atrk
press enter to search

'Salary Man Escape': Fun game to play with, kind of

Marcel Thee
Marcel Thee

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta | Mon, August 27, 2018 | 09:05 am
'Salary Man Escape': Fun game to play with, kind of

The universe of Salary Man Escape is fittingly a sad corporate one, with drab shades of black, gray and white permeating throughout. (Oasis Games/File)

The pains and grind of being a salary man are all too familiar to many, and they often feel as addictive or arduous as a brutally-unbeatable 1980s arcade-game — a hamster-wheel of obvious repetition that nevertheless chains us in.

Perpetual attempts to climb the corporate ladder — or at least not fall off it onto a sad existential hole — finds itself a virtual equivalent in the joyfully discomforting virtual-reality (VR) video game Salary Man Escape

This puzzler is not as deep or satirical as its title suggests but certainly doles up a good amount of “I know this feeling!” that wage-slaves will recognize. 

Similar to the popular game of blocks JengaSalary Man Escape serves up levels containing a small island made up of white and grey blocks of different sizes. Each of these blocks has simple motivational (and satirical) phrases on it, supposedly representing letters from upper management. 

Some of these satirical phrases work better than others and mostly seem funny at the start, before they feel monotonous and even disconnected from the game. The game’s in-universe also presents players with a purposely dull desk, lamp and keyboard (though you can’t interact with them). It’s all fittingly depressing. 

Working to support these blocks are bricks of red that players control through the use of the PlayStation’s DualShock controller or its Move wand. The aim is to create new unobstructed passages and walkways through which your salary man character can traverse, all without dropping onto the many pitfalls, onto the designated exits. 

As players move through the levels, the puzzles naturally get harder, requiring more tactical calculations in reorganizing the edifice of bricks.

The universe of Salary Man Escape is fittingly a sad corporate one, with drab shades of black, gray and white permeating throughout. There are slight changes as the game goes on, with the most obvious being the mild-difference in the looks of its puzzles. 

Of course, the developers want to keep it from actually feeling depressing as the faraway clicks of a dying office keyboard, and as such, the soundtrack livens things up.

Persistent in its eclecticism, the music is an electronic-pop flourish of 1980s-1990s Japanese-pop that naturally uses both English and Japanese vocals. It is an eclectic contrast to the games chosen aesthetic and one that really does add a lot to its nuance.

The universe of Salary Man Escape is fittingly a sad corporate one, with drab shades of black, gray and white permeating throughout. The universe of Salary Man Escape is fittingly a sad corporate one, with drab shades of black, gray and white permeating throughout. (Oasis Games/File)

The game also offers up bonus hidden levels that players can unlock with coins obtained from the main levels. These levels are extra challenging with tricks that include turning the lights off, forcing players to use their controllers as a flashlight.

As with other VR games, the gameplay of Salary Man Escape relies heavily on its in-world mechanics, specifically the sense of weight and momentum of the puzzles. 

While the overall control works precisely enough, there are moments when the physics fall on the side of clunkiness. These aren’t bad enough to take away from the gameplay, but they do sometimes become bothersome, especially during the moving of key pieces of the puzzle. 

Of course, the real gameplay of its biggest influence, Jenga, is also about understanding how the slightest movement of one puzzle piece affects the others. But here, that connection feels especially underlined — making everything feel additionally tense (which might be good in some sense, I suppose).

The main key to mastering the real Jenga is in comprehending how real-world physics dictate how the pieces affect each other with the slightest movements. As such, this game truly acquires a mechanic that was masterful, especially in relation to the controller. 

Using a PlayStation Move works a little better than a regular controller, but the lack of options to use a second controller (to represent an actual second hand) also doesn’t work to the gameplay’s benefit.

In a way, the game indeed aims for one of those frustratingly difficult experiences — the kind that lends itself to a massive sense of satisfaction when the puzzle is actually solved.

There is a lot of trial and error involved in mastering it, but players patient enough to get through will likely find themselves drawn to return. In that sense, perhaps it is a perfect satire of the rat race.

If it is, that may well be the closest the game’s chosen theme of corporate sorrow really works, as the other aspect of the game doesn’t exactly evoke any new perspectives or humor to the life of an office worker. 

The chosen aesthetic and visual décor serves that up, sure, but they, too, often feel just like that: décor.

There is a fun simplicity to Salary Man Escape that makes it sometimes fun to play. But a lack of cohesion in its chosen topic, as well as control mechanics that just aren’t precise enough make it a challenge to fully recommend. The kind of player you are will deeply affect how you view the game, so the best bet is to — if possible — try before you buy.

_____________________

‘Salary Man Escape’ (Oasis Games) Available for the PlayStation VR

Comments