Outta Hand is out now, offering Quest players a short, sweet and sublime campaign of charming VR platforming. Read on for our full Outta Hand review.
Outta Hand is the rare type of VR experience that understands its strengths and perfectly plays to them without overstaying its welcome. It presents players with a 3-4 hour campaign that is polished at every corner, evolving the mechanics of the first-person VR platforming genre and doing so in a package that tells an appropriate story wrapped in wit and packed with charming visual environments. It's hard to fault what Capricia Productions has pulled off here.
Platforms: Quest 2, Quest Pro (Review conducted on Quest Pro)
Release Date: September 28
Developer: Capricia Productions
Outta Hand's basic premise sees you inhabit the body of a 'hand person' – a small, round blue creature with gangly long arms, small white wings and uselessly-small feet. In the style first made popular by Gorilla Tag and then evolved in No More Rainbows, you'll move around solely by propelling yourself with arms and hands. This means you'll push along the ground (creating a kind of running, galloping-type action), shove yourself up walls and grab onto the environment with your controllers – no artificial movement in sight.
You begin the game trapped in a glass container deep in the facility of the evil mad-scientist-capitalist-overlord Dr Vendeldoom, moving along a conveyer belt of similarly-contained hand people. When a machine deems your cerebral functions to be "above allowed parameters," you're re-routed to be immediately incinerated.
Of course, you soon avoid incineration and escape your glass confines.What follows is a simple-but-classic 'escape the facility' style story, with increasingly large boss bottles standing between you and freedom.
Following the guidance of the voice-in-your-earpiece assistant Handgelina, you'll begin to make you way through the facility, encountering increasingly complicated platforming scenarios and competing in occasional combat and boss battles.
Outta Hand keeps the story simple and never once lets the narrative bring a halt to its frenetic, never-ending platforming action. The dialogue between Handgelina, Vendeldoom and the other characters – all of which feature fantastic voice acting performances – plays out in the background as you go about your journey.
You'll never once be stopped in your tracks to watch a cutscene or observe a narrative beat play out around you. This is a VR experience made by people who understand the immedicy of the medium, with absolutely no stopping and starting to be found.
A Mechanical Leap of Faith
The oft-cited benefit of the Gorilla Tag, motion gesture-based movement system is that the connection between your physical actions and in-game movement often results in less motion sickness in those who may be otherwise susceptible. The connection between physical action and in-game movement is sometimes enough to trick you brain into believing you're really moving.
For me, that was very much the case here. I was able to play for an hour or more without really ever noticing any nausea, which is great because Outta Hand really takes the movement system and lets it fly – quite literally.
This new evolution of the movement system keeps the core basics, but expands them out significantly and adds in a bunch of welcome new mechanics. The arm-based leaps in both Gorilla Tag and No More Rainbows felt intentionally 'tight' to use. They had measured, precise arcs of motion that allowed you to fine tune your performance and improve over time.
That's precision is still available Outta Hand, but the movement system is way more stretchy in its limits. You can shift yourself just a few steps across the ground or truly fling yourself across a cavernous gap, depending on the circumstances. There's still rigidity when needed, but it injects movement with a veritable spring that makes it feel unique. The intensity increases as you move through sections that build momentum, making it easy for you to leap too far and over-extend past where you wanted to land. The platforming increasingly becomes about showing restraint with your jumps.
This new, spring-y movement is combined with some intelligent original mechanics that breathe fresh air into the genre. The two little wings on your back, for example, can be used to boost yourself slightly higher when mid-air or used to course correct your direction when falling slightly short or further than intended. You activate them by flapping your motion controllers at your side, using your arms like wings, which will give you a little bounce in the opposite direction. You can't abuse the mechanic though – there's a small meter visible in your periphery that will limit you wing usage, refilling once you touch the ground.
Then there's your fists. When pressing the grip button on your controllers, your hands will enlarge into exaggerated closed fists, which can be used in combat or in platforming contexts to different effects. Punching certain platforms or enemies mid-air will launch you in a given direction, for example, or your first can throw out punches at the facilities hostile security and bosses when in close quarters.
Handfuls of Variety
With those mechanics introduced, Outta Hand essentially gifts you a toolbox to run through its ever-varied and intriguing campaign of platforming and combat challenges. When it comes to the former, you'll deal with moving platforms, breakable platforms, closing corridors, retractable spikes, curving pipes to slide down, wall jumping obstacle courses and many more.
Outta Hand is very good at introducing new obstacles that are easily understood but slowly ramp up in difficulty. As you get further into the campaign, the game starts to mix these obstacles together in new ways and requires your to use your jumps, fists and wings in different combinations to make it to the next checkpoint.
The energy of the game never really lets up and you'll probably find yourself struggling to take off the headset – I certainly did. It's also a fairly generous system in terms of creativity – there's several scenarios where a set of obstacles can clearly be approached and completed in different ways, whether intended or not. There were points where I completed a section wondering whether I had actually finished it in the way that the developers intended, or just found my own way through. It's rare you see this level of flexibility in a game without it also breaking key elements of its own systems – the fact that it works here is the mark of good mechanics and level design.
The combat is perhaps the weakest part of the game, but in some ways that doesn't matter. It never offers anything hugely challenging, but I suspect that's by design – by keeping things light and simple, it ensures you never get stuck on a section for too long. This lets you focus on maintaining the high-energy pacing, without getting bogged down in difficult combat scenarios. There is variety in the enemy types – some shoot from afar, others hit you in close quarters or explode on impact – and the boss fights are particularly memorable, each requiring unique strategies and never doing the same thing twice.
It helps that the game is paired with a fantastic soundtrack and beautiful visuals. There's a lot of Crash Bandicoot inspiration to be found in Outta Hand, and it manifests itself in the quirky humor and the environment design, both of which are a joy. There's a lot of creativity on display – from the character design to the obstacles and the different 'biomes' of the facility from which you're escaping. It's all simple, but very effective.
The campaign is the perfect length – long enough to offer challenge and variety, but short enough that you don't get sick of it by the time it's over. For those truly wanting more, there's currently an endless mode with leaderboard support that will allow you to play with limited lives for as long as you can survive or in 'zen' mode for as long as you like. That's all the non-campaign content for now, but from what Capricia Prouctions told me, there's plans for more to come.
In terms of performance, the game ran near flawless on Quest Pro, spare for some small and very occasional hitches that won't impact your playthrough in any significant manner. It all works just as you'd expect and there's an appropriate amount of comfort options (vignette, snap/smooth turning, etc.) for those who need them.
Outta Hand Review – Final Verdict
Outta Hand is an absolute joy from start to finish and one of the best new releases on Quest. The campaign is the perfect length, taking the best parts of some well-established VR platforming mechanics and adding some original twists of its own. There's the perfect amount of narrative to keep you playing, matched with witty dialogue and beautiful environments to leap through. We can't wait to see what post-launch content might be on the way as well.
Outta Hand is a thrill and an easy recommendation for Quest players this fall.
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