The Company Man
It is inevitable that people reach a crossroads in life as they grow older; a time when their childhood world of toys, stuffed animals and videogames begins to transition into one of relationships, household bills and job responsibilities. Priorities become flipped, and spending your time having fun gives way to dedicating your time to your career and trying to better oneself. Sadly, aforementioned oneself can sometimes get lost in the shuffle, getting caught up in the grind of work, promotions and party lines. That’s exactly where the protagonist finds himself in Forust’s corporate hack ‘n’ slash platformer, The Company Man, and I recently grabbed up my keyboard to help him overcome the corporate machine on Nintendo Switch!
At A Glance
|Positives||+ Beautiful anime-inspired art style|
+ Hilarious corporate enemies and areas
+ Tongue-in cheek anti-establishment plotline
|Negatives||– Overly simple platforming and combat|
– Sound doesn’t live up to the visuals
– Short run time means you’ll be left wanting more
|Price (When Reviewed)||£15.90|
|Our Playtime||3 hours|
|Available On||Nintendo Switch, PC|
In The Company Man you play as Jim, a young man straight out of university who’s working his first real job at the Good Water Company. Jim dreams of rising all the way to the top and becoming the CEO, overthrowing the current exec, Francis. But after suffering corporate sabotage on his first day at the hands of the weaselly Head of Legal, William, Jim is demoted and cast down to the Customer Services department to begin his grind from the very bottom of the heap.
The Company Man plays out as a 2D platformer where you must help Jim, armed with his trusty keyboard, hack his way through swarms of wage slaves in the various departments of the Good Water Company, battling each of the managers to in order to move up the corporate ladder and confront the CEO at the top of the building. As you fight your way up the food chain, Jim gathers upgrades to his keyboard, allowing you to ‘fire off’ emails to defeat enemies, with each attack style hysterically matching poor communication methods of various staffers in big companies. I could honestly picture individuals from my own workplace as I collected each upgrade, and as I shared my opinions with my colleagues (who don’t care a jot about games), even they thought it was hilariously accurate.
For anyone who’s worked in any kind of large organisation, The Company Man will feel so incredibly accurate in its depictions of corporate life that it feels both incredibly funny and a little bit cringe-inducing. Within just a few minutes of gameplay, Forust holds up a mirror to big business stereotypes that ring painfully true if you’re looking at them from the inside. The Company Man is filled with disingenuous managers, shady business practices and disposable staff that are ‘fired’ (read: thrown to their doom) in their droves. Coffee is, of course, the savour to all corporate ills, with the self-anointed ‘overpriced coffee shop’ in the lobby offering a variety of rare beans and blends that grant upgrades to Jim’s abilities. Percolator stations even act as checkpoints to recharge your mojo when you inevitably bite the corporate bullet.
All of these depictions are made with tongue firmly in cheek and I found myself laughing out loud on more than one occasion. The customer services staff are all furious and fire-breathing, interns are whipping boys (and in fact, even used as whips by one manager); the marketing department lives in an entirely made up dream world, and members of HR hide behind mountains of paperwork and leap out to strike when you’re most vulnerable. My personal favourites were the Customer Services middle manager; a snivelling creature waving a phone around, who felt entirely on-brand, and the Sales and Legal department being filled with bloodsucking and hungry beasts. The entire game is wall-to-wall jokes at the expense of the corporate machine and brings a lot of joy to what can be a brutal and soulless environment.
As you play through The Company Man, it sadly becomes more and more clear that the focus of the game is on the premise over everything else. The platforming is incredibly simple and offers little to no challenge, and there isn’t much in the way of combat variety either. While the enemies are all humorous takes on the people you’ll find in corporate offices, there’s not much in the way of variety when it comes to defeating them, and you’ll be smashing through enemies as if they weren’t there once you’ve added an upgrade or two. The boss fights are much more individual though, with each manager shining through as a unique character with a specific battle style, and they’re all fun and memorable to play too.
Humorous script and corporate jokes aside, the biggest feather in The Company Man’s cap is the visual style, which is wonderful. The levels and characters are depicted in a soft anime style that looks to be pulled right out of a comic book, and real care has been taken to give each floor and group of enemies a unique look. The Customer Services department is drawn in shades of red and orange, with flecks of ash billowing around to perfectly accentuate the hell that is a Complaints department, and the use of open blue sky (thinking) and fictional creatures in Marketing is inspired. Again, it’s the boss characters that really shine in the visuals department and each has a unique style that reflects their areas really nicely.
While the imagery is a joy to behold, it highlights a little how the sound hasn’t been able to live up to the same mark. Don’t get me wrong -there’s nothing horrible going on by any stretch of the imagination- but each level is scored with only a snippet of a tune that’s on loop and doesn’t do a lot to underscore the individuality of each area of the business in the same way that the art style does. The spooky R&D department soundtrack stood out amongst the musical score, but there wasn’t anything else especially compelling to contend with.
As a rather backhanded upside, you won’t be listening to the music for long enough for it to become repetitive or annoying, as The Company Man is really a pretty short affair. I fought my way through Normal Mode in somewhere just shy of three hours, and while there’s also Hard Mode (where you’ll have three hearts inside of five), and the unlockable Impossible Mode (where it’s one hit kills!) to contend with, there isn’t a huge amount of meat on the bone. There will be completionists who want to battle through the harder difficulties, of course, but I found that a single play through was enough to enjoy what the Good Water Company had to offer. Thankfully, being a rather bite sized experience does mean that there’s never any risk the gameplay overstaying its welcome, as the simplicity of the mechanics could run the risk of getting repetitive had things been strung out much further.
The Company Man is a short lived rage against the machine that is funnier than it is fun, if that makes any sense. I did absolutely enjoy my time with the game, and Forust’s beautiful cartoon styling that has made an accurate mockery out of big corporations is incredibly well thought out. But while hacking through familiar lackeys and poking fun at business tropes is uproariously enjoyable, beneath a veneer of well crafted jokes is only some pretty easy platforming and combat, and when coupled with a run time that’s shorter than some appraisal meetings, the gameplay ultimately keeps the overall experience from breaking the glass ceiling.
In the interest of full disclosure, the publisher provided VGamingNews with a copy of the game in order to conduct this review.