Moving into the flat I currently live in with my boyfriend was the single most stressful experience I have ever had. The van rental was delayed, the hallway gained a hole within an hour of the keys being handed over, furniture was damaged and arguments were had. The second most stressful experience of my life was playing Overcooked 2 with that same boyfriend. I think you can see where I’m going with this…
Moving Out is the latest game from publisher Team17, a team who I have come to refer to as the 'Architects of Arguments', as its newest title seems set to instigate the breakdown of relationships even more so than previously published games Overcooked 1 and 2. Moving Out is another fun and frenetic co-op experience, this time from developer SMG Studios, that on this occasion sees you become the new recruits of the Smooth Moves Family, a moving company run by an anthropomorphic box with a face drawn on.
Release date: April 28, 2020
Platform(s): PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC
Developer: SMG Studio
Publisher: Team 17
Within minutes of loading up the game, it was clear this was going to be more stressful than our previous co-op experiences. This is thanks, in part, to a dedicated slap button. So as well as buttons to lift and throw the boxes you are tasked with moving, you can dramatically slap away any foes you might encounter (and, unfortunately, each other.) You begin the game with six character choices which include a cat, a dog and a sentient toaster. There is plenty of customisation too, which means your dog can be an astronaut, your sentient toaster can wear a jaunty hat and, in a lovely touch that alludes to the care put into accessibility in this particular game, all characters can be in wheelchairs.
Right from the loading screen, the game charms you with witty remarks, and your characters will have funny interactions at the start and end of each level. Each level requires your moving team to drive to a building of some kind and load all the items into the van. I say items, because these can range from sofas and chairs to haunted furniture and barnyard animals, all the while set to an 80s synth-pop soundtrack. And, as the astronaut dog I was playing as pointed out, "we’re not just moving furniture, we’re moving hearts".
Whilst the premise is fairly straightforward, moving some of the furniture is not. Many items will require two people to lift and oftentimes won't fit through the doorways at certain angles. And here, dear reader, is where the arguments begin. The first level that really caused tensions to rise was called Casa de Cliff, a house set over multiple levels with an awkwardly laid out kitchen and shrubs to make moving large objects particularly difficult. This was also the first level that my enjoyment of the game started to wane. On this occasion you are required to load 22 items, and as with each level you are able to achieve a gold, silver or bronze medal for your efforts, depending on how quickly you complete them. On this occasion, we failed to achieve even the bronze medal, which asked that you complete the level within 10 minutes and 30 seconds. This meant, of course, that to progress we needed to attempt this level again, which meant another 10+ minutes of bickering. For purely informational reasons, here are some of the arguments my 'moving' partner and I had on this level alone:
- "You keep slapping me on purpose"
- "It’s your fault we can’t fit the sofa through the front door"
- "You keep chucking the boxes clearly marked fragile. Now they’re broken!"
- "You’re putting the boxes in the truck in a way that makes it hard to fit everything in"
- "When swinging a large item, you let go on the back swing and forcefully threw the sofa behind us"
- "Why, when I’m waiting for you to help me move a 2-man item, are you stopping to try and throw a basketball through a hoop?"
- "Right, so now you’re trying to throw the chicken through that same hoop.."
As mentioned before, however, the humour is present throughout and often serves to break the tension. Each round will always end in utter carnage, as windows break easily and electrical appliances need to be forcefully ripped from their plug sockets, but the combination of silly sound effects and the inevitable destruction means, usually, the levels are more humorous than they are stressful. Usually. A real stand out level in this regard paid homage to the game Frogger, and required you to move furniture across a busy road and then over logs on a stream, all the while being harassed by a green frog who, surprise surprise, wants to make it to the other side. This level had us laughing out loud, and managed to repair most of the emotional damage caused by Casa de Cliff.
It is in these more inventive levels that you really start to love Moving Out. Levels that require an element of problem-solving, perhaps by pushing buttons to open new rooms, or trying to wrangle sheep onto the truck, keep the game fresh and engaging. This isn’t always consistent, however, as levels where the main obstacle is the sheer number of boxes to load, can go on a lot longer than most and come to feel like a chore, particularly if you have to replay them. Other levels with multiple (slappable) enemies can get overwhelming, when combined with a timer and some hard to move furniture. The same can be said for the Arcade mode: an area on the map you can drive to and unlock levels in with coins earned throughout the game. These are mini-games that will have you playing out a condensed version of what the levels have you doing, such as navigating a sofa around a moving obstacle course.
As a whole, Moving Out seems to leave less opportunity for strategic thinking than its main rival, Overcooked. Where levels in Overcooked would end in methodically plotting our course of action, Moving Out ends with us jumping back in and somehow causing even more destruction than before. When we stopped trying to go for gold and simply revelled in the chaos, it got a lot more enjoyable.
Overall, Moving Out is an exciting and genuinely funny co-op experience, the writing is smart, the game is stylish and some stand out levels are brilliantly designed. If you think the relationships with your co-op partners can handle it, then it’s time to join the Smooth Moves Family.