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June 2021

Moving Out

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Puzzle
Publisher: Team 17
Developer: SMG Studio
Release Date: April 28, 2020

About Andreas Salmen

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Switch Review - 'Moving Out'

by Andreas Salmen on May 29, 2020 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

Moving Out is a zany action-puzzle moving simulator that redefines the meaning of couch co-op.

Buy Moving Out

Who doesn't like a decent couch co-op game? The surge of indie titles in the past decade has also reinvigorated the market for offline co-op games, especially since the success of titles like Overcooked. Moving Out aims for the same target audience with a similarly charming and chaotic co-op offering for up to four players.

Instead of "simulating" the depressingly stressful shenanigans of running a kitchen like Overcooked, Moving Out has you helping people to move out of their homes. In other words, you smash up people's places and hope that their most precious items end up in your moving truck before the time runs out. While doing that, Moving Out gives you tasks that require decent coordination, and it throws (figurative) curveballs at you to make you as uncomfortable as possible while you scream at your friends and fail miserably.

In other words, it's good family entertainment.

Whereas the competition strikes a balance between challenging level design, simple gameplay systems, and a touch of anarchy, Moving Out occasionally feels too tedious and random to be enjoyed to the same extent.

Moving Out immediately feels familiar, starting from the overworld map that we traverse with our moving truck to complete increasingly weird levels and unlock even weirder playable characters. It takes the co-op game blueprint that Overcooked used and slaps a "moving company" theme on it. Before starting or loading a game, we can decide how many people are joining the session and then start moving stuff for people.

At the start of each level, we see an overview of the upcoming house and the items that we'll need to get into our moving truck. The game changes based on the number of players, so if you're playing alone, you can carry all items by yourself to a certain degree, while games with more than one player require you to carry bigger pieces together. You can grab an item and carry or drag it from the home to your vehicle, but this likely isn't the fastest or most efficient way.

If you're pressed for time, every level has a myriad of ways to get around. You can even jump out a window with a chair under your arm or throw the furniture out the window to save a trip or two. It feels optional at the beginning but quickly becomes a necessary evil, and every stage has its own hurdles and opportunities. In one stage, you may be presented with a pool that blocks your path, so you can decide if you'd like to take the long way around or throw the item across, at the risk of it landing in the pool and returning to its starting position. Similarly, a holiday home in the snow may offer slopes that you can slide items on, so they land right in front of your truck.

What sounds easy on paper is actually tougher than it seems. The challenges in Moving Out aren't impossible, but if you want to get through them in good time, you need to know what you're doing and have a bit of luck on your side. Since every item in a house is interactable and has its own physics, you'll encounter a few issues. Physics systems in games aren't easy to predict and control, especially if you are standing in a pile of individual objects and trying to move them through narrow corridors. Wielding a larger item, such as a couch or a bed, with another human player can be tricky since it feels like you aren't in control. You'll get stuck on other objects because you didn't get the angle just right. I understand that the slightly tedious and imprecise nature of the physics are supposed to account for some hilarity and chaos, but Moving Out feels like you're often unlucky, which can be frustrating.

Things get better over time as you get used to the controls and learn how the environments behave when you interact with them, but it always felt more random than I liked. Thankfully, the interactions rarely broke the game, but I did encounter the odd time when an item got stuck in a corner in such a way that I couldn't move it back or forth anymore, forcing me to restart the level.

These hiccups aside, Moving Out is great fun when it works and you're playing with another player. Since it's all about time, it's fun to coordinate about what to tackle and in what order. Carrying furniture together can be a huge payoff when you get a new personal best time in a stage that you've been struggling with. When playing together, you can even throw bigger objects, like beds or couches, and that requires the both of you to swing and release the item at the right moment.

There is one downside, though. The theme of moving furniture isn't as diverse as cooking in Overcooked, so our core task of moving objects remains largely the same throughout the course of the game. There is a certain amount of variety to be had in the level design. While we begin our moving career with simple houses and apartments, stages quickly become more advanced with additional levels, hazards and gimmicks. There may be elevators to use, pools to circumvent, slopes to exploit, animals to catch, and ghosts to slap. The game also introduces animals to catch, which is one of the few non-stationary objects to move, and then there are stages with other hurdles, such as ghosts that hunt you down unless you slap them or stay out of sight.

That is not as crazy as the stages can get, because there are bonus levels that step up the game even more. In addition to the 30 regular levels are a handful of bonus stages that bring the grand total to around 50. The special stages are unlocked by beating the regular houses and achieving high ratings (three tiers based on time) and completing additional tasks (three per stage). The first bonus level accessible in the local video store has us throwing items from a flying plane into a moving truck on the highway beneath us. It doesn't make any sense, but it's a fun idea, and that's what Moving Out should be all about.

If you're worried that the occasionally frustrating experience could get in your way, Moving Out has an assistance mode. In this mode, we can activate a few modifiers that make the experience a little easier, such as giving you more lenient time limits or vanishing items once they're in your truck, so you can avoid having to stack them so they don't fall out. You can opt for one or all of these assists if you find certain areas especially challenging, which makes it easier to play regardless of skill level and experience. There is even a dyslexic-friendly mode to make the text more easily readable.

From a technical standpoint, Moving Out is fine. It goes for cute and goofy visuals that work well within the context of the game. As such, performance isn't an issue and the game looks decent on the Switch, regardless of playing in handheld mode or on a TV in docked mode. There were a few moments when the frame rate seemed to dip slightly, but beyond that, we did not run into any major issues.

The sound is also wacky and upbeat. It's serviceable and exactly what you would expect from a title like this. As for the controls, apart from a certain floatiness, they work well enough with that extra leeway to allow for failure. The controls are simple and can be reduced to four kinds of input: jumping, throwing, grabbing, and slapping. If you've had fun with games like Overcooked, Moving Out is very much in the same ballpark in terms of complexity and setup.

As the sum of its parts, Moving Out is a fun couch co-op game that will certainly bring you a good dose of fun. The game can feel a bit too formulaic at times. While the tone and presentation are quirky and fun, the title doesn't necessarily strive to be its own thing, which is fine. What does sour the experience a little is that it can occasionally feel too random or tricky to control, and that can turn a fun session into a frustrating ordeal. If you're all out of co-op fodder, Moving Out is a solid and fun couch co-op experience that will satisfy anyone looking for a new way to test the strength of their bonds with friends and family.

Score: 7.0/10

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