How Metroidvania is it? Medium Fit. While the level structure and progression is exactly what you’d want from a Metroidvania, ''combat'' is handled in a very unusual way.
Primary Challenge: Exploration Focus
Time to beat: ~5 hours
Review Info: Visual Out was played on Steam.
Buy Visual Out if you like…
- Abstract concepts
- Unusual Puzzles
- Cryptic Storytelling
- Interesting Exploration
- Artistic Expression
▼ Review continues below ▼
Visual Out is very weird and hard to describe – though I’m going to make my best attempt at doing so. It’s pretty easy to recommend to anyone looking for something completely new. On that same token though it had me questioning whether or not “weird” equated to “fun”. Eventually novelty fades away for just about everything, and while Visual Out might be the gaming equivalent of an abstract painting, it still uses the same shapes that make up everything else.
The most novel thing about Visual Out is that it avoids traditional combat entirely, opting instead for the sort of puzzle fights you’d expect from a typical Zelda game. Your first power – the “Current” – is this line that extends from your stick figure’s hand just slowly enough that I can’t call it a whip. If the line connects with a compatible object you can move the object anywhere you can see on the screen. Objects function exactly as normal, so if you “plug-in” to an enemy, it will still shoot at you or drop its bombs – or whatever it normally does. So early on in the game your task is to passive-aggressively shove enemies into innocuous locations so you can get where you want without taking damage.
This unusual approach to enemy encounters gets built upon nicely as you progress. You get this “Jammer” power that creates a negative space in your immediate area, and enemies that enter this negative space start functioning differently. Often when “jammed”, they do the opposite thing from what they were doing before. Enemies that would create large pixels on the screen will start removing them, letting you pass through blocked corridors. Poison bottles will start producing items that give you energy. It’s very similar to the “glitch gun” from Axiom Verge in the sense that every enemy has two states you can deal with, except as mentioned before your goal isn’t really to eliminate your foes, just to avoid them or use them to your advantage.
Bosses of course are the exception to this idea of passive-aggressive combat. Each one is a puzzle that requires you to use the powers you’ve found to take them apart. Most of them are pretty straight forward, but two in particular might have you stumped for a few deaths. Generally the bosses are satisfying to figure out; even if once you’ve solved the puzzle it might feel like some drag on a bit.
While the Current power and the Jammer power are the core of the gameplay, there are traditional Metroidvania movement powers as well – such as the obligatory double jump and a dash ability. All of these come together to create a very well-constructed Metroidvania world to explore, which is definitely the best and most memorable part of Visual Out. In fact, I’d say that it’s the game’s core challenge. The voice that constantly talks to your avatar and the data logs around the computer space give this sense of mystery that drives you to keep moving forward – and it’s that kind of mystery that is fun to discuss on forums about what it all really means. Visual Out’s also uses a power supply accessed through on/off switches in the world to change your route through the game world. This combined with your weird ability to manipulate enemies provides a smart and well-designed Metroidvania space. I believe that keeping exploration challenging is why Madameberry Games decided to not show your position on the game’s map by default.
At save points you’re given a miniature map that shows where you are, but when you’re actually navigating the world your more complete start menu map just shows the layout without telling you which room you’re in. If you’ve played Hollow Knight and tried to navigate the world without wearing the Compass Charm, you’ll know what this is like. However unlike Hollow Knight where the friendly humming cartographer gives you a map full of environmental markers you can use to orient yourself, Visual Out’s map is more like Super Metroid’s where you’re only given squares to represent the rooms. This means if you really want to keep track of where you’ve been, you may want to screenshot the in-game map and paste it into MS Paint so you can draw your position any time you make a screen transition. I remain neutral on this design decision, because I think it can be fun to test your memory – and even use paper – but some might argue that the game would be better if it just did this for you.
Generally the world layout is good enough that I didn’t feel like I needed the map for a non 100% playthrough. However, in the late game they require you to explore the whole world in order to progress which made this design slightly frustrating. The final “puzzle” you need to solve requires you to enter 3 symbols into this screen, and the only way to know which symbols to use is to enter one of six rooms which might have a symbol. I suspect it’s all random making it impossible to use a guide, and since there are so many options for symbols, it’s unreasonable to solve it through brute force. I hesitate to call this a “puzzle” since it really equates to a scavenger hunt – and honestly I think that’s fine for a game where exploration is the focus. It’s just that aforementioned less-than-useful map that made it a bit of a pain. I personally stumbled across two symbols and had wandered more than I was willing to tolerate, so I guessed the final symbol through a trial and error process of trying the 24 remaining symbols one at a time (I ended up trying 22 of them before getting the right one.) Thus, when trying to answer the question of whether Visual Out’s brand of “Weird” equates to “Fun”, stuff like this makes me hesitate to give it the highest score. I also feel like the puzzles are not clever enough to recommend it to those looking for the kind of intellectual challenge that something like La-Mulana could provide.
With that said, Visual Out is for the most part fun to traverse. In terms of atmosphere, there’s nothing quite like it. I think that if you liked the cryptic nature of the narrative in games like Axiom Verge, Hollow Knight, or the From Software Souls games, and would like to see a game centered around only that story-telling aspect, you might find Visual Out appealing. Even if you just want to see something completely different, I give Visual Out a recommendation.
''Combat'' is puzzle-like similar to Zelda bosses. Enemies are generally to be avoided rather than defeated.
Not really a challenge of the game, though there is some platforming involved
Easily the best part of the game. The map does not show where you are however so it's like Hollow Knight without the compass
Sort of the game's main focus. One puzzle in particular makes me not want to score this one any higher - Check out the full review for details
Cryptic, and I honestly didn't get a lot out of it. Seems like there might be some secrets I didn't unlock though
Graphics are an excellent choice for the kind of game that this is trying to be.
Moody, ambient music that again, is excellent for the kind of game this is. Not something I'd listen to outside of the game
Might be some secrets hidden in the game? Other than that not much reason to repeat it
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All Time: Positive
(90% of 11 Reviews)