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Office Life

Published by Injoy Games
Price $19.95
Primary Genre Secondary Genre

Everyone likes Dilbert, don't they? Absolutely everyone. That office-satire vibe really strikes a chord with those of us forced to labour behind a desk for eight hours every day: The unreasonable bosses, fluorescent lights and ridiculous corporate double-speak are perfect fodder for lampooning. Office Life attempts to combine this kind of subversive humour with a series of mini-games based on the premise.

Big Brother is watching you! You get poorly spelt e-mails on your computer. Just like real life!

I appreciate a game that tries to inject some genuine laughs into the experience, but Office Life fails - utterly and unreservedly - to capture the anarchic feel it's so obviously gunning for, and it only goes downhill from there. 'Gameplay' centers around using 'productivity' points to buy tasks (in the form of one of the aforementioned mini-games) from your badly-drawn boss, the successful completion of which nets you an increase in salary. To all intents and purposes, that is it.

Productivity points are likewise earned from one of the game's simplistic mini-games or via taking care of your 'office pet': Basically a dumbed-down Tamagotchi which has three bars representing food, water and play. There are no animations representing this supposed 'pet', so this entire segment of the game basically involves clicking three buttons to fill up three bars and then watching a number count upwards. The mind boggles at the mindset that can even begin to consider this a game.

Catching stuff that falls out of a window is actually /more/ boring than it sounds.

The mini-games themselves - although there seems to be an impressive number of them - are samey, bland and frankly insulting to the intelligence of any gamer past the age of four. If children are InjoyGames' target market, I could perhaps understand, but that doesn't seem to be the case taking into account the 'Office' theme.

Much has been made on InjoyGames' website of Office Life being an entirely mouse-driven game, but considering how very simplistic most of its games are, I think they would have been hard pressed to include the keyboard in the control scheme even if they'd tried. Aside from a couple of notable exceptions (there are a few word games, and Blackjack is hard to do badly), the tasks you're assigned all seem to involve moving a graphical cursor around the screen to catch approaching objects, or bouncing things off your cursor, or... Well, you get the idea. These are gaming paradigms we've seen a hundred thousand times before. Office Life does them without the bells and whistles and it does them, well... ugly.

Which brings me to the graphical presentation of Office Life. Frankly, it looks like South Park with half of the detail and none of the charm. The animation - what there is of it - is a joke, and the vast majority of the game is made up of moving sprites that look like they've been scrawled on your monitor by a two-year old on a sugar bender.

There are, as far as I can make out, about three sound effects in Office Life: Click, bloop and beep. There were 70's arcade games with more aural variety than this, and were there much of a game here in the first place it would seriously detract from it, marking this game for sound is like marking the Swedish national swim team on their space shuttle piloting abilities: There's just nothing there, so why bother?

I find myself searching vainly for something to recommend Office Life, trying to envisage who would actively want to play this game and who would actually obtain enjoyment from it and I'm just coming up blank. Longevity? I got tired of it within approximately 5 minutes, and even if it were billed as a kid's game, there are plenty of more enjoyable and far more visually appealing offerings out there. As a five minute 'office break' game? I'd rather be playing something like Strange Adventures in Infinite Space. Hell, I'd rather be playing Solitaire, it's better-looking. Funnier, too. Office Life could have been saved by its attempts at humour, but those attempts are marred by the fact that whoever developed it seems to have learned English as a second language. There's certainly some unintentional laughs to be gained from this, but that wears thin in about thirty seconds.

For five dollars US, I could possibly conceive as a minute possibility someone regarding Office Life as worth the price and getting perhaps an hour or two of entertainment from it. At just under twenty dollars, InjoyGames is in my opinion committing little more than brazen daylight robbery, and I cannot understand what possessed them to choose this pricepoint. Visit your local games store or (preferably) your online indie dealer and you'll likely be able to pick up two games of vastly superior quality rather than waste your money on what is - at best - an amateurish, plagiaristic joke of a game.

Graphics 14%
Sound 5%
Playability 15%
Longevity 10%
Overall Score 10%
No Award

Published on 05 Aug 2005
Reviewed by Chris Robson

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