You may have missed it because it arrived so late in the year, but the PlayStation Network-exclusive "Dead Nation" is easily one of the strongest games of 2010. Housemarque, the developer, created a top-down dual-stick zombie shooter that wasn't too far removed from its earlier PSN hit, "Super Stardust HD," but with a much more realistically rendered environment and some RPG-lite features. Next up for Housemarque is "Outland," another PSN release, this one featuring heavily stylized visuals and gameplay that finds common ground with "Castlevania: Symphony of the Night." There's already been quite a bit revealed about the single-player component of the game, but now there's also word on how the game's two co-op modes will shake out.
In "Outland," you play "a nameless, faceless modern-day city dweller haunted by visions of a vast wheel." Unable to rid himself of the images, our hero seeks out a shaman for help. So begins a journey in which you come to learn that the fate of the world is at stake, endangered by a pair of god-like Sisters -- each representing the opposing light and dark energies -- who are pitted against one another in endless battle.
While the gameplay mirrors "Symphony of the Night" in the way your character explores a world filled with increasingly accessible locations as more weapons and tools are unlocked, there is also a tough of "Ikaruga" thrown in for good measure. At any time, players can shift between light and dark energy alignments with the press of a button, absorbing like-colored energy projectiles and unlocking the ability to interact with objects in the world of the same alignment.
You'll need all of that background to understand how the game's co-op mode works. A post on the PlayStation Blog reveals that there are two options for co-op play in "Outland": Story Co-op and Co-op Challenge rooms, with the latter included as part of the former.
In the story mode, two players simply play through the game as a duo instead of as a lone wolf (online only), with either switching between light and dark as needs dictate. Along the way they'll run into portals leading to Challenge Rooms, which play with the game's established rules. In one example provided, a particular Challenge Room relegates all control of alignment-switching for both players to one person. While it may not seem like a big change, managing two health bars in the midst of an "Ikaruga"-style "bullet hell" is no easy task.
"Outland" is shaping up right now for a late-April/early-May release on PSN.