Out There Somewhere

words manifested by: AJ Johnson

A game by MiniBoss for PC and Mac, originally released in 2012.
Out There Somewhere begins with a distress call from a space station orbiting the Mother Planet. The station has fallen under attack from Grigori’s army. Grigori is a traitor to the Mother Planet, but he has proven himself to be incredibly resilient, having survived multiple spaceship crashes and even a blast from a disruptor ray, which left him with a cartoonish hole straight through the middle of his body. A lone hero named Yuri departs on his spacecraft to save the day.

And so it begins, not as a platformer, but as a shmup. As Yuri’s ship cruises through space, the player must shoot down enemy fighters, rockets, and larger ships. There are some powerup capsules to be found along the way, which will upgrade your double shot into a weapon that splits into 4 shots. Grabbing another one gives you a wide spread with 4 shots in the front and another pair behind it.

Unlike other shmups, your bullets actually cancel out enemy bullets, so it’s often safe to just sit in front of your enemy and fire away, allowing your increased payload to do the talking. Not only that, but you can take several hits before your ship is destroyed, and your weapon power is not decreased when you take damage.

Eventually you come up against what appears to be a boss. This is Grigori’s ship. It can send out rockets and huge bullet sprays from the center (again, being canceled by your own projectiles), or it can unleash an unblockable super beam from one of the ports above or below the ship. But try as you might, you cannot defeat him. As you learn later, Grigori’s ship can only be destroyed with a Lightorb, which you do not possess. In the end, your ship will be shot down, and you will crash land on the planet below. This is where your puzzle-platforming adventure truly begins.

Yuri appears very tiny in relation to the screen, but the game world is made up of interconnected single-screen environments, so the character’s small size means that the surrounding environments and puzzles can be more complex. Yuri has a floaty 4x non-variable jump and the ability to change direction in midair, but those aren’t his only tools for environmental exploration…

Yuri possesses a Teleport Gun, and its use is key to solving the environmental puzzles throughout the game. The gun is limited to only shooting left or right, and when the projectile strikes a solid object, Yuri is teleported to that location. As simple as that sounds, there are a number of advanced techniques that you’ll need to learn in order to be successful, and you’ll need to master them rather quickly.

The game’s first screen is the crash site, where you will learn of your basic objective to find a Lightorb and repair your ship. On the second screen, you will learn about jumping. On the third, you will learn about the basic teleportation functions. By the fourth screen, you will be required to perform midair falling teleport in order to avoid being burned alive in lava, and it just gets more complex from there.

Checkpoints are frequent – appearing in every room or every other room – so you’ll rarely lose much progress when you die. This lack of penalty encourages exploration and experimentation, both of which are required for success. One of the first lessons you need to learn is that you have to gauge the distance to your target versus the time it will take you to fall when firing. If you fire a teleport beam as you’re plummeting toward a pool of lava, and the projectile doesn’t reach the wall before your tiny little body reaches the lava, you will die.

Another advanced technique is called “telejumping”. Since your momentum is preserved when you reach your teleport destination, you will continue falling or jumping if that’s what you were doing when the projectile struck the wall. So, you can fire a teleport projectile, wait until just before it hits a wall, and then jump, allowing you to hop up onto a nearby platform or – in more complex puzzles – turn and fire again before you fall back down. You’ll even be tasked with stringing together multiple telejumps in a row.

A tweak on this technique is getting the timing down. Sometimes you have to let Yuri reach the height of his jump and then start falling back down before you fire the Teleport Gun. Often, this is the only way to give yourself enough time to hit the ground and jump again before the projectile strikes the wall.

Throughout your journey, you’ll encounter grates that you cannot pass through, but you can fire through, allowing you to teleport to the other side. Certain areas contain crumbling blocks, some of which disappear when you walk on them, and others give way when you fall on them, forcing you to take extra consideration of the environment before you attempt a long string of teleportations. Most blocks reappear after a few seconds. There are a number of NPC’s spread throughout the game as well – mostly toward the beginning – and they offer a handful of tips or information about the surrounding environment.

The Teleport Gun does not work on enemies, although you are free to fire through them, allowing you teleport past them. At the start of the game, avoidance is key as enemies can make quick work of you. Yuri only has 1 heart, and it can be depleted in 2 hits from even the weakest of enemies. It is possible to increase your life bar, but the necessary powerup is hidden well enough that you may not discover it on your first playthrough. Given the frequency of the checkpoints and the regular insta-death that comes from failing platforming challenges, additional life isn’t strictly necessary.

Enemies range from Black Chompers that scoot back and forth on platforms, annoying little Dark Bats that appear in numbers and swarm toward you, and a huge enemy called the Energy Brute that sits stationary and occasionally belches forth giant balls of energy. But avoidance is not your only recourse… Fairly early on, you’ll gain access to a gun that lets you take down enemies. While the gun doesn’t appear to be overly powerful, it will destroy most enemies in a single hit, and Energy Brutes in 3. You have infinite ammo and you can fire as quickly as you can pull the trigger. You will have to swap between this weapon and the Teleport Gun, however, so you still have to be careful about firing off shots and leaving yourself enough time to teleport away if needed.

When dealing with enemies, you have to be careful of where you’re firing so that you don’t accidentally send yourself teleporting into one’s path, or into a pool of lava. Also, if you fire your projectile off the side of the screen, it will have no effect, and you will not teleport. In addition, there are also special blocks that will allow your teleport projectile to pass straight through them, sometimes sending them harmlessly off the side of the screen, and other times allowing you to teleport through solid objects. And there are blocks that can deflect your teleport projectile back in the direction it came, allowing for some more complex puzzle solutions.

And then there are the beams… Beams come in 3 different varieties, each impacting your Teleport Gun in different ways.
  • The Null Beam (red) simply prevents the teleport projectile from passing through. With these, you’ll need to walk through them or find a way around them.

  • The Block Beam (blue) allows Yuri to teleport to its location using the Teleport Gun, but he can also safely pass through it. This offers situations where Yuri can teleport to the beam, telejump up through it, and then teleport again to another target on the other side.

  • The Up Beam (green) forces the teleport projectile upward, pushing it along until it hits the ceiling. This is the last beam type you’ll encounter and it is used in some of the more complex puzzles. Because of the time it takes for your projectile to hit, then travel up the length of the beam, and then hit the ceiling, you are often free to fire at it and then move about the room before you are teleported. Since your Teleport Gun only fires to the left or right, this is also the only method for teleporting directly upward.

Beams are also impacted by crumbling blocks, and later puzzles will place you in situations where beams are obstructed by blocks, and you must shoot or crush them to make them disappear so the beam can travel upward. Of course, when the blocks re-form, they’ll cut off the beam again. Sometimes this is designed to hurry you along, but other times you have to use this to your advantage to complete your objectives. By the end of the game, you will regularly encounter multiple beam types placed together in the same room.

While your primary goal is to find the Lightorb and defeat Grigori, you’ll also discover a number of abandoned cores lying around the environment. These cores are the same as the ones you grabbed during the shmup section to power up your ship. If you can manage to find all 10, and speak to a certain hidden character, you’ll be given an upgrade that will help you in the final battle. Finding the cores adds some replayability to the game, since you’ll almost certainly miss some of them on your first playthrough. Most of them are very well hidden, and some even require backtracking during your otherwise linear adventure.

Out There Somewhere is available in 2 flavors: The standard download will get you the game itself. The premium package – called the Voskhod Edition – offers a bit more. In addition to the game, you also get the full soundtrack, some promotional art, and a PDF Hint Manual that provides background on the characters and enemies, as well as descriptions of the core gameplay elements and advanced teleportation hints showing how some of the environmental puzzles are solved.

Out There Somewhere was created by a small development house called MiniBoss, located in Campinas, Brazil. The studio describes itself as more a group of friends than a formal company, and they have a handful of 2D action games under their belts.

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