OutZone (Steam)- Review

Thanks to Bitwave Games for the review code

Title: OutZone
System: Steam (PC)
Price: $7.99
Release Date: 02/14/2023


In this run and gun adventure, you take control of a warrior who must infiltrate the enemy base! Seldom ported elsewhere, Bitwave finishes the Toaplan collection with this rarity, and that brief intro before level 1 is all the story you’ll be getting.


Same presentation quirks as prior Bitwave releases return yet again, with decent screen sizes and filters, statistics display, and QOL features such as visible hitboxes. The game itself looks great, with plenty of stage variety and a rocking FM soundtrack that never loses intensity during the entire ride, ported over in great fashion. It’s the Toaplan sound in full force, and OutZone is easily one of their best 80s soundtracks without a doubt! Not much else to say here; it’s Toaplan at one of their best moments.


Differing from their usual vertical efforts, Toaplan went and made Outzone a vertical run-and-gun, meaning you’re in control of the screen scrolling this time around! Like before, you have a shot and bomb button, but this time around you don’t really collect specific powerups, but rather change between one weapon to another whenever you pick up a C icon. You have the full free-aim of a normal shot, or a fixed, three-way weapon that doesn’t allow you to change direction, and knowing when to use which weapon where is key, especially when it comes to stages with trickier layouts and bosses that can be a huge pain to hit with a certain weapon.

Like the usual nature of these games, you can upgrade these shots to get tougher and deal more damage, but you’ll lose the upgrade upon death and getting sent back to a checkpoint, and yep, like in Twin Cobra these checkpoints feel pretty meticulously designed, leading to great trial and error as you push for that one more try feeling to make it to the next. If that weren’t enough, you even can get the occasional flamethrower or super ball to decimate enemies, but these can run out rather quickly and you do have an energy meter to keep track of, so the main two weapons will still be your primary ones for the most part.

As in the other Bitwave releases, OutZone sports a variety of useful accessibility and quality of life features, with the practice mode, customization options, hitbox display, DIP Switches and alternate regional variants all back in full force, but in Outzone’s case, there’s another interesting version difference you can toggle on; you see, when OutZone was originally released in Japan, the version that came out was extremely hard, as in, you needed god tier memorization and reflexes hard. Enemies would fire fast the minute they show up on screen, and even with the easiest DIP settings, it was a far more vicious and brutal game than it had any right to be. Still, it is a fun challenge to take on, and now you can play the crazy hard ROM variant of this game if you so desire, with a unique leaderboard to boot, too! Likewise, all variants of Outzone include 2 player co-op, but the game is just as fun when playing solo.

So, what else makes Outzone so great, besides the fun weaponry and the genre style? For men what made it click when I discovered it back on the Astro City Mini V was the sheer satisfaction of blasting through waves of enemies, making it further and further up a stage at my own pace; instead of being limited in a usual autoscroller fashion, it was all up to my own movements and strategies to make it closer and closer to the next boss, and the fun enemy placement and great game flow that made Outzone seldom feel as if it had a dull moment really does make it shine, especially as a game I feel anyone can beat with trial and error. To be able to play a great port without the input lag of the Astro V version (thanks to this having the same low amount of input lag frames as the other Bitwave releases) is just pure bliss.


In conclusion, Outzone is an excellent, often unsung title in the Toaplan library, and finally having a modern port of the game is well worth your time. Honestly, of any game in this first wave of four, Outzone should be the one to buy ASAP if you only feel like choosing one of these games, as it easily is the best and pretty much does everything I could hope for: great controls, handy QOL, a practice mode, and plenty of online leaderboard fun to be had.

However, like the prior Bitwave releases, I still do have to unfortunately note it does still have weird control bugs, such as the aforementioned inability to use the normal shot once you mapped the rapid-fire to a controller button. It also had practice mode and the audio completely screwed up before launch, but thankfully both of those are fixed and seem to work just fine now on the Steam build, though despite that, some achievements are broken and seem to pop in places they shouldn’t.

Still, while the other Toaplan games I covered may be known names and classics, titles like OutZone prove that even the obscurities deserve to have a light shined on them, and can even be better than you may expect, if you dive in and take up arms…

I give Outzone an 7 out of 10.

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