Indie Spotlight - Operation Outsmart
Nick recaps his interview with Seyed from UnifiQ Games about their upcoming vehicle building game, Operation Outsmart.
Video games in and of themselves are a form of creative expression. Even narrative-heavy games that essentially force you on rails still give you little ways to express yourself when the action sets in, and there's a very special place in my heart for moments in gaming where I felt like I circumvented the norm and did things my way.
"I felt like a kid with a bottomless K'Nex system, and a team of adorable koalas ready to throw down with mounted crossbows."
Naturally, many games attempt to be the polar opposite of "on rails", tasking you with an objective and then letting you free-wheel your way there. Open world games certainly fall into that category, but there's just something special about a game with a beginning and an end, and a massive customization gameplay loop that must be conquered to cross the proverbial chasm. Building my vehicle in LEGO Racers or my very first Gummi Ship in Kingdom Hearts engaged with me on a level that I rarely find in games these days, and Operation Outsmart is the first game in a while that instantly threw me back to those golden days of gaming.
Give me KOALA the turrets. I'll see myself out.
In Operation Outsmart, Outsmart is the keyword here, because creativity is king. The plot is fairly simple, as you are tasked with helping a friendly tribe of koalas deals with the threat of an enemy force that has a penchant for mischief (and koala-napping). Those enemies love to build fortresses, and you just love building vehicles (or anything that can loosely be associated with the term vehicle) to knock them down, siege warfare style!
The creations that can be conjured up using the robust building system, even in the early phases of the playable demo, were seriously impressive. I felt like a kid with a bottomless K'Nex system, and a team of adorable koalas ready to throw down with some mounted crossbows.
This winding path is just as hard to traverse as it looks.
Combat isn't the only name of the game in Operation Outsmart, as some challenges will test the maneuverability of the vehicles you create. The above image seems to be a common difficulty spike for the demo playthroughs I watched, as you are tasked with building an elongated vehicle that can traverse a road that looks like it was ripped straight out of Ice Road Truckers. Even once you build a contraption for the task, navigating the winding path is nothing short of challenging, and quickly establishes that the game will challenge your engineering skills in more ways than building massive battle fortresses.
Did I mention the game has koalas? Because it has lots of koalas:
Jinla doesn't have time for your nonsense.
During my recent Quit The Build Podcast interview with Seyed, the team leads at UnifiQ Games, I got a sneak peek into the behind-the-scenes of the game's development, specifically regarding how koalas became the main characters of the game. Beyond the obvious answer of being adorable, an interesting (but tragic) factor was the Australian brushfire season of 2019 - 2020. "Some of the footage was very shocking . . . koalas are now something that has caught people's attention, and people feel attached to them in some way." Indeed, the images of koalas being found trying to escape the fires were heartbreaking, and an important reminder of the importance of preserving the balance of nature.
"Ultimately, if you enjoy games that give you the freedom to creatively engineer vehicles, then Operation Outsmart is a can't miss title."
Seyed also specified that the intended design of the koala community our hero encounters is that they are much more than just an army of soldiers for you to control, with them instead of being individual characters that you aid and connect with in unique ways. "I would say it's more of a business partnership . . . they give you things, they teach you skills, and you can't really progress in the game without their help."
"Thrusters make everything better." - Science
Ultimately, if you enjoy games that give you the freedom to creatively engineer vehicles, then Operation Outsmart is a can't miss title. Be sure to support their Kickstarter, wishlist the game on Steam (and check out their free demo), and follow them on Twitter. You can also listen to my interview with Seyed at the end of our latest episode of Quit The Build (starts at 49:11):