Out of Line is a 2D puzzle platformer currently in development by Nerd Monkeys, and it tells the story of a boy called San as he tries to escape the dangerous world of the Factory. Escaping from dangerous factories or workplaces is not new to this genre. It is a trope that has been visited by other titles such as Oddword: Abe’s Oddysee. However, Out of Line differentiates itself through its hand-drawn artwork that looks absolutely beautiful.
During our 30 minute demo you’re introduced to the basics of the gameplay. To aid his escape San is equipped with a golden spear that he can throw into walls so it can act as an extra platform. He can also throw that spear into gears to stop some of the machines that get in his way. The demo starts in the Factory where you find other Sans carrying out their own tasks, as well as – it seems – trying to escape. Escape is not easy due to the fact that claws swing around overhead and grab any San that is out of place, and it is not like thisan Factory itself would pass any sort of health and safety inspection.
The puzzle platforming starts off simple in Out of Line. First, you are taught how to throw the spear and learn to use it as a platforming device. Once you have got a few environments with that lesson, you learn about the multifaceted ways the spear can come in handy. Soon enough, San is using the spear to jam up gears on a production line to avoid being crushed by the presses or using it as a level to move platforms around.
On occasion, San will team up with another of his kin with the two characters working in tandem, using their spears to get across more challenging sections. The spear is an easy to use tool and there is no threat of losing it as you can summon it back like Kratos’ axe or Thor’s Mjolnir. A slight criticism is that if you hold the throw button for a second too long the spear will return to San, which does not help in a couple of puzzles.
The puzzles start to ramp up in complexity with the final puzzle of the demo requiring the use of three spears. San’s spear can be thrown and left somewhere indefinitely but spears found in the environment have timers. These will only stay in place for a short while. The final puzzle requires a mix of placing spears correctly and timing to get right, but here another criticism needs to be levelled. Occasionally, when San jumps up onto a spear it looks like his feet touch the surface, but then he slips off even if the spear is only at a slight angle. In the majority of instances the spear sticking out at a slight angle is not an issue, but when it does for some reason become one it can be rather annoying and require pixel-perfect placement to get things right.
Out of Line looks extremely nice and the gameplay flows very well. The opening section presented in the preview build sets up a world of danger and intrigue. The hand-drawn artwork sets the tone brilliantly and the majority of the gameplay is fun with the puzzles providing a deep challenge. Hopefully with a little tweaking to San’s spear balancing Out Of Line could be a puzzle platformer that lands with impact.
Out of Line is due this summer for PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Switch.