Review – The Company Man (Switch)
The Company Man, developed by Malaysian indie first-timers Forust, is a great example of why I love playing indies on the Switch. Technically speaking, this game was originally released last May on Steam. Did you know about that? No? You’re not the only one. I had never heard of that game prior to the announcement of an enhanced Switch port. I complain about the eShop’s lack of curation, but every once in a while, it succeeds at doing what it was supposed to do: give hidden gems a chance to finally shine. This is a game I expected very little from, but which quickly won me over.
The Company Man is a game that tackles a cliché that not many games have attempted to so far, although they totally should: corporate satire. This is a game about a low-level employee wanting to become the CEO of the utterly terrible company he works for, not by actually working hard on whatever said company does, but by punching and kicking every other employee, intern, and shady boss that comes your way. Everything is wrapped with a ton of humor that takes jabs at dated corporate culture and postmodernism in general.
That made me like the game’s premise almost immediately. Sure, this is a cartoony and excessively exaggerated action platformer, but The Company Man felt surprisingly relatable at times. Anyone who has ever had a job at a strict, bureaucratic, 9 to 5 office will manage to relate to our protagonist Jim, as well as the exaggerated portrayals and personalities some of the bosses in this game showcase. Having to fight angry and frustrated customer service clerks or a HR director who loves to throw piles of unnecessary documentation at you will obviously never happen in real life, but boy oh boy, did it feel slightly familiar in a borderline unconscious manner.
The fact this is all presented in a gorgeous cartoonish art style, with exaggerated facial and body animations, made things even better. Jim looks desperate at all times. Interns look frustrated. Customer service clerks are always stressed, breathing fire every now and then to let off some steam. Every floor in this company is presented in a quasi-psychedelic way, almost inspired by Charlie Chaplin’s classic Modern Times movie, but adapted to a more bureaucratic, office-like manner. It’s a joy to look at, even when some environments start looking a bit too samey due to some assets being reused all the time.
You must be asking, however: sure, The Company Man is great satire and all that, but this is still a video game, so how does it play? The best comparison I can give is that it felt like playing a faster-paced version of a long lost 16-bit platformer. Think of it of a slightly more archaic (but also much easier) Mega Man Zero game. Jim is equipped with a keyboard (yep, a computer keyboard) as his trustworthy “sword”, and can unlock a few different ranged attacks, usually in the shape of email-shaped projectiles, at the end of each stage.
The platforming is basic, but fun, mostly due to its fast-pace and decent level design. The Company Man never felt like a challenging chore, but that wasn’t a problem. Jim lacks some traditional action platforming moves, such being able to crouch or aim, but the simplified enemy AI and puzzles made up for these shortcomings. The only sections I truly felt were way more challenging than the rest of the game were the boss battles, but given the game’s generous checkpoint feature, letting you respawn at any coffee machine you find along the way, dying during a fight never felt like something overly punishing. In a weird way, The Company Man felt quite relaxing at times.
I did not expect to like The Company Man as much as I did. Sure, it has some gameplay limitations stemming from some design choices, but not only did I enjoy the fluidity of its controls, and especially its inventive boss battles, but I couldn’t stop laughing and relating to the unhealthy amount of postmodern corporate satire included in here. This is a game that will resonate with anyone who has ever had a menial office job in an excessively bureaucratic company, with morally questionable superiors.
I quickly fell in love with The Company Man‘s adorable art style, as well as its hand drawn animations.
Fluid and responsive, despite being clearly inspired by old-school platformers, resulting in the lack of an aiming feature or crouch button. If you adapt your brain to thinking this is a long-lost SNES game, you’ll notice how it plays superbly well given its design choices.
Some background tunes stand out, but all in all, they simply get the job done. The game doesn’t feature voice acting per se, but it is filled with funny sound effects and small voice clips.
Fun Factor: 9.0
The Company Man mixes the simplicity of 8-bit and 16-bit action platformers with a delightful dose of postmodern corporate satire. Despite its issues, I simply couldn’t stop playing it.
Final Verdict: 9.0
The Company Man is available now on PC and Switch.
Reviewed on Switch.
A copy of The Company Man was provided by the publisher.