Moving house is one of the most stressful things a person can do. Packing up your old home, likely while you still live in it, and then moving all of the items, bulky sofas, fragile TVs and boxes of books you’d forgotten you had to a new home where you need to navigate doors that are hard to open and stairs that are steeper than they first appeared, especially when you have a huge mattress over your shoulder, is a nightmare!
Now, imagine moving house, but this time the house is in space! Out of Space: Couch Edition casts you and up to three other players as weirdly cute aliens who have moved house and will need to set up their new home. A quick tutorial at the beginning of the game sees your space-mom on the phone, walking you through the process. And then after that you’re either on your own or working with friends to clean up and set out your new home.
Out of Space is a isometric game where you move around, cleaning rooms, throwing buckets of water to clean up doors and whacking little gooey aliens with a broom. It’s also a game that strongly incentivizes you to recycle as you gain in-game currency for every bag of rubbish, gooey alien or piece of delicious fruit that you drop into the recycler. Now perhaps you currently feel sorry for those aliens I just talked about? Don’t worry – very soon you’ll be glad to chuck them in!
Each room has a space for a battery, and once this is installed the room is powered up and you can move on to the next one. Once all of the rooms in the house are powered up, you’re done and the game ends. You’ll unlock new items, new aliens and new layouts; rinse and repeat.
However, there are quite a few things to keep on top of. First of all, your little characters require rest and food. Food is grown, removed, and eaten to replenish your bar for hunger. Rest sees your little avatar needing to go to somewhere like a couch for a brief lie down. If you get too tired, you’ll collapse and not be able to do anything for a while. And in Out of Space, it’s all hands-on deck.
As well as needing to set up, recycle and clean, you’ll need to make sure that there are no aliens about. These little horrors appear out of tiny pink eggs and they can spread goop all over the place, as well as covering your character in a colourful mess too. Worst of all, if they get to one of your batteries, they’ll start chomping away and very quickly you’ll need to replace the battery, which costs money. So you’ll need to constantly keep an eye on them and before long you’ll be celebrating each time you throw one into the recycler, as well as getting some valuable space dollar back for your pains.
The core gameplay loop is a reprise of the classic spinning plates: you’ll need to balance your avatar’s requirements against cleaning up, making money and getting rid of horrible little aliens. There are even some aliens that can wrap you up in a cocoon, and as you unlock newer and more annoying types, the gameplay gets more and more frantic.
A big part of the light strategy element found here is in the layout of the house. You can install pieces of furniture, many of which you’ll find in boxes within the house, into the rooms. These will give you in-game help such as couches so you can rest, sinks so you can fill up the vital bucket of water, and other interesting elements such as a family portrait that will mean that when one of you eats, all of you eat. That’s a real time saver!
As you get more money from bags of recycling, you’ll need to pick what items are going to be next. An extra mop means more of you can clean at once. An extra bucket doubles your ability to deal with gooey things like doors. But it’s only the batteries that power up rooms that actually win the game for you and they cost quite a lot to buy. You’ll need to weigh up each purchase and do so quite fast, as on the default difficulty levels the game challenges you from the offset to monitor and react quickly. Optimal strategies are needed as the game can be quite unforgiving; if you pass out from exhaustion in the middle of dealing with wee beasties, they then chomp on your valuable batteries whilst spreading purple goo all over your once clean floors. You’d be forgiven from screaming, even if no one can hear it in space.
Playing with others makes Out of Space a lot more fun, though the game does scale the challenge based on players. Cooperation and specialization is helpful. Playing with others with various skillsets can also add some useful elements. My wife is a veteran Sims player and she took to many of the systems far quicker than I did.
The controls are initially a bit counter-intuitive but become second nature fairly quickly, though there are issues with picking up the right object. One continuing peeve was the doors, which need to be reopened and can only be done with empty hands, forcing you to drop whatever objects you’re carrying. In this game, seconds can be important and this needless delay is frustrating.
There are also issues with zoom as the players move apart; Out of Space zooms out which can make it quite hard to see your character and move to the right places. It’ll also make finding objects much harder too. There is the inclusion of an accessibility mode which is essentially the same game but a fair bit easier, and I recommend that for new players or if you find the game too frustrating and unforgiving.
The graphics are nice and clean with a lot of character, and have a charming cartoony feel to them. The sound effects are fine, if nothing to really write home about, but the game has an appeal from a challenging pick up and play approach, though it may prove to be too challenging for casual players.
For fans of games like Overcooked!, Out of Space: Couch Edition on Xbox will likely hit a sweet spot, though there are question marks about the game’s longevity as there’s a limit to how many houses you can be bothered to clean up. There’s not really a campaign as such, but you do get to unlock new things each time you play and progress.
Oh, and just in case you’re wondering, Out of Space doesn’t have an option to just hire some burly fellas to do the moving for you….