Out of Line

The first thing you’ll notice when taking a look at Out of Line, the puzzle-platformer from developer Nerd Monkeys, is its hand-painted look. While the game’s art style is quite beautiful, when you actually play it, you’re also treated to a wonderful score and awesome gameplay that’s reminiscent of games like Limbo, Inside, and Little Nightmares. Those modern puzzlers may have played a role in inspiring Out of Line, but this game is worthy of its own merit as well.

We interviewed the Portugal-based developer ahead of the game’s North American Switch release. Nerd Monkeys Managing Director Mafalda Duarte answered our questions regarding the game’s development, art style, and inspiration. She also told us what Out of Line means to Nerd Monkeys, and gave us some details on the indie scene in Portugal.

Out of Line

The first thing that stands out when looking at Out of Line is its striking visual style. The game has a beautiful hand-painted look to it. What were the game’s inspirations in terms of art direction?

Art has many different ways to manifest in modern-day culture. As such, it was a combination of diverse mediums that inspired Out of Line. For instance, from painting art styles, we have a strong influence from modern movements, such as Impressionism and Expressionism. We also took pointers from the magical feel of Ghibli animated movies and shorts to build this game’s universe.

What about the gameplay? I got some Limbo/Inside vibes from it myself. Were either of these games influential to the development of Out of Line? Were there other influences?

Hitting the nail on the head! It is impossible to consume video games like this and not be inspired by what they achieved. Limbo and Inside are the most prominent, but we also drew a lot of inspiration from other games such as Gris, Portal, FAR: Lone Sails, among various others for different elements.

Rounding out the game’s presentation is a lovely score that consists of atmospheric themes. Ultimately, Out of Line is equally strong in terms of gameplay, look, sound, and tone. Was it difficult to get all of the pieces lined up as well as you did? Or did it come over time as development went on?

Out of Line has looked very different from what you see now as a final product. The main identity and core of it has remained intact, but as new members joined the production — both when Francisco joined Nerd Monkeys and then when Hatinh Interactive came on board — the game gained a new dimension. It was a process of constant enrichment and fine-tuning.

It’s always cool to learn more about the minds behind great games like Out of Line. So with that said, what are some of the dev team’s favorite games? Favorite movies? How have these been influential to the team?

So far, Nerd Monkeys has had different teams working on different projects, with some interchange every now and then. This means we have a phenomenally diverse team, with people all coming from different backgrounds and with different perspectives on pop culture. But I guess one thing we all have in common is the love for indie games. All of us appreciate the spirit that goes behind this bold creative narratives.

Out of Line

How long has Nerd Monkeys been around? How has the team evolved over time?

Nerd Monkeys has completed eight turns around the sun, which can be a lot for certain subspecies of monkeys. We like to think, however, that we’re just getting started. So far, we’ve done PC and console games, some client work, but we have our sights set on world domination.

The studio has developed classic adventure games, a free online multiplayer game, and now a puzzle-platformer with Out of Line. What other genres would the team at Nerd Monkeys be interested in working in?

We’ve been busy, haven’t we? But yeah, Nerd Monkeys is all about exploring different experiences that captivate our imaginations. This means we dwell in a lot of different genres and gameplay styles. We’re still invested in making Monkey Split (our 3D online multiplayer) into the best version it can be, but we’re also eager to explore many other genres in the near future. For instance, we believe there’s a lack of short game appreciation in the gaming community right now and we’d like to be an agent of change in that sense.

Nerd Monkeys is a Portugal-based studio, correct? What’s the game development scene like there? Is there a strong indie presence?

Yes, we are based in Lisbon, Portugal. It’s a sunny country on the tip of Europe, with plenty of good food and talented people. These are great conditions for any creative industry to blossom!

Right now, there are a few big companies set here like Miniclip, Lockwood, Funcom, and Saber Entertainment, but most of our dev scene is made of startups and indie devs. We strive to be involved with our community and to help it grow into a solid industry pole. It sure is taking a little longer to flourish into a more expressive scene internationally, but we think it’s just a matter of continuing to make good games.

Out of Line

Circling back to Out of Line, what has this game meant to the team at Nerd Monkeys?

It has been a monumental landmark, for sure. For a long time we hadn’t made that many games that stood out to the public because we were still gaining traction with other client projects. But we want Out of Line to be our turning point, the moment from which we are able to start releasing more prominent titles that we can proudly present to the world of gaming.

Personally, professionally, or in any other way you’d like to mention, how important was it to share Out of Line with others?

Games are meant to be played, stories are meant to be told. Out of Line was born from Francisco’s creative mind, and we could just see all the raw potential that was in that “little” school project of his. It just had to be shared with the whole world! So the stage in which we could finally consider our job done was when we could share it with everyone.

Lastly, what are some things you hope players get from Out of Line? (This could be an emotional response, or just a fun experience. Really anything you hope players experience during their time with the game.)

Ideally, a game like Out of Line is supposed to get your head going places. Putting the player through the experimentation process to find the solution to puzzles and deliver that awesome “aha!” moment when they’re finally able to solve it is what we’d like.

It’s also about introspection. The narrative is quite open, so we want to lead the player to fill in the most subjective parts with their own theories and interpretations. If they can find a little bit of their life in the concepts that we tried to encompass, then we achieved what we wanted for the players to experience.

Out of Line

Thanks to Mafalda for answering our questions! Out of Line is available on Xbox One and PC, and will be arriving on Switch in North America on August 18, 2021. It’s currently available for Switch in Europe.

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