels like something you’d find in either of the movies; complete with glitches, static, scan lines, and old design philosophies. The bright green can be a bit tiring on the eyes if you’re playing in the dark, and the text can be hard to read at times, but overall the style works. It’s a bit weird that the mouse just uses your normal pointer instead of one that matches the rest of the game’s aesthetic, but it’s an early demo so I can let that slide. 😉
The goal of the Outpost 9 is to escape from whatever space-station-outpost-thing you and your comrades have been trapped in, all the while an alien of unknown origin and undescribed appearance stalks the corridors, hunting you down as you try to solve puzzles and find clues about the truth behind whatever the hell happened here.
Music and Atmosphere
And here’s the touch that really, really drives home the game’s atmosphere – punctuating the dread-inducing music playing in the background is a steady beep; your motion-tracker, giving you a rough estimate of how close the beast is to you. The faster the beep, the more you should panic.
From what I could tell, the beep will only ever get faster after you perform an action. It doesn’t speed up after every action, but it won’t get faster while you’re just standing around thinking. To avoid the alien, you need to head back to the upper vent that’s being used as a “safe” room.
I’m worried that having to run all the way back to the same safe room every time you need to hide will make things feel repetitive if it goes on too long, so I hope there are extra rooms that you can run to and hide in as the game progresses.
There’s not much else to say about Outpost 9, at least from a gameplay perspective. It’s simple and straightforward- solve puzzles, work towards escape, and avoid the monster as best you can. And while the current demo’s really short, it does just enough to pique the player’s interest in whatever the final product will be.
There’s a lot of care and effort put into the design here, and it shows. Personally, I love the idea of games going and emulating the popular movies and media of their developers’ generations. Seeing how classic tropes and stories from other mediums can be molded to apply to games is an interesting cultural phenomenon, one that I think we’re going to see a lot more of as games continue to grow and dev tools become easier to get and work with.
There’s so much potential for games to revisit ideas presented in classic films and books, and I think Outpost 9 is a fantastic example of a game that’s doing just that.
You can find the demo on Gamejolt, here. It’s free, so, uh, just go check it out, yeah?