The Outer Wilds review: The end of the world has never looked more appealing
(XO/PC) ★★★★★ Age: 12+
Like a strange interactive planetarium, The Outer Wilds strands the player in a pint-sized solar system to unravel its arcane mysteries. The exploration of these beautiful but treacherous worlds gains urgent impetus from the supernova that explodes at the system's core every 20 minutes.
Fortunately, this thermonuclear disaster merely resets the universe and you begin your solar survey all over again with the knowledge gained from the previous cycle. So, yes, Outer Wilds resembles famous timeloop pioneer Zelda: Majora's Mask, crossed with the dinky planetoids of Super Mario Galaxy.
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But its rickety, steampunk vibe conceals many more layers to unpeel like an onion. Even though just six planets make up the system, each one eminently walkable from pole to pole, they all have their secrets. Alien ruins, inscrutable messages, violent storms, roiling seas, unpredictable gravity, black holes and warren-like tunnels: every one is a piece of the overarching puzzle.
At one stage, I looked up to see the lunar module that brought me to the planet floating off into orbit thanks to the low gravity. Oops, but no bother, here comes the apocalypse again anyway.
Outer Wilds has a wonderful way with story, its folksy characters oblivious to your permanent recycling. But it's the intricate surfaces of its bizarre little moons that hold the greatest enjoyment.
The end of the world has never looked more appealing.