Version Tested: 1.104
In recent months it has become fashionable to append the word ‘Simulator’ to games that are nothing of the sort. It sort of began with Surgeon Simulator, but has moved on to such a point that I am currently eagerly awaiting my copy of Bear Simulator whilst wondering if I should give Goat Simulator a try. It was inevitable that at some point somebody would combine the industry’s most over-used concept with the industry’s newest tired and overplayed joke and so from the digital ether came Corporate Lifestyle Simulator, a game that has very little to do with corporate lifestyles, nothing to do with simulators, and quite a lot to do with shooting a ridiculous number of moaning zombified freaks.
Formerly known as the succinct but utterly ungoogleable Zombies, Corporate Lifestyle simulator is a low-resolution isometric shooter that centres around a stereotypical office environment that has apparently become suddenly and irreversibly plagued by hordes of zombie managers. Playing as a character known only as Dude, the player battles the bizarrely overpopulated upper echelons of the corporation across 26 levels using an ever-increasing selection of both improvised and conventional weaponry.
The game takes place in a series of office environments including cubicle farms, laboratories, and car parks, and in each stage (or at least the vast majority of stages) the player is tasked with finding their to the level’s exit, marked with flashing red rings. Players move with the WASD keys, aim and fire with the mouse, and select weapons with the number keys. Extra weapons and ammo are found either placed around levels or dropped by killed zombies, and the player is accompanied by a small army of ‘rescued’ office-mates who act both as an automatic melee weapon and a highly disposable buffer between the Dude and the zombies.
Unfortunately the game is far too willing to focus on these basics and then repeat itself ad nauseam. Whilst there is certainly a selection of environments and enemies across the game’s two hour playtime, the levels tend to be far too similar to each other both graphically and in structure, and there are only so many variations of ‘man in suit moaning about synergy’ that the player can face before fatigue sets in. Some variety is injected into proceedings by slight alterations to the player’s goals – a level might require that very little be destroyed for example, whilst another might demand that the player kill every zombie on the board, and the gradual drip-feed of new weapons, but this continual improvement of dude’s armoury seems more like an effort to stretch out the length of the game than to provide any sort of feeling of progress. Still, the game’s bosses are generally rather well designed and a pleasant distraction, even if the solution is almost invariably the age old video gaming strategy of circle strafing whilst firing wildly.
The game also suffers from a selection of rather annoying bugs, the most problematic of which caused the game to crash repeatedly upon launch with an unceremonious “Error: Failed to load intro_splash image!” message. Happily, with the developer’s help I managed to fix this by manually deleting the graphics settings (you do this by going to run, going to %appdata%\Notzombies\ and then deleting screenres.txt – you’re welcome!) and the issue has yet to resurface. Other bugs, comparatively minor in comparison as they are, include occasional followers that fail to follow the player, instead getting stuck on areas of the environment and a graphical glitch that momentarily flashes a black box around the main character’s sprite on random occasions. Whilst these barely affect gameplay and are nothing to particularly worry about, they make the game feel a lot rougher around the edges than maybe it should be at this point in development.
Most disappointing is the fact that the game just doesn’t seem to know what to do with itself. At the end of each level the player is told how many zombies were killed, objects destroyed, and workmates rescued, but these tallies are purely cosmetic, and don’t contribute to any kind of scoring system. Whilst the game does have leaderboards, these are for the rather less satisfying ‘endless mode’, and by the end of the campaign I had already given up trying to kill as many zombies as possible in favour of simply finding my way to the exit, utilising the least time and effort the game could possibly require of me.
And it’s sense of humour fails far more often than it succeeds. Between the catchphrase and pun-churning protagonist and the silly-accented cutscenes the actual quality of jokes is pretty low. The dialogue is poorly acted, badly recorded, and often feels improvised rather than scripted. The plot is practically non-existent (thus making the game feel much longer than it strictly needs to be), and there’s no effort made to be cohesive. The entire thing is built around the whole ‘bosses = zombies’ concept, and so the moment that you grow sick of Office Space references the game (for the most part) loses its charm entirely.
Still, what Corporate Lifestyle Simulator does right, it manages to do in a manner nothing short of spectacular with the amount of environmental carnage on display. Practically everything in the game can be damaged or destroyed, quite often in a spectacular fashion, leaving a mess of shattered glass and burnt out furniture in its place. In early levels this seems like an interesting but ultimately entirely cosmetic feature, but the effect only becomes more and more impressive as the Dude, and some of his opponents, are granted more and more powerful weaponry with which to cause havoc. By the end of the game entire floors of the office are being laid bare in the wake of fighting, with debris flying left and right and fires as far as the eye can see.
But even the glorious, wanton pixel-based destruction pales in comparison to the game’s real star, a glorious 36-track electronic album that ranges in quality between being merely excellent and utterly astonishing. The game’s creator bignic considers himself a composer first and foremost, and it shows through his gloriously varied work, going far over and above what you would expect for a game of this nature. Whilst the sheer quality of the soundtrack is often disguised underneath the sub-par default sound options which plaster over it with a numbing cacophony of gunfire, it is the absolute highlight of the game and well worth a listen.
Areas for Development
- The scoring system
- Improvements to both enemy and ally A.I.
- Further bug fixes
From a gameplay point of view, Corporate Lifestyle Simulator is a reasonably enjoyable but ultimately forgettable experience mired by repetitive gameplay and a poor sense of humour, but taken as an album of chiptune music with a satisfying pixel-destruction engine attached the entire package comes across much more favourably. Whilst it’s neither the most polished or the most innovative indie game you’ll play this year, it gives the player access to a reasonable amount of somewhat satisfying destruction at a not unreasonable price. Especially if you’re willing to fork out the extra quid for the soundtrack edition.
Technical Competency – 5/10
Graphic/Sound Quality – 8/10
Network Stability – N/A
Overall Quality Grade – 6.5/10