Work to live, to exist, to enjoy many possibilities. Man cannot escape this constraint under penalty of seeing himself excluded. Pride, the pride of becoming useful, etc., attaches each of us to sometimes very absurd burdens. A somewhat caricatural vision that offers us in particular – with a few exceptions – the young Malaysian studio Forust with its first title released on Switches and PCs: The Company Man. A game whose wacky universe did not however manage to convince us.
However, the ideas were there, the title could have been pleasant. On arrival, we are left with regrets and a slight feeling of bitterness. Why? It can’t be too late to give you the reasons.
I’ll be the first, I’ll impose myself in this crazy world
By the very admission of its developers, the title would have been freely inspired by the American series The Office. Perhaps we should see the link in the very name of the hero: Jim. And then, that’s all… apart from the appearance of another character, The Company Man has little to do with its supposed source. Finally, it still has a certain similarity, although distant, very distant: the game has fun with the world of work in business and the rules that govern it, or rather the chaos that reigns there.
All the ingredients of satire are brought together here and used to depict a universe full of injustice: when over-exploited employees rot at the bottom of the building, the leaders use their powers and reign at the top, in their little piece of heaven. An order that will be disrupted by the actions of our hero, himself a victim of this terrible dehumanizing system. Jim, sent to the bottom of the ladder, will fight with keyboard strokes to reach the top and dethrone the CEO king.
The message is therefore very present. It may seem somewhat easy and simplistic, but totally on point. For theories and other presentations on the thing, we will consult more books created for this purpose, because that is not the purpose of the app. No, its objective is elsewhere: to entertain us. And, by its bias, it works… in form, at least. Because, far from presenting an anxiety-provoking climate, the title immerses you in a wacky environment where a lot of characters move around. You can feel the humor…but only in the short term. You will soon understand why…
But before moving on, just a word: the criticism – if criticism there is – has previously been called simplistic, which may be true, only the point of view defended remains somewhat obscure. Where do developers fit into all of this? Are they only attacking the clutches of a totalitarian regime? Yes and no. The small employees also take for their rank, and in particular, through certain reflections made by the character himself. And so, why fight if there is nothing, absolutely nothing, to save? The answer is all found: it is not for justice, no, but for oneself. Opportunism is what makes life in this world. Jim, who is its possible incarnation, then appears as an unsympathetic character. Although in reality it is not so clear cut.
Yes, the story of The Company Man is quite simple in its purpose but complex in its execution, and in the very psychology of the character.
Yes, the story of The Company Man is quite simple in its purpose but complex in its realization, and in the very psychology of the character. A psychology that is revealed over the course of the adventure: we will indeed learn a little more about his thoughts, his aspirations and his past, to help understand his motivations. Admittedly commendable, but very secondary and superficial insertions.
What colors… What noises…
Clearly, it is not on a graphic level that we will give free rein to criticism. No, on this point, we can only applaud the team in charge of the game. It’s neat, colorful, worthy of a comic strip and, why not, of a cartoon. It is not difficult to immerse yourself in the universe, in each small world offered to us by the seven levels of software. The latter, materialized by a floor, all offer different decors teeming – in the background in particular – with sometimes hilarious details. And the different animations, whether during an acceleration, a blow or a Game Over, are of quality.
On the other hand, on the sound performance side, it is much less convincing. The musical composition has nothing transcendent and is very repetitive. As for the sound effects, they arrive at certain times, even as the game scrolls, to annoy. At first funny, and quite in the spirit, the various onomatopoeias that serve as lyrics quickly become unbearable. “Blablabla” here, “blablabla” there, you quickly lose your cool. Sticking to just lines of text would probably have been more sensible.
However, it is true that this defect only appears to be a detail, which only a nitpicky person can – as a matter of bad faith – raise as an incriminating element. Either… So, let’s go further: The Company Man is it a good experience?
A solitary walk within these cold walls
The gameplay is straightforward. Like any 2D platformer, the keys allocated to each action are very few. It is therefore easy to handle. What annoys is elsewhere and is found, in particular, in the level design.
During our journey, we run, we jump, we face enemies – nothing more classic – but we are either bored or frustrated or both. There is very little pleasure to be gained from it. Most of the time, we only have to face emptiness. We continue our way, without finding anything through. It may be exaggerated, but these situations do exist. A technique to stretch the adventure and increase the life of the game by a few minutes (about 5 hours)? Whatever the reason – if there is one – it’s a bad thing.
And, when we finally find an obstacle to get our teeth into, we can only deplore its layout, although this defect is only sporadic. Opponents appear somewhat randomly in impossible places, some platforms are positioned strangely…
Then… there is another problem: during the whole game, you will have to go through the elevators. Only, the simple fact of trying to take one turns out to be quite a sport. As we go to take the first one that has decided to open its doors for us, it closes them immediately. We find ourselves in front, waiting for another to come back, to finally play the same game as before.
Hello, nice to meet you and goodbye
The title does not lack variety, whether by the sets – as mentioned above – or by the enemies it offers. They are different, and all are specific to a given department, or floor: fire-breathing employees, summoners, divers, or suicides who come crashing down in an explosion right at your feet (if not on you directly ), and even werewolves… In short, a very crazy and varied fauna…. An omnipresent madness logically shared by all the bosses.
These clashes are also quite pleasant, although some may be uninteresting. Others, on the contrary, will initially pose some difficulties. However, they won’t be a real problem – at least on normal difficulty. To make matters worse, you can always head to the higher degrees, including an impossible difficulty mode that you will unlock at the end of the game.
But that doesn’t mean your progress will be easy. Some opponents or elements will harm you. And not always for the right reasons. The behavior of some opponents is sometimes erratic and therefore difficult to prevent, others inflict damage on you simply by touching them, something which could be completely logical if it applied in an absolute way. Which is not at all the case here, opponents can hit you (rather cross you) without you suffering any consequences.
The energy, the life that you lose then – whether during a confrontation or unfortunate encounters – can be recovered via coffee machines scattered throughout the levels. These also act as checkpoints. Their number varies according to the length of the course. The life bar can also be strengthened by buying the necessary resources from the merchant with the coins you collect from your enemies or in certain caches.
Improving your endurance will indeed not be negligible, not only for the points mentioned above, but also because of the camera. It will indeed cause a lot of trouble. Not offering an overview and, at times moving, it will obscure certain obstacles that could be fatal to you, sending you directly to the previous checkpoint. Fortunately, not everything has to be redone.