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Review: Charming Out of Line Runs Out of Ideas

Screenshot: Out of Line

I think Limbo-like or Inside­-like could be considered its own adventure platforming subgenre. I mean, it practically is as side scrolling games with heavy puzzle elements, stunning visuals, and wordless storytelling have been quietly becoming more common. While there are games that sit on both ends of the spectrum in terms of how well they pull of their particular brand of puzzle platforming, Out of Line sits somewhere in the middle. It has a gorgeous, hand drawn aesthetic and a mysterious world, but it lacks variety.

Out of Line is a side scrolling puzzle platformer where you take control of San in a surreal, hand drawn world that is as inexplicable as it is enchanting. As San you wield a javelin, which serves as your main tool throughout your adventure. Run, jump, push, pull, but also throw your returnable javelin to create a platform, or use as a lever to activate a contraption move a platform. In fact, Out of Line really loves puzzles that involve moving or creating platforms or walkways, and has them in great varieties—platforms moved by steam, other by pulley, etc. But there’s not really enough of a variety in these puzzles through Out of Line’s several hours of gameplay to keep things interesting.

Screenshot: Out of Line

While Out of Line does have some fresh ideas, and a badass returnable javelin (I’m a sucker for weapons you can call back at will in video games) it runs out of ideas fairly quickly. While there are certainly variations on a theme, almost all puzzles fit into one of two categories: work a contraption to move platforms/remove obstacle, or use your javelin to create a platform/remove obstacle. It is undeniably charming, and with some attractive hand drawn art, but that was problematic as well. Sometimes I would fall off of the edge of walkways and such because the edge was somewhere between what the drawing depicted, and the game’s background geometry. Also, despite its charming aesthetic and interesting characters, even by the end, I hardly knew what was going on.

As a story told without words, Out of Line lost me a little. As San you get an energy javelin that can return to you on command—handy if you have to solve puzzles that revolve around using a javelin as a lever. Along the way you meet two others with similar energy cube implements, with one of these characters wielding a larger javelin that can change aggressive spider-like creatures into friendly helpers. But I never really understood why you were there, why these people were working together, or why you are given the javelin in the first place. By the time the last claw was defeated, I still had only a vague notion as to what the purpose of it all was.

Screenshot: Out of Line

Out of Line isn’t a bad game by any stretch, but when it was all said and done, never really felt like a great game. While the puzzles did have a bit of variety, it felt like the same two or three types of interactions over and over again. I really appreciate Out of Line’s art style, atmosphere, and world building—but its storytelling was a little weak, despite its interesting characters and intriguing mystery. If you like puzzle platformers, however, Out of Line is a solid entry.

 

Out of Line is available tomorrow on PC via Steam.

 

 

 

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