What are the odds? You wait your entire life for a co-op furniture removal physics-based party game and then two turn up at once. It’s not even as if Get Packed and Moving Out were only released in the same year, they were released in the same month.
This often happens in cinema, where two films with very similar themes are released by two entirely different creative teams in the same year. And, if Hollywood has taught us anything, it’s that one release must be better than the other. So is Get Packed a ‘Deep Impact’ to Moving Out’s ‘Armageddon’? Or perhaps Moonshine Studios’ latest is ‘The Prestige’ to Team 17’s ‘The Illusionist’?
The weird thing is, despite their clear thematic similarities, there’s far more that differentiates Get Packed and Moving Out than unites them. Moving Out offers a distinctly co-operative experience; you must work together with your team to successfully manoeuvre furniture to your removal van. Get Packed, on the other hand, is all about individual achievement and screwing over your pals in as humorous a fashion as possible.
Up to four players, either locally or online, must whack as much furniture as possible into the back of a suspiciously small removals van. There are no restrictions on which items must be packed; you have free reign to rip the contents of the building apart as you see fit.
Effectively there are four players working individually rather than collaboratively. Whilst your final score is based upon your combined efforts, each player’s individual performance is monitored and graded. You want to make sure that you’re the one who’ll grab the most valuable items, the rest of the team be damned. As such, it’s a chaotic, manic and resolutely silly experience.
Each level does have specific items that the employer wants you to retrieve, but once these are revealed any attempts at team work are indefinitely put on hold. Players ram, smash, and shove each other to get there first, often resulting in the item being so badly damaged that it loses all of its value anyway. In a genius touch, the individual hands of each avatar can grip two different objects simultaneously, leading to some amusingly inventive play.
Wondering if you can knock out two players, drag them along behind you then leave their prostrate bodies unconscious in the back of the van? Wonder no longer, because you can totally do that. It’s brilliant! You can also grab another unconscious player – yes, there’s a theme here – by the head and the leg and then spin them in a circle until a voice over your headset shouts expletives at you.
Despite being a physics based party game, those physics play a surprisingly limited part in proceedings. Any player can drag any item of furniture with minimal loss of speed or manoeuvrability. It’s definitely hilarious wanging a three piece sofa through a tiny doorway, smashing vases, exploding crockery and sending other players flying in the process, but I found myself missing the co-operative object manoeuvring and effective communication and teamwork that the more thoughtful action of Moving Out requires.
In terms of settings, Get Packed really can’t be faulted. There’s an impressive variety of locations for your team to ransack… I mean, professionally remove. One moment you’ll be clearing out a house whilst dodging traffic, the next you’ll be daring to visit a shop during Black Friday, then you’ll be conducting a raid on a bank vault. Part of the joy of the game is discovering as a team which ridiculous scenario your intrepid removers will be flung into next.
To go with the level variety, Get Packed keeps on lobbing random game mechanics at you too, in an almost desperate ‘see what sticks’ kind of way. There’s trampolines to bounce on, dynamite to explode and road signs to wield. It’s just a shame that few of these mechanics are explored properly, so desperate is Get Packed to keep up an insane party pace. Sure, none overstay their welcome, but they have no time to make an impression, let alone influence the playing style you use to approach and vanquish a level.
These mechanics are often clunky in their execution too, and they either just don’t work or are far too random. A road sign intended to stop cars in their tracks fails to work more often than it succeeds, resulting in the body of your avatar being comically rag dolled down the street. Everything feels just a little too much on the shonky side; there’s a clunky charm to proceedings, but too often the action is rendered into uncontrolled nonsense.
Some of these issues are exacerbated by the unreliable nature of Get Packed’s chosen format, as it’s come out first for Google Stadia. On the whole I found the frame rate entirely acceptable, but a host of other problems dampened proceedings. During online play music and sfx would inexplicably cut out entirely, whilst players would be dropped from a match with no warning. If you have some dedicated pals you’re playing with then these issues can be worked around, but many will be put off by the unnecessary obstacles to keep a game going.