Remember being young and going out for the first time? You were probably trying to get into a nightclub even though you were slightly underage, nervously standing in line. But it’s alright because you’ve got a suit on, your hair’s gelled within an inch of its life and you have grown a little bit of stubble that’s taken you 8 months to cultivate. If you smile at the bouncer he’s sure to let you in, isn’t he? Well, the short answer is no, he’s never going to let you in. The long one? Well that probably involves a trip to the hospital.
You see, bouncers have always been the gatekeeper between the mundane rainy outside world, and the pleasure dome of nightlife and the countless possibilities inside the club. They hold the power to make your night either utterly amazing or very poor indeed. With Out Of The Box, you can experience that power of the bouncer, but it’s a tricky job… as ten minutes into this game will reveal to you.
You assume the role of Warren Baker, a former villain who just wants to live an honest life after his time spent in prison. However, his new job as the bouncer of the prestigious club, The Box, will see him involved with a bunch of gangsters. Could it be a return to prison for him, or something much much worse?
You start Out Of The Box on the first night at the club with a decent in-game tutorial that teaches you the basics. A line of people are arriving at the club and you have to vet them before you let them through the hallowed doors. There are a number of rules that you can refuse entry on and these relate to those who look down and out, are drunk already, or try to come in carrying bags or weapons. These are the most obvious ones to spot, made easy by their appearance or how they talk to you. The big one that is a problem is the 21 years of age limit and that’s something that is tricky to spot through the character’s appearance alone. To counter that you can ask for their ID and work out the maths. I ended up doing that for every customer because I couldn’t guess by the visuals just how old they were. But then you got the problems of false IDs so you have to check the photo and dates very carefully before granting them entry, or turning them away. If you get it wrong and let too many young drinkers, drunks or troublemakers in, then you get fined. After a few strikes you’ll lose your job and then it’s game over.
The biggest influence on Out Of The Box is quite possibly the PC classic ”Papers, Please” with its conversational based decision making, IDs and rules. But it’s not just that which is based on that game though and the entire payment system – calculated at the end of the month – is also very similar. See, this is based on the number of people you let into the club, how full the club got and any extras that need to be taken into consideration; bribes or bonuses. You get fined for any problems or underaged drinkers spotted and with your final income, you have to then balance your rent needs, child support (for your daughter), the gym membership which keeps you in fighting form, and the cost of any medication. You need the meds too, otherwise you have hallucinations and the world turns upside down. It must be said, it’s hard to balance the books at times, but I think that’s purposely part of the narrative.
This is a game that is highly original to play, with different twists and turns along the way. The story is great and has some tough decisions to make, but whilst the actual bouncer stuff is addictive at first and works well, after a while, it does start to grate a bit and eventually becomes a bit dull. Put too much time into Out Of The Box and you’ll be left wanting to see how the story progresses without all the bouncer sections.
Visually and it comes with colourful cartoon vibe to it, very much reminding of the Kitty Powers dating games. The menus and cutscenes are nice and the little details are excellent. The sound is good too with some nice effects, and a decent – albeit repetitive – soundtrack. Maybe that’s the point though.
There is a lot to admire and enjoy about Out Of The Box with its originality and unusual gaming techniques. The story is a very good one, full of moral declines, doomed romance, and evil crimelords. The actual gameplay is brilliant at first too, but it does start to tire as things progress. For those who want to try something a bit different and have always wanted to be the gatekeeper to the promised clubland, then this could just about be the game for you.