Out of Line – Nintendo Switch
Developed By: Nerd Monkeys
Published By: Hathinh Interactive
Category: Puzzle Platform, Adventure
Release Date: August 18, 2021
The power of the latest consoles has allowed developers to create beautiful and detailed 2D worlds which were previously thought impossible. We’ve seen some startling results using this power to help create new types of 2D experiences. Many developers make this design choice as unlike 3D it allows them to use the camera to frame the scene they want to show the player at any given time to tell a story.
But while Out of Line from Portuguese developers Nerd Monkeys and Parisian publishers Hatinh Interactive attempts to draw you in and build intrigue, a satisfying pay off unfortunately never comes. You play a young boy named San attempting to survive and escape from a dangerous, yet beautiful world.
Lovely watercolour style visuals depict a futuristic mechanical world that nature is attempting to reclaim. Visually the developers’ influence is clear to see when a homage to Monet’s The Water-Lily Pond painting can be seen hanging on the wall. Backgrounds are 2D but sometimes with different layers moving individually. Light shafts appear as if drawn by pastels. It’s striking stuff.
In the opening moments you learn the controls which are quite simple as well as getting your main weapon, the spear. It can be used to attack but also to help you traverse larger gaps and bounce off of when it’s been thrown and wedged into a wall. When it’s thrown you can call it back to you, a mix of a boomerang and Yondu’s Yaka arrow from Guardians of the Galaxy.
The camera is fixed on a 2D plane but will move around to frame scenes in various ways, such as panning out to show a steep descent. It initially reuses a lot of puzzles and puzzle solutions so you can learn it’s systems, but overuse of puzzle types eventually becomes a bit repetitive. Often the objective in initial puzzles is to open a doorway using floor switches, movable blocks or using your spear in some way. But later on it spices things up a bit when you get to solve puzzles with NPC buddies who open paths for you and vice versa, and the influence from Portal can be seen in later puzzle design. There are also times where you must evade capture by large menacing mechanical claws, like the machines from The Matrix, which reach for you from offscreen.
Throughout you can collect blue cubes which you can transfer to a tree, and will attach themselves to the branches like fruit. They are hidden in various nooks and crannies throughout, but ultimately comes across as unnecessary busywork as there doesn’t appear to be any benefit to collecting them.
It takes multiple pages from Playdead’s fantastic Inside, but one in particular is environmental storytelling. Characters can be seen in the back and foreground reacting to the scene going on around them that you’re passing through, and at times providing hints as to what you should do to overcome your next obstacle. Occasional static cutscenes crop up are gorgeous, which look like they have been hand drawn using chalk. There’s no dialogue in Out of Line however so a lot of heavy lifting needs to be done through character interactions on screen and the arresting and atmospheric musical score, which is excellent. But this isn’t enough and there isn’t enough to go on to take anything away at the end. Eventually the game peters out and ends quite abruptly, in a way which feels unfinished which is a shame.
It may be difficult to take much away from this once you reach the end in around 2 hours. The art style is gorgeous, puzzle design is fairly simple and the story doesn’t resonate to elevate it above many other games in the puzzle platformer genre. This is still an enjoyable experience but Out of Line’s strengths unfortunately appear to lie in the wrong areas.