Moving Out Review

May 5, 2020
Also on: PC, Xbox One, Switch

Moving Out is a multiplayer co-operative game which feels like the spiritual successor to the excellent Overcooked!, the even better Overcooked! 2, and the less polished but still fun Tools Up!, with your role being to take a party of cute and enthusiastic “movers”, become FARTs (Furniture Arrangement & Relocation Technician), and help people fulfil what has been described as one of the most stressful things a human being can do: move house. 

After playing this for a number of hours with my son, I can attest to THAT particular claim. In fact, it may keep me in my current home for longer than I had previously thought, especially if I need to rely on him to help me move!

Coming from the same publishers as Overcooked!, though from different developers (SMG, based in Australia, who made Death Squared, amongst others), my son and I had high hopes, as we can’t stop playing the Overcooked! games.

Taking the role of one of a variety of hopelessly clumsy animals, in our case a koala and a gecko, we attempted to ransack the houses of the poor, vulnerable people whose only two mistakes were a) to try to move house, and b) to let our company know about it.

In our defence, we often only had about five or six minutes to complete this task, to get a number of listed items out of the house and into our van, and so I guess something had to give, and with our boss helpfully reminding us that the clients had signed a waiver so it didn’t matter what we broke, that first thing was generally found to be the windows. 

To the delight of my son, the game often wouldn’t allow my character in the van between levels.

Yes, while strategy games would normally require you to carefully navigate breakable objects, this one allows you to smash the absolute crap out of them in order to achieve your objective, with no penalty whatsoever. With every second a millstone around the neck of your characters, you’re certainly not going to queue to get through the door, and so as soon as you’re allowed to move, you go for it, like a crack team of SAS koalas and geckos, smashing through the windows, and grabbing anything and everything you’re allowed to grab, making straight for the exit, often hurling the items into your van from as far away as you dare, though making you care enough at some point to straighten things up enough to ensure all the items will actually fit.

After all, you can argue between you while trying to navigate a cumbersome V-shaped sofa along a narrow passageway, down a flight of stairs, and out through the front door, or you can hurl it out of the top floor window, smashing glass everywhere, and find it later. It may be in the swimming pool, it may be on top of a car, but it will also hopefully be not too far from the van. With some loving care from a furniture restorer, someone may even be able to sit on it again.

At the touch of a button, icons appear over all the items that you need to have in the back of the van by the time the round ends, as well as whether the item needs one or two people to carry it, and tactics need to hastily be drawn up in order to beat the time limit if you want to best the lowly bronze award and reach the hallowed turf of silver or gold. The most frustrating bits were often the most fun bits, and trying desperately to carry a large double bed through a frustratingly narrow doorway can lead to a really spectacular argument, where you all tell each other exactly what they are doing wrong and should be doing to get the damn thing out of the house. 

I also enjoyed the houses having pets that would get in the way, such as a particularly excitable turtle or chicken, that I would waste loads of time on trying to trap them in the van behind some boxes just to allow us to continue the game.

I waste half the level trying to get an annoying turtle run over, while Charlie would surely be doing better with that TV if he unplugged it first.

The whole game is presented in a fun, cartoony way, and I warmed to the characters enormously, far more than I normally do in this sort of game, to the point where I wouldn’t have wanted to swap my koala because it would mean he’d been fired, and he’d said in a past level how much he was enjoying the job. 

It’s funny, because they only have simple jokes to share between levels, but the happy and excited way they carry things with a slightly arrogant swagger while you’re attempting the level, sweating and sometimes accidentally farting if they try and carry something too heavy that they should actually get help with, and try and see the best of the terrible conditions their boss has them working under, really made me love them pretty quickly.

Different weight items really feel different to carry and struggle with, and items that are plugged in have their cords stretched to snapping point as you lug them away and hurl them into the van. It all feels fantastically anarchic. The physics, movement and feel of the game overall is really excellent as you career through the house, and made me think far more of the game than if those little touches hadn’t been there. 

The absolute chaos of being able to do pretty much everything imaginable to get the items out in the quickest time is terrific fun too. It was an excellent move by the game designers to not award more points for doing it more cleanly, as while it would have massively upped the skill level, it would also have taken away the fun. There’s a naughty thrill to smashing anything you want as you go. Throwing a telly out of a top floor window and later packing the smouldering remains in the back of the van with a clap on the back and a gold star for doing it so fast made me a very happy koala.

Oh dear.  This looks like the beginning of a heated debate about throwing and catching.

One weird thing happened playing this game, which is while the game initially grabbed us, it then began to pall. A possible reason is that it didn’t seem to expand level by level like Overcooked! did. That game is brilliant at constantly keeping the players evolving to new challenges by varying up the recipes and putting sadistic hazards in your path. This game began to feel far more repetitive, with less mixing it up of the rules and settings, each level consisting of just slightly varying challenges of similar difficulty with the same obstacles and problems. There were no new techniques to learn, and no new challenges beyond a slightly different layout. 

Basically, the game started feeling old, like we’d already done it, and whereas failing an Overcooked! level had us revisiting our strategy and trying to work out what we had to do to reduce those failed orders, here, we just had to try again, using similar tactics, and just try not to mess it up as much. The “one more go” factor seemed to be lacking.

However, as we kept coming back to it, we realised we’d become better at it, the gold medals came more frequently, and that Overcooked! feeling of being in “the zone” came along. Suddenly, we were concentrating harder, working together, and yes, laughing harder too. The manic energy came to the fore again, and we realised we were enjoying the game far more than by the time we’d stopped playing previously.

And then, the game DID begin to evolve. Fans, ghosts, moving platforms and conveyor belts all began to appear, and suddenly the game was changing, level by level, and there was even a plot developing. Better still, it was a really interesting and fun plot. The levels weren’t just being completed for fun but to uncover the identity of a mysterious client that was clearly up to no good, using our trusting and naive characters for their own nefarious purpose. I found that I actually DID want to know who was behind this new development. I’m amazed at how fond of the characters I became during this game, and when the plot threatened them we knew we were going to see this thing through. The game had far more heart and complexity than it appeared early on, and from an early impression of being an inferior version of Overcooked!, it developed its own character and personality, and I’m left with the conclusion this sits proudly on the top shelf of this genre, a game we will be returning to for some time to come.

If you’re chomping for some crazy, chaotic, co-operative couch companionship, this has plenty to offer for a fairly low price, and the cute charm of the lovable characters and the thrill of moving house in the manner that, let’s face it, we’d all love to move house if the furniture belonged to someone else, combine to make this all more fun and polished than it might seem when you start out. 

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A fun family game, or something to play post-pub with your mates (ah, those were the pre-lockdown days), this might put an end to friends suddenly being busy if you ask them to help you move house.
David Braga

A tired and befuddled writer in his mid-forties who, having had his gaming gene surgically removed in his early twenties, is now returning to the gaming world due to the enthusiasm of his games-mad son. He is finding the scenery much changed and very confusing, though with much quicker loading times.