Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Middle Manager Of Justice: Single Fine

Yes, I wish it was double fine, but it's not.

Middle Manager Of Justice is now out for iDevices, and in it, you play the role of an office manager whose office is full of superheroes. You manage these heroes as they try to keep their city safe and eventually kill the Foozle (+10 Gaming Lore if you recognize that reference).

Let me just say this: I have never seen better art in a game. That covers twenty-five years of playing a jillion games. The art is so incredibly appropriate to the game, and so detailed, that I felt like I was playing an animated cartoon. It's also razor-sharp and beautiful, particularly on an iPad 3. Here, take a look:

Just click on that screenshot and revel in the detail. It's absolutely spectacular. And yes, it does immediately bring one word to mind: Bullfrog. That's a high, high honor.

Interface design? Impeccable. Everything is wonderfully laid out, easy to access, and logically located.

So this is Game of the Year, right? Well, unless you actually have to play it.

Here comes the Not Fine, and let's rip the band-aid off (hi Ben) right now: the gameplay is awful. It's bog-standard, completely repetitive, and totally uninspired. You will do the same small set of things over and over and over again, with very few strategic choices that have any real impact. It's boring--so boring that even the spectacular, wonderful art can't drag it out of Snoozetown.

It's so boring, in fact, that after getting about 2/3 of the way through the game (solely on the quality of the art, animation, and sound), I quit. It was just so mind-numbingly repetitive that I couldn't continue.

Here's what happens. In the top left of the base screen is a map, which is basically a map of the city. When crime events happen, the number on the map tells you how many crimes are in progress. You decide which superheroes will group and which crimes to go fight.

In the battle itself, there's not much to do. There are various special abilities that can be researched (each hero can have one active), but most of them can only be activated once in battle. So either you're stronger than the bad guys, or you're not, and your influence basically comes down to activating a special ability.

If you lose, you go back to the base and train up abilities. There are no special events at the base, no variations, just resting and training, mostly.

If that sounds boring, well, yes--it's boring. There are also emergencies (fires and runaway buses), but they're even worse--in those situations, you do nothing but assign a hero and watch.

So Middle Manager of Justice absolutely looks like a Bullfrog game, but it utterly lacks the energy. Sadly, it's flat as a pancake.

Now, the good news. It's free. I think I spent $3.99 on an IAP just to acknowledge the time I did spend with the game, and god knows I don't want the artists to starve, because they're geniuses. The game itself, though, is totally free if you choose to play it that way.

This game should have been great. Everything was in place for it to be great. Hopefully, Double Fine can learn from this.

Oh, and please give the artists a substantial raise.

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