Bedford Falls, the darkest time-line. A classic movie moment. Clarence and George are in the bar and have finally pushed Nick, the proprietor, too far. “Dat does it,” says Nick. “Out you two pixies go. True da door or out da window.”
True da door or out da window. That line has been very helpful to me over the last few days as I’ve played through Moving Out, a removals simulator in the knockabout style of the glorious kitchen game Overcooked. As with Overcooked you move around elbowy physics-driven environments trying to do a pretty straightforward job in difficult circumstances. As with Overcooked your colleagues – your allies – are often the biggest hurdle to deal with. But whereas my mantra with Overcooked was always, can everyone please stick to their f-ing station, with Moving Out I have looked to St Nick. I arrive at a new location. I survey the stuff we have to get in the van. The size. The positioning. The question of breakability. Then I ask myself that immortal question: true da door or out da window?
Sofas. Listen, I would always chuck these out da window. They are a pain to handle any other way. A sofa in a stairwell is a bad time indeed. A corner sofa in a doorway makes me want to lie down for the rest of the afternoon. But two removal people can grab a sofa pretty easily, pick up a bit of momentum and loft it through a dual-aspect like nobody’s business. Soft landing on the lawn. Then into the truck.
Breakables? Definitely true da door. These things can get all the way to the truck and then shatter, so I actually like to leave them until last and do them in a genteel relay. Big stuff on first. Then the intermediate boxes and whatnot. The tellies and toasters. Then the glassware. True da door.
Moving Out is filled with these decisions. Each level tasks you with a bunch of stuff to get into the truck within a certain time limit, and a location that generally has a few wrinkles to complicate everything. One place might have a pool you need to get around. Another might have ghosts. One might be a spin on Frogger or a science lab. With up to four players, even the largest layout is pretty poky, and brilliantly a lot of the game requires co-operation. Heavier stuff needs two carriers. Lighter stuff can be handled by chucking it from one person to the next, clearing any obstacles in the process. Moving Out knows to keep things simple on the most basic level – you always know what needs to be moved, and you generally have a good idea of how a level’s gimmick works. This means that the complication comes from your side of the screen. Over-ambition. Corner cutting. Clumsiness. I imagine it’s a bit like – you know – working in removals. Apart from the stuff about kiting ghosts. I think.
So it’s a party game in which your party are often the problem – a brilliant recipe for rowdy fun. The genius though may lie with the framing. This is a game about smashing stuff around and treating it quite badly, but it’s not framed as a demolition number. It’s framed as a job about packing stuff up, and therefore it weaponises your own sense of anxiety about breaking stuff. This is a particular kind of thrill, then: a guilty thrill. And that makes things exciting even before the levels start to get weird. (It also adds a very gentle element of class revenge.)
With two players it’s great, with four it’s absolute carnage, and then there are the bonus objectives for each level, the medals to go for, the map screen that means, like Overcooked with which it shares a publisher, simply getting from one level to the next can go wrong quite quickly. Add memory levels and arcade levels – the first of these is incredibly tough – and there’s a lot to do.
But that’s only half of what I love about this game. The carefully constructed carelessness is one thing, but in the menus you’ll find signs that you’re in extremely good hands. Moving Out has really exemplary accessibility options (dyslexia settings, text resizing, full button remapping on PC and pre-set remappings on consoles included a one-handed option). On top of that it has wonderfully inclusive character options and an assist mode that allows you to alter the challenge in a range of thoughtful ways while still ensuring that everyone has fun.
It’s impossible to think of Moving Out without thinking of Overcooked – they even share a publisher. For my money, Moving Out isn’t quite as good. It doesn’t have the unforced quirkiness of Overcooked, it’s not the original, and maybe in truth I just have fond memories of working in catering and I’ve never worked in removals. But Moving Out is still very special. It’s special in the way that a difficult level might ultimately be a puzzle, a house that can be solved in effect if you think about the tools and the layout the right way. It’s special in the way that dog character you unlock animates in such a breathlessly cheery dog manner. And it’s special in a way that goes right back to Bedford Falls and that eternal question about doors and windows.