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Out Of Line

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Puzzle
Publisher: Hatinh Interactive
Developer: Nerd Monkeys
Release Date: June 23, 2021


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Switch/PS4/XOne/PC Preview - 'Out of Line'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on May 14, 2021 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Out Of Line is an adventure/platformer game filled with beautiful puzzles all hand-drawn in a unique 2D style.

Out of Line follows the somewhat standard method of modern puzzle platformers: You begin as a boy in a mysterious place and need to find your way out. In this case, players take on the role of San, a surprisingly Scribblenauts-looking human who lives in a peaceful land full of magic cubes. However, his peace is quickly shattered when a terrifying mechanical claw busts in and begins snatching everyone and everything that moves. San awakens in The Factory, a hellish ... well, factory. His only hope is to use the magical glowing spear he's been gifted and find a way out before he is processed by the mechanical monstrosity.

Your skill set in Out of Line is straightforward: move, jump, and throw a magical spear. The game is built around the glowing yellow spear, which is a multi-purpose tool, but in the demo, we didn't encounter any combat that required it. We take full advantage of the fact that the spear can be thrown and recalled at the press of a button. Throw the spear into a wall and hop onto the haft (handle) to reach a higher spot. Throw it to stop grinding gears, so you can sneak past a smashing wall. Use it to hold down switches so you can manipulate objects in the environment. It's good for everything! It's also easy to use; just point and left-click to throw it, and left-click again to recall it.

In the demo, we saw quite a few uses for the spear. Yellow objects in the environment can be manipulated by it, so throw it to activate a switch or stab it into a machine in the ground to use it as a makeshift lever. The demo also introduced the idea of temporary spears, which appear stuck in the ground and don't appear to have the same impact on yellow objects. Temporary spears can't be recalled, and they only stick in walls and objects for a short period of time. Nonetheless, they provide more flexibility than a standard spear, but without some of the advantages. Some puzzles involved the default magic spear and a temporary spear, and others could involve juggling three different spears at once to move platforms and hold objects in place. Clever usage of the spears may even lead to completing puzzles in non-standard ways — something I discovered with a puzzle late in the demo.

Friends appear to be another cool gameplay mechanic in Out of Line. In the first factory level, there were a bunch of other people who were identical to San and also trying to escape. You could see them using gadgets or solving puzzles in the background, but occasionally, you and one of the other characters need to work together to solve puzzles. The other character was completely computer-controlled but worked well with San, making it more of a fun bonus than an annoying escort. In the second mission, we had to protect cute little bugs from danger by shutting off lights and disabling traps, so they could scuttle into small machines and use them to open doors. In either case, it added a neat concept to the puzzle-solving without being annoying.

Of course, you can't say much about Out of Line without discussing the lovely hand-drawn art style. The visuals are like something out of a picture book, and the game makes excellent use of that. The factory in which San is initially trapped is a dark and foreboding place that's full of sharp edges and terrifying claws. The forest, on the other hand, is softly colored and shaded and quite beautiful, which makes the factory's encroaching atmosphere more ominous. The game is a delight to see in motion, and since the early levels are so excellent, I'm looking forward to seeing the visuals for the other levels.

Out of Line looks like it will be a cute little puzzle platformer. The core gameplay of spear-throwing (and returning) is simple but not in a bad way. Having one strong weapon makes you look at how to solve puzzles with it, and it allows the game to gradually introduce new concepts. The lovely art style means that it instantly grabs you and doesn't let go. I'm hopeful that the full version of Out of Line is as engaging as the demo when it hits later this year.

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