The simplest way to describe the upcoming co-op video game Moving Out would be to call it Overcooked with removalists instead of chefs.
Moving Out’s premise is fairly simple. You and your friends are new employees at Smooth Moves Furniture Removalists, the most irresponsible moving company in the world. Tasked with loading clients’ belongings onto trucks, property damage nor occupational health and safety standards are considered important. All that matters is that you toss everything you can get your little grabby hands on into the truck before time runs out.
This seems like a recipe for chaos, shouting, and testing of friendships — all markers of some of the best couch co-op games. However, when I visited Australian developer SMG Studios to play a demo, I found Moving Out far less manic than expected.
Moving Out takes some obvious cues from Ghost Town Games’ hugely popular co-op cooking game Overcooked. The similarities are clear in everything from the chunky art style and top-down view to the wacky characters and irreverent plot, which culminates in a cartoonish boss battle. Both four-player games deliberately lean into disarray, with players working in teams to do their jobs while the environment shifts dangerously around them. (There’s a metaphor about capitalism in there somewhere.)
However, while Overcooked demands constant communication for any chance of success, I found Moving Out required very little collaboration at all. My team earned gold stars on all six demo levels, including the tutorial, though I hardly needed to say a word. The developers are still working out the time limits for each star level, so chances are it won’t be so easy at launch. Even so, it felt as though we were simply playing on the same map rather than playing together.
This is largely because most of Moving Out’s movable objects can be managed solo. While some require two people to lift, I spent most of my time running into the house, grabbing furniture, and running it back to the truck by myself. A player might grab one end of a couch and call someone over to grab the other, or one might move furniture from point A to B for someone else to transfer onto the truck. However, players are mostly competing with map obstacles rather than flailing team coordination.
In contrast, Overcooked gives players several different tasks that must be completed in a specific order, making it prudent to assign one specific job to each person. The jobs also intersect, requiring communication. Someone may need to put a tomato soup on the burner, but first they need someone else to slice tomatoes, which in turn need to be retrieved from storage. Add in environmental obstacles and task time limits, and it’s a recipe for boisterous disaster.
No such division of labour is required in Moving Out, and the only time constraint is the one on the entire level. This greatly reduces the potential for chaos. It’s a shame, because the unavoidable mayhem and futile attempts at teamwork are exactly what made Overcooked so fun.
Fortunately, Moving Out’s simpler gameplay isn’t without its advantages. While older or more experienced gamers may find the game less engaging than Overcooked, younger children and those new to video games benefit from fewer complications.
In fact, Moving Out seems best suited for parents and caregivers playing with their children. The game aims for family-friendly humour, starting with players becoming certified FARTs, or Furniture Arrangement and Relocation Technicians. There’s also a smattering of ‘80s references for nostalgic adults, which vary in subtlety. It was easy to pick out the quartet of masked turtles and the level inspired by Frogger, but I didn’t recognise the Ferrari from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off until it was pointed out.
The game’s objectives are straightforward enough for young children to pick up, and the controls simple enough for those still refining their fine motor skills — or who are less well-versed in the language of video games. My mom was overwhelmed by Overcooked, but I think she might have a chance against Moving Out.
Moving Out also has various Assist Mode options which players can toggle to reduce difficulty, including making objects lighter or even skipping failed levels entirely. This means you won’t get stuck playing the same map over and over, and can access all 50 levels regardless of how terrible your kids (or parents) are at putting things away.
Reduction of frustration seems to be a watchword for Moving Out, both the good kind and the bad. Whether you’ll appreciate the effort will depend on the type of player you are.
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