Working Stiffs Game

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When Overtime Goes Wrong: Working Stiffs

Many of us would agree that the stale and mundane atmosphere of the common office workplace is enough to turn people into corporate zombies slowly trudging along to meet deadlines, reach quotas, eventually fall into a deep unending cesspool of despair as they are slowly consumed by office politics and company policies. On a normal day, we really would not be scared of an office zombie -and for some of us, that is possibly a reality we might already be living in. That is one thing.

And then there is actual zombification -you know, the kind where the dead start moving about autonomously with the single goal of consuming every single living thing they see? The kind of zombiefication that is often transmitted through a bite from another member of the undead? Yes, that kind of zombiefication is enough to scare the living daylights out of people -so imagine the kind of mayhem that will erupt when it happens in the workplace.

The Danger in the Next Cubicle

What is an overworked and underpaid employee to do in the middle of the night while stuck behind her office desk? If you answered looking for LOLcat pictures, then you are absolutely right. This now-so-famous internet meme is to blame for thousands of hours of lost productivity in offices and schools all over the world, and if you see one, it is hard to actually point any real blame because of how cute it is. And when one attached lolcat image is attached with a unique kind of digital zombie virus, things can get really wrong.

And this is exactly the premise of Working Stiffs; a mysterious cat-photo virus is opened and turns the hapless viewer into the Typhoid Mary of all things undead. It is up to you to guide various employees who are stuck on various floors of the building into the fire exit stairwell -which is apparently the only safe place left for them to go. Each floor has its own set of challenges and employees to save, and it is up to you to help out as many of them as you can.

Unconventional Controls

The one things about Working Stiffs that will peeve a lot of casual players is the fact that you do not have full control over the characters you are guiding around. You can point them the way, tell them to pick up certain weapons, even decide if you want them to group together or keep apart from each other. But as we said, you do not have full control. These guys and gals will wander around the offices, and more often than not, panic at the sight of incoming zombies. This means that they will waste ammunition on any zombie they see or simply run away blindly into dead ends.

Personnel management is not an easy task, and when you are dealing with a bunch of scared civilians, that issue becomes all the more noticeable. Thankfully, the game's stages are built like giant puzzles with small random elements in play. If you have the right strategy, keeping casualties to a minimum is actually possible (ideally, you would want to keep everyone alive).

Weapons are surprisingly easy enough to find -considering that you are in an office environment. For some strange reason, some of the crates and storages provide submachine guns, ammunition clips, flares, and other various projectile based weapons. Not quite your typical office scenario indeed, but when you need to quickly deal with the undead, it the logic of finding a shotgun lying next to the office copier is not an issue anymore.

Aside from the danger of dealing with the usual roaming undead hordes of former officemates, your survivors also need to deal with boss type zombies -who are actually once flesh and blood bosses. Supervisors, managers, and other high ranking office personnel have all been turned as well, and more often than not, you will need to take them down before you can successfully exit the level.

There are no limits to stage restarts, though the names and even the gender of your survivors may change (this means that the guys from previous attempt really died). While the office never seems to run out of survivors for you to use, it does get a little jarring and disheartening to know that so many people keep dying with each turn you take. And if you are the type whose goal is to keep all the NPCs alive till the very end, this can be a bit of a bad thing.

Making your way through the hallways and corridors, you will often encounter large desks or wooden doors blocking your way. Fortunately, the employees seem to be well versed in the art of breaking down these minor obstacles. Just be careful when choosing to break up blocked areas, as you may end up freeing some zombies as well.

Losing a character often means that the employee will turn into another zombie as well, so it is important to avoid getting any of your units caught or killed by the zombies. You will also want to manage the use of weapons -and you will benefit a lot from trying to make elevators fail (lingering around the doorway then suddenly leaving may jam up the elevator sensors -and in so doing, preventing the elevator from spawning more enemies).

Another challenge of the game lies in the fact that each stage is completely, different from the last. The survivors of the previous stage are not the same characters you control in the next (just assume that the ones who made it to the fire exit decide to head straight out instead of exploring other floors). This means that any weapons and ammunition that you may have picked up from the other floors are not longer carried over, and your next set of employees will have to find their own. Naturally, each new stage of the game features more challenges than the previous, significantly increasing the difficulty for players. While this is certainly a welcome addition in the game, many casual players may find this title a little too unforgiving at times.

Aesthetic Appeal

The art for Working Stiffs has been made in a retro-styled 8-bit/16-bit video game fashion, which actually works pretty well considering the gameplay it offers. The stage per stage approach has a distinct 80's arcade cabinet feel while the actual game itself feels like something you would be able to find in cartridge format.

That being said, the pixel styled artworks are well done, from the employees, to the office desks, to the massive zombies lurking around, each of these visual elements are portrayed in such easily identifiable manners. Also, it also allows for a slightly lighter atmosphere. All the death in this game can easily turn into something dark, morbid, and a little horrific to play; thanks to the visual approach, one can still manage a smile or two while playing.

As a game, everything works pretty well since the pixel style art is easy on the eyes. You can tell the difference between blocked passages, open pathways, dangerous objects, item pickups and of course, roaming zombies in a single glance. This makes managing your survivors a whole lot easier since you will be spending a lot of time trying to round they up properly in order to usher them all into a single direction.

The music goes hand in hand with the retro theme of the game, with most of the sound effects being heavily inspired by those short sound clips on the prehistoric arcade boards of old. The actual music itself is fun to listen to, though at times it makes you feel like zoning out from all the confusing that occurs in the game.

The Verdict

Games like Working Stiffs are rare to find, they have their own unique style, own approach to the zombie culture, and provide players with a pretty well rounded experience. Sure, there are plenty who may complain about the game's lack of control over the characters, but that is where the charm lies -in trying to corral these panicky little office folk into an orderly fashion so that they make kill the zombies that stand between them and safety. Some of the stages will get frustrating to tackle, but in the end, that is what makes them all the more satisfying to finish. Working Stiffs may not be a game for everyone, but if you like a seriously good hardcore challenge or are simply looking for a zombie game with something new to offer, then this one should be next on your playlist. We give this game an underpaid temp's 92/100.