Blood-Red Collar Work
HIGH Finding all of the hidden short films.
LOW The third boss fight is borderline incomprehensible.
WTF I swear that’s James Spader right over there.
It’s rare to see a game with a satirical message as obvious as the one in Yuppie Psycho. As if the title weren’t clear enough, every bit of the story is arranged to lampoon and criticism the bland, unthinking conformity of corporate culture. The cubicle mazes, the zombielike workers, the incomprehensible levels of bureaucracy — it’s all presented in an extreme light. Cruel supervisors spit literal acid, promotion exams are nightmarish fights to the death, and twisted creatures lurk in the depths of the building. It’s corporate culture as horror adventure, and it’s wonderful.
A pixel-art adventure title, Yuppie Psycho puts player in the shoes of Pasternack, a young man on his first day of work at SintraCorp, the largest and most powerful company in the world. He’s a naive lad from the boondocks and has no idea why he’s been sent a job offer when so many others spend their lives striving to get a foot in the door.
Perhaps Pasternack’s luck has something to do with the job he’s been chosen for — killing the witch that lives at the heart of the corporation. An insane task for someone who expected to be an anonymous functionary, but Yuppie Psycho offers many hints that the world is in such bad shape that any corporate job, no matter how bizarre and dangerous, is preferable to life outside a cubicle’s walls.
Pasternack’s journey through isometric workspaces is controlled directly by the player. They can walk around, search for items, talk to their coworkers, and push objects to solve puzzles.
Yuppie Psycho‘s puzzles are all inventory and conversation-based. Every desk must be clicked on and every character spoken to — not just because that’s where players will find the food and paper (used to save) they’ll need to survive the building’s ordeals, but because many of the key items they’ll need to proceed aren’t highlighted. If players want to survive, they’ll have to search every nook and cranny. For the best ending, they’ll have to do it more than once.
Thankfully, this searching is done in an office building that’s an achievement of design — it has just ten levels, but each one has such a unique concept and visual style that it’s impossible to forget where a specific character or obstacle was located. An indoor forest and graveyard may seem strange for a corporation, but they’re not something the player will forget. Likewise, the devs have done a great job of damaging and decorating levels in eyecatching ways as another means of preventing players from getting lost even though there’s no in-game map. All cubicles look the same, but there are enough instances of bloody graffiti to keep locations clear in the audience’s mind.
As good as the visual design is, the writing is absolutely Yuppie Psycho‘s strongest point. The critiques of corporate brainwashing are as funny as they are incisive. Pasternack goes through an interesting journey as players discover that it’s possible the witch isn’t the biggest problem with the corporation after all — perhaps the real threats are the kinds of people who would look at a corrupt, dangerous system and try to manipulate it to their own ends. As is often the case in supernatural horror stories, it’s the people, not the ghosts, that have to be watched out for.
This is all strong content, but there are a few frustrations. For example, there are a limited number of health items available, and it’s far too easy to take damage if players aren’t super-vigilant. It’s rare to see a game that absolutely demands regenerating health, but Yuppie Psycho makes a strong case for it.
Similarly, while I understand the narrative reasons for making saving a limited resource, the save stations are too few and far between. There are many locations where a single mistake can force players to lose 15-20 minutes of progress, and at one point I stumbled into a difficult boss encounter nearly 45 minutes after my last save point. I almost quit the game at this point, but i kept on thanks to the developers violating their own stated rules — autosaves happen when this particular boss shows up.
While the difficulty level may scare some away, Yuppie Psycho has so much great writing and clever gameplay that it would be a crime to overlook. Pasternack’s journey through SintraCorp is equal parts scary and hilarious, and the handful of annoying moments were more than made up for by a fundamentally humane story about people trying to connect and help one another within a system designed to grind them into a slurry of blandness. Sometimes literally.
Disclosures: This game is developed by Baroque Decay and published by Another Indie. It is currently available on PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PC. Approximately 10 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: The game was not yet rated by the ESRB, but it contains Blood and Gore, Mild Language, and Use of Alcohol. There’s no reason to let kids anywhere near this one. Even it if weren’t for the omnipresent brutal pixelated gore, the satire of the working world would likely be meaningless to them.
Colorblind Modes: The game has no colorblind modes.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: I played almost the entire game without audio, and encountered just one problem – but it’s a big one. Late in the game, players have the option to track down several hidden characters in order to affect the ending. The only way the player is informed that they’re in an area with a hidden character is a sound effect that plays. There’s no visual cue for it, and without being able to hear that, they’ll have to search every room in the game if they want to find them all.
Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable.