You may remember that I previewed Out of Line a month or so ago, and now I have been able to play and experience the full release. It was a good journey from start to finish, though not without some problems. This is a very short game and only takes a little over 2 hours to complete… literally as it was (to be precise) 2 hours and 1 minute for me. We already know that I thought the art style was brilliant, and I have to stress again just how good it is, the 2D drawing style is very nice on the eye especially as it’s all hand drawn. It’s certainly different in a good way, though I didn’t know if my biggest concern could be addressed – would it get me to understand what was happening? I guess you’re all thinking then: “How does it work across the full game?”.
If you missed the preview of Out of Line, the game is all about… well… I’m not entirely sure. As I’m left in the dark even after finishing the game that’s a problem for me. We’ll take the blurb first:
Out of Line follows the journey of a child named San on his quest for freedom. Along the way, players will guide San through many trials as he is introduced to new friends that will help him overcome different obstacles in his life. At the end of his journey, San will be one step closer to uncovering one of life’s greatest lessons… The story isn’t told through convention text boxes, but instead relies on the natural curiosity within each human to explore and reveal new developments. The story will be a more immersive experience, relying on interaction with the game world to fully understand.
My initial theory is that as you encounter other characters in the backgrounds of the side-scrolling, puzzle platforming setups, they would turn out to be you, and it turns out [spoiler/not spoiler] this is the case! What the game doesn’t expand on is why? I haven’t got the foggiest idea! It’s the game’s intention and fair enough, I respect the ambiguity and expectation of leaving things unresolved – that life’s lesson as it were – but I would’ve liked more. Or at the very least more guidance on how to uncover the plot in the short runtime. During the adventure you’re chased by claws at certain points and the spider bugs, yet as with the overarching story there is also no explanation as to why. All I can believe is that these enemies are from a bad part of the universe and you’re in some sort of loop. This could all be wrong, I didn’t manage to find anything that tells you otherwise. There are also blue cubes to collect which are memory cubes, and maybe that’s where I was missing a trick. In terms of what they are… I’m guessing these are bits of San that got left in the particular world you’re in.
The puzzles in Out of Line revolve around San using his spear, and whilst I found them fresh and varied in the first half, I was hoping they would progress a bit more through the second half, and sadly they don’t. Good news if you don’t like the difficulty ramping up as the level of puzzles in that first hour are how it continues. They’re all very simple which means they’re accessible, though it also means it’s more of the same going forwards. It did introduce portals very near the end which made it slightly different, but in no way mind blowing nor any harder to solve. You would throw the spear through to the object and done. It’s a shame as the art style is so good that I wish the same effort was applied to the puzzles to expand the gameplay more. I did have hopes for a while that the spear would be used in some form of combat, yet it isn’t, it’s purely used as a platform piece to help you move area to area. Solution mechanics mainly consist of moving valves via the spear, platform pieces, and cogs are involved too, whilst having to use the spear multiple times in one puzzle. The spear can be called back to you at any stage so there are a couple cases you have to be quick whilst solving a puzzle. Out of Line’s platforming parts do work well it has to be said. The jumping feels on point and it’s forgiving so, should you fall, you’re not sent back that far at all. The game has very regular check points as well so you never lose much progress. The audio work is atmospheric, but there isn’t that much sound to it… it seems limited. I like my platformers to have a nice sound track going on, but I didn’t get that from this. Leading to the story and the characters, they aren’t voiced and there isn’t any text for them either, so you don’t really feel emotionally attached to San in any way. What kept me going was the hand drawn art style because it really is magical to look at. There’s a distinct and certain charm that other platformers don’t have.
Despite my issues with the story presentation, I can say I had fun with Out of Line. It’s a short game so it won’t take long to plough through, unfortunately that adds a wrinkle when combined with the unsatisfying conclusion. I would say be very cautious going into it at full price. I know it’s not expensive at around the £10 mark, however I can’t recommend buying any game purely for its visuals alone.
Out of Line from Nerd Monkeys is out now on PC via Steam, and is coming to consoles later this year.