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Out Of Hands' nightmare card combat isn't as thrilling as it looks

Curse these non-metal hands

Out Of Hands is a fairly "does what it says on the tin" title for this, a game where you play a dude who dreams he is made entirely out of hands every night. It also operates as a decent joke, because rather than being out of hands, he, if anything, has too many. So full marks for the name. The game itself is kind of a deckbuilder but not really, and though it also describes itself as a thriller, I can't say my heart rate was raised. In fact, behind the (admittedly very cool) visual style there seems to be a pretty run-of-the-mill "a girl I liked is no longer in my life and I'm pretty cut up about that" story. I guess in the full game it might turn out she was murdered, or she mudered the main character, or the main character murdered her - just, some kind of murder, maybe?

But in the four demo levels I played recently, it seemed like a pretty normal breakup. I was really excited to give it a go, but in the preview I didn't find the contrast between a face made of squirming hands and the well trodden women-be-leavin' plot to be particularly affective or evocative. The squirming hands are cool, though.

It's a great premise, in all fairness, and whatever my issues are it's a very impressive first project from a dev with no graphic design experience. The hands in question are the developer's own, animated in jerky stop-motion esque way and contorted to represent a mouth, nose and eyes in a face on the left side of the screen. It's creepy and unsettling to look at, and it makes you think about how weird it would be to be all hands. Like, I guess hands would make pretty good knees and feet but they'd be pretty bad ears and kidneys.

The right side of the screen is the battleground, taken up by your heart (which is, of course, an arrhythmically pumping loose fist) and your actual hands (also hands). Here you converse with the different aspects of your psyche, offering logical, cryptic or instinctive advice for how to fix the "I have a recurring nightmare that I'm hands" issue. Usually this amounts to having a fight with yourself, or something from a memory, to get full access to memories of the woman-who-is-now-gone: the first time you met; at school; her smile; her scent.

A battle against your shadow self in the sort-of-deckbuilder Out Of Hands

The fights are the reason I'd hesitate to call this deckbuilding. It's more like a real-time card strategy game, as three cards get dealt between you and your opponent. Two might be attacks that will damage you in three turns, while the third is a weapon that allows you to wipe out the attack cards or deal some damage to your enemy. An eraser, for example, does one or two points of damage, but a sharp pen is the business and can stick your enemy for three. I really liked how the fights are animated, too, where picking up a pen will see that pen appear, clutched in a hand-hand. It's obvious when you think about it, but very well done.

Winning a battle in Out Of Hands and getting access to some supressed memories

There are always three cards on the board, so picking up a weapon could deal another attack card against you. The challenge in Out Of Hands is keeping an eye on the attack timers, your health, and gauging how far you can extend your direct attacks before you get cocky and take too much damage. And it's not actually that much of a challenge, at least in the demo. I saw some extra complexities, like how your facial hand-features can mutate in different ways, giving your mouth some nail-teeth to deal damage, for example and I'm sure later on it'll be more difficult - that there will be different attacks and weapon types and so on. There are always several things to hold in your head at once, but I didn't actually get close to failing at any point. It felt like equal weight was being given to the psychological aspects of the story, and the four demo levels didn't sell that as thrilling either.

Like, on the one hand being cut up after a break-up is relatable and universal, but on the other it's something that's been litigated in many forms of art, over and over again, and the levels I played of Out Of Hands didn't hint at the actual core being more compelling than your girlfriend leaving you. At one point you end up holding a ring in your heart-hand and I swear an actual sigh escaped me. Out Of Hands is officially 'coming soon' on Steam, and I have some amount of faith that someone who came up with the 'I am made out of hands' conceit will, over the course of the full game, be able to offer something a little more complex.

About the Author
Alice Bell avatar

Alice Bell

Deputy Editor

RPS's dep ed. Small person powered by tea and enthusiasm for video game romances. Send me interesting etymological facts and cool horror games.

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