I don’t know how many of you reading this column ever had to take a typing class, but back in ancient times, I did in high school. The way we learned was by doing; the curriculum involved typing tests in which you typed as quickly and as accurately as possible, and if you met a certain number of correct words, you passed the test. Outshine is like that, but your correct typing results in attacks that lay waste to your enemies. Despite that introduction, trust me that Outshine is shockingly engaging, so if you’ve got some time to spare and wonder what your typing stats are like, you should give it a look.
I’m going to go with describing the game’s presence here because the concept of plot is irrelevant to Outshine. Your avatar is this vaguely humanoid-looking glowy being that is running on some sort of existential track, and enemies drop down onto that track to serve as obstacles. Each enemy features a word above it, and you type that word in order to fire at that enemy.
There is actually an attempt at a plot in the sense that the game slows down at intervals and has you type out complete sentences, but honestly, the inclusion feels a little superfluous.
Outshine, despite the deceptively simple premise, offers a remarkable level of customization that ranges from the casual to the brutally difficult depending on what settings you employ at the beginning of your game. When I say brutal, there’s a setting that you can willingly choose that will guarantee character death with the first damage taken. I don’t know why you’d do that, but I suppose there’s a certain masochistic charm to having the option. You also have the option of setting the word-per-minute difficulty level, which ranges from 20 WPM to 100 WPM.
I type all day, every day, and though I don’t actually know what my real speed is, I can certainly tell you that beginning with 20 WPM was more difficult than I really expected. Outshine never stops, and the only control you have over movement is by moving your character to one side of the track or the other using the corresponding shift keys. Ostensibly, this ability allows you to dodge obstacles, but its practical function is to disrupt your typing flow, adding another level of difficulty to the typing. You also have the option of using the tab key to throw up a shield, but again, doing so will slow down your typing. Each error you make results in damage taken, which if you’ve selected sudden death, means your journey ends right there.
Outshine’s aesthetic is surprisingly attractive, particularly if you enjoyed Tron. The gameplay flows nicely, and yes, the look of the game worked for me. However, if you have difficulty parsing visual inputs, Outshine might be an exercise in frustration for you. The screen gets very chaotic very quickly.
The game’s audio is fine, as far as I remember, but honestly, I was just trying to type as quickly as possible. The whole experience did take me back to my ancient keyboard classes. The heart of Outshine is, of course, the words it employs, and y’all, I have three graduate degrees. I thought I had a pretty solid vocabulary, but some of the words the game threw at me came out of left field’s left field. I’m the sort of nerd that would have loved to have jotted them down to look up later, but the game simply moves too fast.
Outshine also defaults to American English spellings, which, if you’ve been accustomed to spelling “armour” with the “u,” might throw you. Outshine doesn’t give you the option of selecting which version of English the game will use, a choice that both makes sense and doesn’t. On the one hand, Outshine relies on you being able to type what you see quickly and accurately, so in that sense, the spelling of the word shouldn’t really matter. However, in terms of actual gameplay, you end up relying on your brain to fill in the letters that you’re typing rather than parsing everything you’re seeing. The ability to anticipate the spelling does actually make a difference.
Given the game’s description, I didn’t expect to enjoy Outshine as much as I did, the chaotic visuals and strange words notwithstanding. Yes, Outshine teaches accurate touch-typing, but I guarantee that even if you think you can already type, Outshine will prove to you otherwise. With the difficulty modifiers, I suspect that Outshine offers something for every skill level, and it’s refreshing that the game offers that level of challenge. Outshine’s fast pace and engaging boss fights should keep you coming back for more.
Outshine retails for an eminently reasonable $12.99 on Steam.
Stray Thoughts From Behind the Keyboard
- I do wish I’d paid more attention to the story elements. There’s a thing where you break out of a tube, and despite typing the sentences, I honestly don’t remember what it was all about.
- You can change the keybindings for your movement and shield abilities, which I ended up doing, based on where they worked best for my hands.
- There’s a missile attack button. It’s as awesome as it sounds.