There's plenty to do out in space, and the Wii U eShop likes to emphasize how you can do so for low, low prices. Outside the Realm from TreeFall Studios aims to provide puzzling action for a bargain, and players will more or less get what they pay for it.
Players use the GamePad and its touch screen to guide an astronaut to his pod, collecting crystals along the way for a friendly alien. Gotta be a good space neighbour, right? Of course, a few varieties of bad aliens are around to try vaporizing the astronaut or casting him out into the void.
Tapping on the astronaut sends him off in one direction. After a quick learning of the ropes, the player can control which direction this is by holding a direction on the D-Pad. The astronaut will not stop until he hits something; that's usually a yellow star along the route. Tapping these stars will cause them to disappear, and other coloured stars can be tapped to pause their movement or send them hurtling into enemies. Most stages come down to a matter of placement and timing of movement in order to reach the goal safely.
The controls are rather simple, but there are still a couple of hang-ups with execution. For some reason, the astronaut can't just continue in another direction after hitting a star. That star must first be tapped and destroyed before the astronaut is free to move again. It's not a huge deal once once you get used to it, but it can also be easy to forget. In a game about timing, adding an extra step like this can throw off the player's flow.
Hit detection can also feel off sometimes, which seems due to enemy placement. Once in awhile an enemy might feel just close enough to tag your astronaut but doesn't, or just far enough away to clear, but isn't. These cases can be a bit frustrating, but some experimentation and as wide a berth as possible should get one through.
All said, there is not very much challenge to Outside the Realm. Most of the 30 or so levels fully fit on the GamePad, and it's relatively easy to determine the solutions to them after a few seconds of looking. The crystals that must be collected rarely play much of a factor, either, as they can usually be easily picked up during the normal course of reaching the pod. None of the stages are particularly memorable, and it can take less than an hour to clear them all.
There are a few "bonus" stages that tilt the needle more toward action, having the player constantly steer the forward-propelled astronaut up and down through a field of obstructions. They can be seen as a nice little change of pace, but there isn't really anything "bonus" about them - you must complete them to move on, and there is no other reward for doing so.
The presentation is no grandiose space opera, but it works. The backgrounds are static yet colourful, and all objects have a hand-doodled sort of appearance. The music is somewhat simple yet spacey, and has a few tracks to avoid becoming too repetitive. The beepy fanfare that plays whenever you hit the pod is a small joy, too.
Outside the Realm has a good puzzle concept going for it, but it lacks the complexity, length, variety, and fine tuning that would make it an addictive experience for many genre fans. Younger players and those looking for a fleeting jaunt might find a fun space experience if they can get past the occasional frustrations. Others might want to chart a course elsewhere.