by July 20, 2021 @ 9:15 am
Reviewed on Switch
Have you ever played a game for a specific reason, and then totally dug it for a bunch of different reasons? Maybe you thought the graphics were cool, but when you played it, you fell in love with the world. Perhaps you thought the concept was interesting, but you ended up enjoying the gameplay more than you thought you would’ve. That’s what happened with me and Out of Line, a side-scrolling puzzle-platformer from Nerd Monkeys. I was intrigued by what appeared to be a Limbo-like game with beautiful art, but I was captivated by all of its moving parts.
A Heartfelt Game That Takes You on an Awesome Journey
In Out of Line, you play as San, who’s trying to escape a place known as the Factory. There’s no major lore, dialogue, or written text to clue you in on the story — you just know that San needs to escape the Factory and find freedom. It’s a minimalist narrative that works perfectly in this type of game, much like the minimalist narratives in Playdead’s Limbo and Inside.
Truth be told, there are a lot of parallels between the aforementioned Playdead puzzlers and Out of Line. Like those iconic games, this title focuses strongly on environmental puzzles, heavy-feeling physics, and an ever-present sense of dread. Despite its rich art style, the game sometimes feels like a horror adventure.
The fact that Out of Line reminded me so much of Limbo and Inside was never a problem for me because I loved those games, and this feels like a colorful spin on that formula that just works incredibly well. For starters, I’d say about 98 percent of the game’s puzzles are enjoyable. You’ll pull levers, activate switches, and push blocks to move through the Factory. You’ll shine bright lights on devious creatures. You’ll even work cooperatively with AI-controlled characters who are also trying to escape. It all gels together quite nicely.
San also has a magical spear made of light that serves multiple purposes. You can toss it at a wall and create a platform. You can tie a rope to it and put together a tightrope to get over large gaps. You can turn it into a lever to move gears and platforms. The light spear is a major part of the gameplay in Out of Line, and it’s used in some pretty clever ways a lot of the time.
The few puzzles that don’t work as well usually fall victim to tedious backtracking or overly simple design. These can sometimes be a bit of a drag, but they’re still not game-breaking or overly frustrating. In fact, while the game does offer a steady challenge, it never turns into a complicated ordeal.
An Artful Adventure
The art of Out of Line is what separates this game from Limbo and the many puzzle-platformers that have since launched inspired by Playdead’s work like Little Nightmares. The game features a beautiful hand-painted look to it that’s used to mesmerizing effect. You can see detailed backgrounds and lush foregrounds all brought together by thick, defined brushstrokes.
The Factory is a mix of mechanical nightmare and lush grassland. You’ll walk through grassy areas that have trees put together with bark, leaves, and metal. You’ll see cables, gears, and electronic threats polluting rich green environments. This builds a bio-synthetic world that’s rich with intrigue and communicates to you, the player, that something’s not quite right in San’s world, and it’ll encourage you to guide him through his escape.
Accompanying you along the ride is an atmospheric, humming score. It’s at times haunting, serene, and powerful, and it helps build mood. There’s a magnificent dichotomy between the game’s sights and sounds, and at times you’ll experience transitions between dream-like sequences and nightmarish exploration. The audiovisua presentation, like the gameplay, works quite brilliantly.
You can finish Out of Line in about two hours, maybe a little more if you pace yourself. You probably won’t get stuck on the puzzles, and that’s fine, because things move along steadily. And for what it’s worth, those puzzles are a great deal of fun to work out. A few of them are less-than-stellar, but they don’t bring the game down much. If you’ve been looking for a meaningful, Limbo-like experience to enjoy, or if you just want a really fun side-scrolling puzzler, Out of Line is a truly wholesome, massively enjoyable experience.
Score: 8 out of 10
Reviewer’s note: The Switch version of Out of Line is due out in North America on August 18, 2021.
Follow this author on Twitter.