I’ve been friends with the same group of folks since high school, and we’ve moved each other’s belongings from house to dorm to apartment to house to house to house more times than I can count.
You’d think we’d have it down to a science by now, but, as my friend Scott loves to point out, moving day isn’t packing day, and that rule is often ignored.
There will always be a point where someone introduces a sectional couch, or a bed that’s a little too large for a door, and everyone becomes a mathematician as they try to drag each piece of furniture out to the truck, and then into the new house.
Moving Out, a co-op game that supports up to four players, tries to turn moving into a fun activity in which no one cares what’s broken, how each item gets to the truck, or how many turtles may be slapped to get them out of the way.
Yes, for some reason an early house includes a turtle that harasses you as you move stuff into the truck. I brought the turtle with us and discovered turtle abduction, at least in this case, was a hidden objective. I feel good about my decisions.
Imagine the super-deformed but jauntily animated characters of a game like Overcooked flopping around, trying to pick up the opposite sides of a bed while moving through a door that’s just a little bit too narrow, and you get the idea. I’ve been playing either two-player or four-player sessions with my children, trying to move each house in the shortest amount of time in the smallest amount of damage — at least at first — before giving up and throwing furniture through windows to get it to the truck a little faster.
Moving Out is for people who want the line from doing a job to drinking a cold beer to be as short and straight as possible, and woe be unto anything that gets in the way. I was always tickled about never being able to unplug appliances from the walls before removing them; the idea is just to pick them up, either by yourself or with friends, keep walking away until the power cable snaps. It’s such a satisfying little interaction, and drives home just how little you’re supposed to care about the possessions in your car.
You start in recognizable homes before things really start getting weird, and seeing where the game takes you is definitely one of the best reasons to keep playing. The earliest homes are just a vanilla-flavored hint about where you may be working next. But the environment is rarely the enemy, since the players who are supposed to be helping you move all this furniture tend to also be the most frustrating obstacles.
Learning how to successfully maneuver an L-shaped couch out a door requires a steady head and clear communications … at first. But those situations quickly devolve into everyone yelling at each other about what’s going on, and if they could just move to the right … no, NO, THEIR right, dammit! Not … UGH! THE OTHER RIGHT! THIS RIGHT! I’m POINTING RIGHT HERE! OK, and now you turn. No, turn the other way. But without backing up! Why did you drop it?!
I have seen the enemy, and it is people doing their best to try to help you move. Learning to pick up larger items with two folks and timing your throws to get TVs or couches over small bodies of water requires skill, timing, and communication. I have found that failure to hit the button at the right moment is a quantum event: Somehow it is always everyone else’s fault.
I don’t even want to comment on polish, since it’s impossible to know which janky aspects of the controls or how character models get caught in the walls or doors is a mistake or part of the game’s design. We’ve all been pinned into a corner during an ill-conceived trip taking a sofa bed down the stairs, after all. The sense of fun and anarchy helps to lower the stakes. Things are meant to go wrong, so destruction and even the occasional slap fights are just the cost of doing business.
Moving Out could have been a joyless, frustrating exercise in pure skill, but the game’s developer has instead decided to focus on the fun of just straight-up destroying someone’s home. A series of optional toggles makes it easy to introduce younger players. You can make the items that require two players to move a lot lighter and choose whether or not items take up space in your moving van, or disappear once they’ve been dropped in the right general area.
Just like Overcooked, I can’t tell if the game is bringing us together or tearing us apart in these trying times, but it’s certainly teaching us how to communicate and cooperate in high-pressure situations, which is a skill that every family should be brushing up on during quarantine.
If things really begin to go wrong, I now know that we’ll be ready to do what’s necessary: picking up all the heavy supplies required and throwing them through our own front windows.
Moving Out is out now on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. The game was reviewed using an existing Game Pass subscription on Xbox One. You can find additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy here.
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