What is it with video game characters hating to work in factories? You’d think with the current climate of the world, they’d just be happy to have a job. Instead, they’re ALWAYS looking to escape their vicious employers and get ‘freedom’ instead. Ungrateful, if you ask me. Whilst I jest, that is the core concept behind Out of Line, the new 2D puzzle-adventure from the team at Nerd Monkeys (which is a great name, might I add). It takes the formula established in titles like Limbo, Inside, and, to a degree, Abe’s Odyssey, and wraps it up in a gorgeous-looking world. It’s a world full of puzzles and dangers though, but luckily, you’ve got your trusty spear to help make your way through it.
Check out a gallery of screenshots down below:
You know how I mentioned that you escape from a factory in Out of Line? Well, that’s about how detailed the plot gets, with obtusity at the forefront thanks to a lack of meaningful character interactions. Don’t get me wrong, you’ll encounter different folk on your journey and the world itself gives clues to the mysteries that lie within it… there’s just no meaningful detail to be found with them.
Players take on the role of protagonist San as he looks to get away from his workplace and reach safety, but with villainous claws pursuing him, it’s not going to be an easy task. With other characters to help throughout the journey as well as mysterious events occurring around him, his adventure is certainly an interesting one.
Whilst interesting, I couldn’t help but to wish that Out of Line elaborated more on its story and world. There were some genuinely intriguing things to see across the environment that really caught my eye, but a lack of storytelling made it hard to get really invested in them. I’m all for obtusity in video games and for players to interpret events in their own way, but I just found myself wanting a bit more in this instance.
At least the world is beautiful to look at though, with its impressive hand-painted landscapes making for some picturesque sights. Out of Line sees players explore an array of locales that span the likes of industrial factories and luscious forests, with each proving to be a real sight to behold in-game. Whilst it might not have always been easy to piece together the story through the environment, it was easy to find myself mesmerised by the beauty of it.
“Out of Line sees players explore an array of locales that span the likes of industrial factories and luscious forests, with each proving to be a real sight to behold in-game.”
Most of your time in Out of Line will be spent exploring the world and solving puzzles, with San’s spear used in a variety of ways when overcoming obstacles. Players are able to lob the spear around freely, with it sticking into most objects it hits; it can then be called back to San just as quickly, with it spinning his way like the Mjolnir of the spear-world.
Be warned, though: you can’t use the spear to take down enemies in the game. San is pretty much defenceless throughout, so when you’re pursued by those menacing claws, you’ve got to run. This makes for some exciting moments in-game, with the helplessness of San and the sheer ferocity of the claws adding an air of tension to Out of Line that isn’t present elsewhere in the game.
At least the spear can be used in a variety of creative ways when solving puzzles though, whether that’s as a platform to reach higher areas, as a lever to activate different devices, or even to manipulate objects in the environment, with new uses introduced as you progress through the game. Admittedly, nothing is ever over-complicated with most aspects of the spear’s use simply revolving around throwing it, but it was still nice to see some different ideas implemented. It was certainly a creative mechanic and lent itself well to some cool puzzle ideas.
“The spear can be used in a variety of creative ways when solving puzzles though, whether that’s as a platform to reach higher areas, as a lever to activate different devices, or even to manipulate objects in the environment…”
The problem is, none of those puzzles ever felt overly complex or difficult to solve. Not once in my time playing did I find myself getting stumped, with the solution typically obvious from the get-go. The biggest difficulty I ever had was simply lining up my spear shots correctly in order to jump to them, but that was something I figured out quite quickly. Even the collectibles are easy to uncover, so it’s not as if a challenge can be found elsewhere. It’s not that the puzzles aren’t fun… they’re just incredibly easy to solve.
It shouldn’t take gamers too long to beat Out of Line either, with my playthrough coming in at under three hours. Whilst I did have fun during that time, it did leave me wanting more; more story, more puzzles, and more challenge. Exploring the luscious world brought with it plenty of interesting moments, but there wasn’t some big pay-off waiting for me – both from a story and a gameplay perspective. It was hard not to feel a little disappointed by it, especially since the game does display plenty of cool elements during the adventure.
Out of Line’s puzzling escapade is certainly a neat one, but a lack of challenge and obtuse storytelling do see it falter behind similar titles in the genre. It’s a shame too, because using the spear felt good, with plenty of neat ideas introduced throughout the adventure. The world is gorgeous too, with some wonderful sights to be seen across the hand-painted world.
It just needed to pack a bit more punch when it came to the narrative and the difficulty. It’s all well and good having creative puzzle-design, but when they’re so easy to solve it becomes harder to appreciate them. Regardless, Out of Line has enough strengths to make it a worthwhile venture for fans of the genre – just don’t be surprised if you’re left wanting a bit more by the time you’re done with it.
Developer: Nerd Monkeys
Publisher: Hatinh Interactive
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC