Video games revolving around performing a day job - and one that’s very likely to be different to a real-life profession, to boot - have proven to be popular with well-known franchises keeping the genre alive year on year. Ever fancied being in charge of a whole medical unit? Then check out Theme Hospital. Have you dreamt of meticulously crafting a fun (and not-so-safe) park filled with high-octane rides and piles of vomit? Then there's Rollercoaster Tycoon. Now, Nuclear Tales brings to the Switch eShop a game that puts you in the shoes of a bouncer of a prestigious Nightclub and it’s your mission to tend to rising debts, a shady past and a whole load of annoying customers - all in the name of getting back your beloved daughter.
Out Of The Box is essentially an up-to-date Papers, please – a title that released in 2013 on PC – but instead of sifting through passports and immigration papers at a fictional border control centre, it’s all about checking for fake IDs and breaking up fights to keep the cash flowing for your questionable boss. Taking the role of Warren Baker – who’s fresh out of jail – and landing a new job as a bouncer for a popular club called The Box, getting some hard cash to make ends meet is your main objective and it gets more finicky as each day passes.
Keeping the club full to the brim with respectable (and legally aged) customers is a priority – the more people in, the more dough in your pocket – but the trick is to keep your wits about you as violent revellers, pushy VIPs and some tough decisions get thrown at you early on in the game. You see, if you let any Tom, Dick or Harry through the doors you’ll get a hefty chunk of dosh squeezed from your already-disappointing paycheck, which means debts can grow and your boss could ultimately telling you to sling it; essentially this game’s version of the traditional Game Over screen.
The story is told in a collection of cartoony cutscenes with on-screen text bubbles – the lack of any voice acting is immediately apparent – and it’s quickly known that our Warren has a dark past that rears its ugly head in every shift. While sifting through the raucous bunch of drunken yobs outside the club and struggling to contain a couple of rowdy visitors, we’re treated to a flashback that shows a poor guy beaten to a pulp with his eyes falling out of his bloody eye sockets. We won’t spoil you with particulars, but Warren's turbulent past teased at a steady pace and helps improve the otherwise monotonous chore of standing outside the club, attempting to keep the boss happy.
The story ultimately pays off, but if you’re not a fan of a narrative that’s dished out in tiny spoonfuls, then this will cause some issues. See, the formula of using initiative to make sure ‘scum’ (this is their term, not ours) doesn’t enter the club becomes complex the further you progress. But with very little in the means of noticeable story forks – the end game excluded – you’ll find it hard to be bothered about the choices you’re presented with. Granted, the growing queue becomes increasingly difficult to manage and requires quick reactions as well as a very keen eye for detail – but even so, things get repetitive; what we’d imagine standing at the door of a club to be in real life, actually.
In an attempt to break things up, the game uses plenty of humour. On one of our shifts, a questionable visitor rocks up to our queue who goes by the name of Ronald Trump. With his blonde sweeping hair, obnoxious demeanour and immediate mention of heightened immigration control, we couldn’t help but crack a grin when we told him to kindly turn around and walk away – just with a lot more expletives.
On that subject, Out of the Box is rated M and for obvious reasons. Nearly every dialogue box has a swear word thrown in and after an hour of play, it gets tiresome. We understand the story involves gangsters, drug deals and other dodgy events, but the strange novelty of telling every customer that doesn’t fit the criteria for club entry to "f*** off" goes from funny to dull very, very quickly. And with guts and gore that look like they've been pulled straight from the hilarious TV show Happy Tree Friends, it’s difficult to take the game's potty-mouthed extremes seriously during the 4-odd hours of play.
There’s no hiding the fact that this PC to Switch port is a lazy one. You can forget about touch control – a bizarre omission when you consider the game has previously appeared on mobile devices. You navigate the straightforward UI with the left stick, using the ‘A’ button to confirm your choice. We feel like it’s a missed opportunity and one that, if implemented, would make handheld play sessions more accessible for players who prefer on-the-go or bedtime gaming.
Although alternative endings and basic story deviations help to make Out Of The Box interesting, a narrative-driven title like this needs to offer more in terms of basic gameplay. Special events – such as stripper nights (ahem) – and an increasingly more challenging list of rules to remember do spice things up, but ultimately this is one club that's not worth queuing to get into.
Finding out the dark past that the main character tries so hard to keep bottled up is, at times, intriguing. However, the repetitive task of cherry-picking customers to come into the prestigious club will prove to be dull for many, and simply won’t be enough to keep you playing in order to see one of the multiple endings. Still, there isn’t another time-management title like this on Switch right now, so if you're looking for something with a very different pace and with an adult theme, you might gain some enjoyment.