Ah, physics based co-op puzzle games; just the thing to spend some time with your friends and family and probably fall out in the process. We’re talking the likes of Portal 2, Human Fall Flat and, of course, everyone’s favourite friendship destroyer, Overcooked. This year has already seen a new physics puzzler in the form of Nintendo’s stealth released and rather excellent, Good Job, a game which launched at the start of 2020’s fun activity “staying at home because everything’s going to shit”; It proved to be a fun and much needed diversion. Now Team 17 and developers SMG Studio and DEVM Games are getting into the mix with their much anticipated release, Moving Out.
Launching on all popular platforms (including a day 1 release on XBox GamePass, you lucky subscribers, you) Moving Out looks very much on the surface like “Overcooked but lugging around sofas”. Yes, you and your fellow players are tasked with grabbing furniture and boxes from houses, dragging them down to a waiting removal van and stacking them in such a way that they don’t fall down. You do this against a timer and there are gold, silver and bronze medals up for grabs depending on how quickly you complete a given level. In addition you’ll be awarded bonus coins for completing secret tasks; these can be anything from bringing a garden gnome back in the van or not breaking any windows.
Oh yes, Moving Out is not only about manoeuvring things; It’s also about breaking them. There’s a certain fun to be had in tossing a microwave through a window as a shortcut to your goal, haphazardly yoinking a TV off a wall or even just sending a table of crockery flying with your overtly clumsy character. Beware, though, as some of the items you’ll need to shift are breakable in themselves; smash these and they’ll respawn back at their original location meaning lost time for your and your teammates.
Teamwork is most definitely the aim of the game here, with the games many levels presenting themselves as puzzles to be solved with a plan. Each house you visit has environmental challenges such as swimming pools to sink in, walls that are decidedly in your way and even enemies that will harangue you and slow you down. The best team will pay attention to the overview you get when you reach your destination (after driving your removals van around a cute looking toy town), look at where each object is and formulate the best way to get it out of the house and into the van as quick as possible. Some items, such as sofas and tables, need two people and take up more space in the van, but do you go for them first or round up all the smaller, lighter items? Are there opportunities to get a “production line going” where you can hand items between players or even drop them from upper floor windows and balconies? Some areas even have hazards that can be of help, such as slippery slopes in the ski resort, that can be used to send items from the top floor of the house to a waiting crew member near the van.
Of course you can play Moving Out by yourself but you’ll quickly realise this is probably a bad idea. Sure, it works – the game makes concessions by reducing the number of items you need to shift and removing the need for two people to carry items like beds, but running round a house by yourself is just plain boring. There’s no planning, no cheering when you find a quick way to get back to the van and no screaming when some moron who’s supposed to be focussing on getting items from the garden has become more obsessed with trying to ping a basketball into a hoop. Maybe that last one isn’t such a positive. Still, solo mode reduces the time needed to finish each level and is actually an ideal way to rinse the side challenges in each level and get those precious coins.
Remember them? I did mention them earlier, if you were paying attention. Well, these coins can be used to unlock an array of mini games at the town arcade, bite sized challenges that will test the skills you’ve picked up in the main event. These are anything from carrying a sofa across a narrow path with sheer drops either side, to an obstacle course and even a Frogger homage. These tightly timed experiences are a fun diversion and will likely prove great for quick fire party scenarios (when we’re all allowed to have parties again, eh? Amirite?)
The game has a great deal of charm as well, from the witty cutscenes to the kitschy 80’s aesthetic that permeates the experience. Again, Overcooked is likely the closest comparison here and while Moving Out certainly doesn’t have quite as much charm as the “cooking for bastards” game, there’s definitely a lot of fun to be had in customising it’s unlockable characters. There’s a mad array of avatars, from jolly doggo’s, to ramen pot men and even a toaster which randomly pings warm bread out of its head. There’s plenty of options to switch up the headwear, colour schemes and other parts of these nutters to your hearts content; indeed my 11 year old spent a good ten minutes of our first session deciding whether to go with “Cat with bird on head” or “princess toaster”.
But, while Moving Out is certainly a heck of a lot of fun, and has a level of stress that reaches “just enough to not be infuriating”, it’s also decidedly shallow. With each level presenting much the same challenge mechanically it’s probably not one for long gaming sessions where the repetitive gameplay will quickly become boring. In quick fire bursts, however, Moving Out is certainly a worth addition to the co-op friendship ruining sub genre and well worth your time.