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Moving Out

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Puzzle
Publisher: Team17
Developer: SMG Studio
Release Date: April 28, 2020


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PC Review - 'Moving Out'

by Cody Medellin on July 17, 2020 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

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

For a while, Overcooked and its sequel have been synonymous with local co-op mayhem. There's something special about trying to do something as mundane as cooking and transforming the experience by placing it in absurd situations with friends in tow. Since then, there have been a few games that try to follow its lead, like Tools Up and, to a lesser degree, Good Job and The Stretchers. From the developer of Death Squared, Moving Out is another title that follows this trend, and the result is more than satisfying.

Compared to its contemporaries, the premise of Moving Out is much simpler. You're a new employee at Smooth Moves, a middling moving company. As a furniture arrangement & relocation technician, your job is to take on all of the moving tasks in the city of Packmore, no matter how ridiculous the task may be. You'll start by moving things out of a simple house, but it isn't long before you're moving things out of offices, farms, haunted houses, and even places in outer space. The cast of characters, which ranges from a human woman to a talking toaster, is eternally cheery.

The simple premise translates into the gameplay mechanics as well. No matter the location, your goal is to take the marked items to the moving truck or freight elevator, depending on the location. Aside from moving your character, the only real moves you have are to pick up and put down items, but you have the ability to throw items by holding down the action button and releasing it at the apex of your throw.

While a number of items can be carried by one person, some items require two people to carry, and that's where the puzzle aspect of Moving Out comes into play. You need to coordinate with your partner about where to go, so you can get that L-shaped couch out of the house. Another puzzle element is the truck or elevator; items take up room, and once physics come into play, there's a good chance that stacking a couch on top of a bunch of lopsided chairs will result in the couch tumbling out after a while. In some rare cases, the things you'll be moving are also mobile, so for example, you'd need to prevent pigs from scampering out of the truck. Then there are the environments, which feature things like conveyor belts, lava, moving platforms, and rivers. A few of the levels also feature ghosts that knock you out when they touch you, but you can stun them for a few seconds by giving them a good slap.

While everything seems to work against you, you can use unconventional means to get objects from point A to point B. For example, while moving things through a door is ideal, there's nothing to stop you from chucking something through a window or breaking a window so you can jump into the room while someone else is using the door. Tossing a TV from the second floor to the first instead of using the stairs is also perfectly fine. As mentioned earlier, there's no "correct" way to pack things into the truck, so as long as it works, no one chastises you for putting things in the wrong place.

Thus far, the blueprint is similar to Overcooked, but there is one major difference. Whereas Overcooked had you scrambling to meet star requirements before time runs out, Moving Out opts for time milestones, where completing the job quickly gives you better medals. Although the gold and silver medal requirements are pretty tight, there's such a wide berth to get a bronze medal that you'll need to work hard to fail. Removing the pressure to do well opens up the game to more people, so casual players won't feel like they're dragging down the team. It also helps that new characters are unlocked at the end of practically every level, so there's always some kind of motivator to keep playing. Finally, for those who want to make the game even easier, there's an option to make everything that has been placed in the moving truck disappear without affecting the score.

The more competitive and skilled players will still be challenged by Moving Out. Completing a level with any medal ranking makes a list of secret objectives visible to those replaying the stage. They include things like making sure to pack certain objects that aren't normally part of the target list or trying to complete the movie without breaking anything, all of which can be accomplished on the first run if you know about them beforehand. Completing each of these hidden goals gives you a gold coin, which can be used to unlock challenge levels that task you with moving objects in a VR space and with more devious obstacles.

All of the above melds into a game that can be as brutal as other co-op titles but is also welcoming to newcomers before they get into the more challenging stuff. As engaging as all of this is with friends and a level count that doesn't stretch the experience too thin, the only issue here also plagues most other co-op-centric endeavors: its failings as a single-player game. A single-player mode exists, and unlike Overcooked, it is easily manageable since you're only controlling one character instead of two. However, the objects that need to be moved are still the same, so it's not as enjoyable to need two people to move a table. Those playing on Steam have an advantage thanks to Steam's Remote Play Together feature, so this is one way to play with friends online, since the game itself doesn't offer online play.

The presentation is excellent. Graphically, the cartoon style is outstanding, but the animations are oozing with charm. The oversized hands make for a great contrast with the noodly arms, and the ever-smiling face of every mover is goofy even during times of distress. The toaster smiles while it strains to move a couch, even as burnt toast flies from its head. The environments are just as colorful and detailed as the characters, and even the overworld map is fun to look at. The music goes for an over-the-top '80s sitcom style, which is corny but does a great job of ensuring a low-stress environment.

Moving Out is a joyous experience. The chaos is ever-present, but the chill approach ensures that everyone is having a good time instead of gradually wanting to tear each other apart. The number of levels is just right, and the presentation is appealing. It serves as a perfect complement to other co-op titles and belongs in the library of anyone who enjoys the genre.

Score: 8.0/10

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