Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Working Stiffs



Yep, zombies. Another game about zombies. These things just ain't scary anymore. Hell, Working Stiffs paints them as rather funny blokes - though they're still after your brains.


Every zombie story paints the origins of the outbreak differently, though I don't think ANY of them, prior to Working Stiffs, depicted it as a computer virus. Nevertheless the lolcatz have managed to turn most of the workers in an office building into mindless zombies, and those few who escaped infection (ie. don't stare at their email all day) must escape.

What this amounts to is an RTS of sorts. You're given a small squad of humans in each stage, ranging from one to a dozen, and you need to lead them all to safety vis a vie stage exits. Weapons along the way will help them kill zombies, and various other items - keys and documents, mostly - are necessary to make it through the exit door. It's rather a neat twist on standard zombie games where you gain control of a single person and have to wade through hordes of the undead on your own, especially given that these poor saps are understandably AFRAID of being eaten and will run if they stray too close to enemies.


Working Stiffs requires dual use of a mouse and a keyboard. The mouse, when clicked and move, will force nearby survivors to follow the path you've set, allowing you to swiftly dodge them around groups of zombies. The arrow keys allow you to scroll the map and see what's coming. Easy enough...

... in theory. In practice, Working Stiffs is a little problematic when it comes to controls. The fact that you can move the survivors about quickly is nice, and you'll usually get them past tight spots without trouble. Unfortunately, because you don't have pinpoint control over EVERY survivor at once, they're prone to run into walls or get stuck on objects you'd rather they avoid. This can prove particularly grating if you're in a race against the clock.

My biggest gripe, however, stems from changing weapons. Whenever a survivor comes across a weapon (or some other items), they'll pick it up immediately. Come across another and you'll have to hover the survivor over the item for a few seconds before they swap what they're carrying. A good mechanic for one person, perhaps, but when you have a cluster of survivors and you're trying to get only one to pick something up, you'll have to fight with the controls to achieve the desired result. And, yes, you can opt to move only one character at a time, but when you're stuck in a hallway full of zombies, your other survivors are likely to dash in and screw up your efforts.


Working Stiffs hovers staunchly in the SNES range graphically, and I'm fine with that. The environments are fairly varied, and filled with appropriately office-ish stuff, and everything looks more or less as it should. I would, however, like more variation in the survivors and the zombies - you're more or less staring at the same handful of sprites for the entire game.


Generic horror stuff that blends into the background for music, generic screams and haunting calls for 'braaaains' for ambient sounds. Meh.

Challenge Rating

Working Stiffs is a game about overcoming great obstacles in the pursuit of survival. In most levels you're forced to bypass rather significant amounts of zombies to proceed - as it should be. A lot of people work in an office.

That saaaaaaid, Working Stiffs is surprisingly easy. There are only one or two genuinely difficult levels in the whole game, and even these are usually one-trick ponies that can be circumvented once you figure out the major threat. Your survivors are just too swift and too capable with their firearms, not to mention aided by various other environmental factors, not to survive. What's more, you don't typically have a required survival limit, so as long as at least one person gets to the exit you'll proceed to the next level. A prerequisite for survival would ramp up the difficulty.


Working Stiffs is a solid game. Not too difficult, but more than innovative enough that it should prove satisfying to most RTS fans, let alone zombie lovers. Recommended.


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