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Everyone loves a good multiplayer physics/simulation based party game - Overcooked and Human: Fall Flat are two prime examples that come to mind. Games where you either work with or against (if you're an evil human being) your friends on one screen to complete tasks while fighting against the laws of time and physics.
Moving Out - from Overcooked publishers Team17 - fits in the same vein of the greatly under-appreciated The Stretchers, only in this case instead of comically ferrying patients to your ambulance, up to four players work for a moving company, emptying out houses by manually moving items from the property in question to your van. These items range from the normal (a sofa) to the abnormal (livestock), and what they are can often affect the difficulty of a level.
In the case of Overcooked and The Stretchers, the stress of working together successfully with friends can lead to some genuinely heated arguments over whose fault it was that the team only obtained a 1-star ranking. But you still love the games, despite your pal's failings; you want to push yourself more and more to keep coming back and improve.
Neither my partner or myself felt this way with Moving Out, never going back to try and better ourselves and earn gold on a house-move, or unlock the special tasks. We just hopped from job to job, feeling glad whenever the last one was finished.
In fact, even after reviewing The Stretchers back in November, my partner (who played alongside me back then) still wants to jump back into that game and play more, rather than stick with Moving Out. After a few hours with this one, she desperately wanted to stop playing, saying things like, "It's like a cheap knock-off copy of Stretchers, but in no way as fun."
That criticism is probably a little harsh, though, as there is some good here. And I truly think if you haven't played the excellent games mentioned above, you could have a great time with Moving Out - but only because you have nothing better to compare it to.
The main issue for me with Moving Out is the base movement physics when carrying an object, and the hit detection of the world around you. There were times when I'd be stuck against a door frame and have to push away hard to un-stick, or not be able to move up the side of a platform - with this often happening when carrying heavier items as a pair.
There were several occasions where myself and my partner would find ourselves arguing with each other to move in certain ways, only to discover we actually already were - our characters just weren't properly responding to our inputs. Often characters would refuse to spin around while holding bigger objects, which may have been a choice in development to better replicate real-life momentum and weight distribution - some heavy items need to be carried by dragging them backwards - but in this situation it wasn't an extra challenge, it was a hindrance to the gameplay.
I actually thought long and hard about whether to mention this in the review, as this kind of criticism can often be received with a mumble of "git gud". But as a couple we never had this problem in other, easily comparable games, like the ones mentioned earlier. Moving between jobs, between levels, is also a mixed-bag - and is something else that other games like this have done better.
After picking up patients in each location in The Stretchers, for example, you drive through a fully realised 3D world, jumping off ramps, crashing through walls - all the good stuff - to drop the folk in need of help off at the hospital. For my partner and myself this was probably one of the most fun parts. In Moving Out, that approach is replaced with a top-down overworld where you drive your van to each new location, crashing into cars and pushing them into the rivers along the way. It's cute, but not as involved as it could have been. It's a personal preference of course, but I enjoy how other games have managed this, far better than what's seen in Moving Out.
Something that needs to be mentioned, but won't be dwelled on for too long, is that I reviewed this game on Xbox One - and the developers at SMG Studio must really hate Xbox. In the opening minutes of the game you complete a very nicely designed tutorial level, a fun little scene where you learn all the basics. For your troubles, what do you earn? 1G. One GamerScore. Come on, that's not cricket. There are four achievements in the game that suffer from this, which means you're gonna have to be in this for the long haul if you want your nice factor-of-five GamerScore back.
Moving Out suffers from a noticeable lack of cutscenes and memorable characters. We all remember the Onion King from Overcooked and his dog Kevin, and if you played The Stretchers you'd know the evil Captain Brains and the lovable idiotic Medics. This side is missing from Moving Out, and it's a real shame. That's not to say there isn't an effort. Your moving-out team talks to each other at the start of each mission, mentioning the odd things 'The Boss' says, but it's no substitute for creative and entertaining characters.
There's a fun game in Moving Out, and I'm sure there's an audience who will get hours of multiplayer, physics-based enjoyment out of it - but for me there are better games that scratch the exact same itch. A lack of charm and humour and some dodgy physics really hold back a game that could have been a lot more enjoyable.
It should also be mentioned that the game comes with accessibility options for those who need extra help when playing, including an Assist Mode, with toggle options for items that normally need buttons to be held, font size, dyslexia-friendly text and much more. This is something that the team at GAMINGbible values highly, and we support any project that aims to be as inclusive for as many players as possible. The game may not have clicked with my partner or myself, but I know and respect that it will bring a lot of joy to a lot of gamers out there.
Moving Out is released on April 28, and was reviewed on Xbox One using code supplied by the publisher. It's also available on PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch and PC. Find a guide to our review scoring here.