Out of Line Review: A Gorgeous, Unique Puzzle-Platformer
If I have one gaming genre that I’m just not good at, it would be platformers. And yet, despite my total lack of platforming prowess, I still really enjoy them. I mean, what kind of monster honestly doesn’t like a good Mario game (especially Super Mario Bros. 3)? Add in some gorgeous hand-painted visuals, and a game becomes just about impossible for me to resist. And so it was with Nerd Monkeys’ Out of Line, a unique little 2D puzzle-platformer.
Out of Line puts players in the shoes of San as he tries to escape the strange factory that he previously called home. Interestingly, the story is told entirely through the adventure itself; there is no dialogue. You’ll need to piece together the story from San’s journey, meeting helpful figures, terrifying mechanical claws, and painted murals along the way. It makes for a delightfully unique experience, though I can’t confidently say that I fully understood the story. Or, maybe to be more fair, perhaps my interpretation of the story isn’t as filled-out as I might like.
Not Your Average Platformer
It probably goes without saying that the focus of Out of Line is on the gameplay, considering it’s a puzzle-platformer. Platformers being a dime a dozen (not that there’s anything wrong with that!), it takes something special to stand out. I think Out of Line has managed that something special. Sure, you’ve got the typical “jump from platform A to platform B” that you’ll expect in any platformer, but there are some truly delightful puzzle elements as well. To solve the vast majority of these puzzles, you’ll need to master San’s mysterious spear of light. Acquired very early in the game, it is the sole piece of equipment to navigate the challenges of the factory as you make your way through it.
San can hurl his spear at the wall to make a foothold to gain access to higher ground. When stuck in the wall, the spear also provides some extra spring to your jump, boosting the height of your jump. You’ll also need to aim it carefully at gears to make them grind to a halt, keeping obstacles out of the way long enough to rush through to safety. There are still more uses for the spear, too: it can be used to temporarily connect two broken wires together, used as a lever to operate switches, and can be thrown at switches to activate them. At one point, you’ll even find metal rods anchored in the ground that are wrapped in chains. San can attach these chains to his spear for some really neat puzzle solving. Thankfully, to retrieve his golden spear, players need only hit a single button, and it’ll come flying back to San’s hand.
You’re Not Alone
Solving puzzles will also often involve help from random companions you’ll meet along the way. You’ll have to safely guide cute little (mechanical? quasi-mechanical?) bug-like creatures through obstacles so that they can open doors and power up switches for you. You’ll even come across other people that look just like San, and together you’ll help one another evade the terrifying claws that are eager to snatch (or smash) you up. It’s a thoughtfully executed mechanic, and not once did it ever feel clunky or like it was too difficult to help/be helped by these computer-controlled characters.
Absolutely Gorgeous Artwork, Solid Gameplay
Out of Line is almost absurdly gorgeous. Just everything in the game is rendered in loving detail, and the art style is simply phenomenal. The characters, the environments, even the menacing, terrifying claws are all lovingly hand-drawn. There’s an incredible attention to detail, and you can just tell that a lot of love and heart went into the game’s art. The music is solid, as are the sound effects, always appropriate to the in-game moment.
Honestly, there’s very little I can find in the way of criticism for this game. It’s stunningly gorgeous, intuitive and creative, and a delightfully unique little puzzle-platformer. If I had to find something “wrong” with Out of Line, I suppose that it’s perhaps a little on the short side (it can be beaten within just a couple of hours). The default controls are also not ideal; the keyboard keys work just fine (A moves you to the left, D to the right, W jumps), but paired with having to click the mouse buttons to throw and retrieve your spear in conjunction just didn’t feel very smooth to me. Thankfully, that was easily solved by simply using my PS4 controller. These are honestly minor complaints, though. The game is beautiful and oddly moving, considering the complete lack of dialogue. If you need something a little different from your standard platformer, give Out of Line a try.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: PC (Reviewed); Publisher: Hatinh Interactive; Developer: Nerd Monkeys: Players: 1; Released: June 23, 2021; MSRP: $12.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a copy of Out of Line given to Hey Poor Player by the publisher.