Moving Out 2 on Xbox Series X
Moving Out 2 is the kind of game that I really should enjoy. I loved engaging in the culinary chaos of Overcooked and its sequel with my partner, as annoyed bickering turned into strategic streamlining of our coordinated cooking. At times, Moving Out 2 managed to scratch that itch, but in other levels, we just found it leaned towards being more frustrating than fun.
It’s a fine line that these kinds of games have to walk. The whole appeal of them comes from the clever level designs that push you towards a more chaotic multiplayer affair that’s best experienced with friends and loved ones on the couch next to you. But there’s something about Moving Out’s focus on furniture moving that just didn’t quite jive with me in the same regular cadence that Team 17’s other title did.
Moving Out 2 follows on from its predecessor by putting you in the shoes (and van) of new recruits of Smooth Moves moving company. Following a brief training level or two to get you to grips with grabbing and throwing items, and the teamwork required for bigger, bulkier items, you’re thrust into the job, with your primary goal being to increase your F.A.R.T. level (Furniture Arrangement and Relocation Technician).
Completing levels within a time limit earns you one star, and completing it with a ‘Pro’ time earns you another. Completing additional side objectives such as not breaking windows, moving certain items first, or avoiding using certain mechanics will earn you more. Earn enough stars, and you’ll rise through the F.A.R.T ranks which, in turn, unlocks more levels.
After completing some missions in the opening town of Packmore, your boss is suddenly sucked into a portal and must be retrieved. In order to do so, you’ll need the help of the gnomes to fix up a portal, but of course, you’ll need to find them by completing levels and exploring various dimensions in order to do so. The story is serviceable and typically goofy, as is the chatter among the cast of characters between levels. It’s nothing to write home about, but let’s be honest, you’re not really playing Moving Out 2 for the story. You’re playing it for the heavy lifting labor… the fun side of it, of course.
Much like we noted in our review for the first Moving Out, the gameplay here is still frenetic fun. You’ll be grabbing items, dragging them off walls to watch their cables oddly satisfyingly ping back, and launch them with reckless abandon into the back of your removal truck. It’s a simple premise, but one that gets increasingly tricky and chaotic as the levels progress. With roughly 15-25 items in each level to get into the back of your truck, you’ll need to be fast, coordinate with your teammates, and make sure you’re also being sensible with how you’re piling things up. There’s nothing more stressful than having 10 seconds left on the clock and frantically having to shift things around in the back of the truck to make space for that bulky statue, let me tell you.
You’re not always just moving items out of houses, but sometimes unloading furniture into them. This isn’t a case of just yeeting boxes in any old room of the house. Each item will need to be placed in particular areas, highlighted in green when you pick up a box. It, again, adds a layer of complexity to the simple premise, and helps to keep things fresh, as do the ‘Arcade’ levels that are unlocked by finding cartridges and task you with even more eccentric moving-related challenges.
Ultimately, all of the gameplay is very much reliant on just how good the level design is in Moving Out. Make them too easy, and there’s no challenge. Too difficult or obtuse, and that humorous chaos turns into stress-inducing frustration. This is where Moving Out somewhat stumbles a little.
Both me and my girlfriend who helped me play through Moving Out 2 for the purposes of this review felt as though Moving Out 2 was more frequently frustrating to play than the likes of Overcooked. Whereas the culinary-based chaotic multiplayer puzzler gives you some gimmicky levels to overcome that can occasionally frustrate, Moving Out 2’s level mechanics often feel overly random or just plain frustrating. That, combined with finnicky controls and mechanics, such as only being able to throw items when you’re directly opposite one another when carrying a two-person item, or the fact that our characters would often move objects while circling around them, made things just feel a little less fun than they perhaps should. It felt less like you could form solid strategies to beat each level in the target times and more as though things were dictated by RNG elements.
It resulted in us growing a little tired of Moving Out 2’s tomfoolery after an hour or so each time we sat down to play it, and while there were definitely moments where we could have worked better together — and eventually did after a strategic pow-wow — we ultimately agreed the frustration was more at how irritating some of the level gimmicks felt.
While these levels can cause brief moments of frustration, developers SMG Studio and Devm Games have done a fantastic job of ensuring levels feel varied throughout. You will have to pack away chickens that just can’t stop moving(!) a few times, but the added nuances and obstacles thrown into the mix at a blistering pace ensure things never grow stale.
Ultimately, though, Moving Out 2’s primary issue is still the very same that held the original back from the multiplayer hall of fame. Its premise of furniture removal is just a little too basic to ever serve up the same chaotic, frantic energy that Overcooked consistently managed. Moving boxes in or out of a house, no matter how varied their layouts and bizarre their gimmicks get just grows a little long in the tooth by the end, which also stifled how long my partner and I felt we could sit down and enjoy the game together in a sitting.
That being said, the addition of online co-op multiplayer in Moving Out 2 is a big positive, ensuring that even when you’re done hosting a games night with your friends, you can all pick up and carry on where you left off (should you all have a copy of the game).
I appreciate Moving Out is its own separate thing from Overcooked, but the fact the latter did this chaotic multiplayer gameplay so well makes comparing the two so easy, and highlights the issues in the former.
Thankfully, there is an Assist Mode that enables you to tweak a few settings to make things easier. You can skip a level on fail so you don’t have to repeatedly bang your head against one that you just can’t get underneath the pass time, or make two-person items lighter so you can move with them more a little bit faster. You can also remove objects once they’ve been moved onto the truck, which helps to ease the aforementioned end-of-level stress that comes with poor planning. Each of these — and many more — can be turned on and off independently of one another, allowing you to fine-tune the difficulty and gameplay experience to your liking and those you’re playing with. It makes the game a whole lot more family friendly and enjoyable during those moments when the levels do err on the side of frustrating than fun.
Ultimately, Moving Out 2 is going to be a hit with those that enjoyed the first game. For me, it didn’t quite stick the landing and led to more moments of frustration than fun. Those looking for a new multiplayer party games will likely have fun with it in short blasts, but just be aware this still isn’t quite hitting the lofty Michelin-starred heights of its culinary cousin.
Varied level designs and additional objectives continue to keep things fresh.
Arcade levels make for fun, no pressure ‘side missions.’
Assist mode allows you to fine-tune the experience to suit your preferences.
Addition of online multiplayer.
Levels can sometimes feel more frustrating than fun.
The basic gameplay mechanics can grow stale after a while.
Aug. 15, 2023
SMG Studio, Devm Games
Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PC
Copy provided by Publisher