Couch co-op games have seen a recent surge of interest in some of life’s most stressful moments, thanks in part to the already unwieldy nature of games that require four or so people (often inebriated, at that) to come together and accomplish a coherent task. Moving Out is, in many ways, the spiritual successor to Overcooked, similarly labor-focused and ridiculous in its premise.
Similar to Overcooked, what at first seems impossible becomes much easier as you and your group learn not how to play the game, but your own chemistry as a team. Generally, based on each player’s personality, you’ll fall into one of a few roles:
1. The leader, barking orders and functioning as a loud, righteous voice of reason.
2. The lone wolf, a silent player who would prefer to do solo tasks like retrieving small boxes or protecting others from ghosts while they cart two-person items to the moving van.
3. The sycophant, subject to everyone’s beck-and-call when they need a helping hand. They’re the first to come running when someone asks for assistance.
4. The strategist, the one to pause the game and say “maybe we should restart and try something else,” keenly aware of when it’s best to start from the beginning.
5. The one who just wants to watch the world burn. They’ll slap you in the face right in front of traffic without a moment’s notice.
For a game that is decidedly uncomplicated, the rubbing tensions cause an exciting friction between you and the friends you’re playing with. It’s perhaps what a co-op game should be—an unobtrusive simple tool to foster camaraderie (or enmity, maybe) between you and those you’re sharing a couch and a pizza with.
Unfortunately, it’s often hard to tell if Moving Out is decidedly more difficult than Overcooked or if it’s just more frustrating. The game’s biggest flaw is the sensitive, jumpy way the characters move about, often introducing a cavalcade. On most levels, you’ll spend your last minute just trying to make everything fit in the truck, dancing around a pinball machine to try and get on opposite ends so you can toss it on top of some beach balls and a chicken or two. This is, by far, the least fun and most rage inducing aspect of the game, one that’ll make your group not want to restart when you know you essentially already cleared the stage. It lacks Overcooked’s sense of urgent intuition, instead being a mad dash against the clock. Rarely will you feel as “in the zone” as you might while playing Overcooked.
The level design also leaves something to be desired. Where Overcooked would separate players and be left to fulfill certain roles only they can accomplish on their half of the kitchen, Moving Out opts to have every player’s role equalized. Not only does this give each player a lesser sense of purpose, causing a lot more aimless roving through a house’s hallways than needed, it also makes each player’s role in the level feel less distinct and, somehow, less impactful. It’s a bit of a missed opportunity that these mechanics are never built on and new tasks and obstacles aren’t introduced—the most you’ll get in that department are fragile objects that can’t be thrown, enemies that impede your progress, infuriatingly narrow hallways, and moving objects that like to escape from the truck.
That said, Moving Out’s presentation is immaculate, with many cute critters, plants, and meals to play as. The jokes are genuinely funny, and the visuals and music flirt with an ‘80s aesthetic that feels timeless and stylish—it’s more than just noise to decorate a soulless party game. If you’re looking for a game to play with your family that’s light on mechanics, you can’t go wrong with Moving Out—it’s a good time and just as easy to pick up and play sober or otherwise. It’s infinitely replayable with near impossible challenge missions, so there’s plenty of content to keep you and your revolving door of guests busy. It’s a lot of fun to enter a level and try to puzzle out what the hidden objectives might be: there’s an oil slick here, so I bet we can’t track prints in the house. There’s a snowboard and a slippery trail of ice? Time to Tricky my way down.
Any major complaints about the game seem overly picky, given the game’s admirable dedication to accessibility for all ages and co-op literacy levels. It may not be a wholly strategic venture, but it’s got a lot of charm and a slick look to back it up. If not for its obvious similarities to Overcooked, I’d probably be judging it a little less harshly; along with that already timeless gem of the genre, Moving Out is one of the best couch co-op games out there right now.
Moving Out was developed by SMG Studio and published by Team17. Our review is based on the Switch version. It’s also available for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC and Mac.
Austin Jones is an intern at Paste. He writes about music, videogames and queer issues. He’s an avid fan of electronic and pop music, horror games, Joanna Newsom and ’80s-’90s anime. You can follow him on Twitter @belfryfire.