Beauty In The Eye Of The Beholder

HIGH The art style is beautiful and supports strong ambience and mystery.

LOW Puzzles don’t evolve much and grow stale after a bit. 

WTF Those claws scare the crap out of me.

There are certain games that draw the player in from just one glance at a trailer. That was my experience with Out of Line — the watercolored, hand-drawn graphics were truly captivating, and I couldn’t wait to explore this world for myself. Though I found myself more entranced by the visual and auditory aesthetic than the gameplay, Out of Line is still a robust and engaging tale.

Out of Line weaves a cryptic tale of a small person (or robot?) named San. Within the opening moments, they find themselves in peril as they must escape a hoard of animatronic claws. Using their trusty spear, San will solve puzzles in a 2D environment through a variety of gorgeous canvases in order to survive. 

The biggest draw here is the stellar art. Throughout San’s journey, it’s apparent the developers put an incredible amount of care, detail, and love into every single frame. Though there’s no dialogue, I was never disengaged from the story because every environment is unique, picaresque, and creates a compelling story even without text. Combined with its light, angelic music, the presentation is both mysterious and inviting.  

Out of Line’s story is enigmatic from start to finish and leaves much up to the player’s imagination. Within the opening moments of the game, there are multiple “Sans” both aiding the playable San through puzzles, and others malfunctioning and bursting into electrical frenzies.

Gameplay revolves around San’s spear. With it, they can activate switches, lodge it into walls to climb on, and use it as a lever to operate switches. Puzzles grow more complex when additional spears must be used to progress — at times San must juggle up to four at once, some of which will only stay in place for as little as ten seconds. Although the spear’s aim is a bit slippery, I mostly enjoyed the spear as a puzzle solving mechanic to explore the world.

For completionists, blue cubes can be found in difficult-to-reach crevices or through secret passageways, and act as collectables for those wanting to explore every inch of the environment. Though satisfying to obtain, they don’t reward the player with anything aside from personal gratification. Unfortunately, aside from finding these extras and a few tense moments, Out of Line never provides much of a challenge.

The puzzles, though engaging at first, never develop into anything overly demanding. With no new mechanics introduced past the spear’s use, the puzzles ultimately grow stale in the later stages. I wish there were something more to the formula — perhaps moments where San could hurl the spear into the pesky spiders or terrifying, crushing claws that pursue them in chase sequences.

I also grew frustrated on a few occasions with the checkpoint system. Multiple times I would solve a time-consuming puzzle only to shortly after fall into pit or miss an unclear jump, and be forced to redo the puzzle. The checkpoints should definitely occur after such sections to save players from repeating their efforts.

The lack of difficulty and lack of evolution in the gameplay mechanics are an issue, but they don’t diminish the overall appeal of Out of Line, though they do hold it back from being something truly special. I savored exploring San’s forsaken habitat and eagerly awaited what lied around the next corner. The gameplay can’t match the lofty bar set by the presentation, but Out of Line remains a visual and atmospheric triumph. 

Rating: 7 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed by Nerd Monkeys and published by Hatinh Interactive. It is currently available on PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher. Approximately 3.5 hours were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: At the time of review, this game is not yet rated. There are some moments of peril, creatures such as spiders getting stabbed with a spear, and frightening images such as mechanical claws chasing San. I would say this game is suitable for Everyone 10+.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: There is no dialogue or text in the game. Cues for progression are all visual, and do not require sound, making this game fully accessible. 

Remappable Controls: No, controls are not remappable.

Alex Prakken
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