The Company Man’s Keyboard is Mightier than the Sword
Whether you’re a fresh graduate or not, in real life, there is a time when you will have to enter the next phase of life: getting a job. But even if you manage to get employed, it won’t be any easier when you encounter your evil supervisors and envious associates. If job life is that hard, why not make a game of it? Allow me to introduce The Company Man: a 2D platformer action game about lousy work ethics and how to smash them with a keyboard, developed by Forust Studio from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Here you will play as Jim, who just managed to graduate and wants to start his career at a company called The Good Water Company. Unfortunately, he’ll find that the company’s work culture in his first position is a wee bit crazy as he literally must survive to keep his job. There is only one way to stay alive: he has to fight his fierce colleagues, exploited interns and abusive, lazy higher-ups in each of the company’s departments in order to become the CEO himself.
Jim carries two useful items to reach this goal, both very familiar to everyone who has ever done the office hustle! First, his only weapon is a keyboard that he uses as a melee weapon or to shoot emails with various modes, just like a pistol or a shotgun. Later in the game, you can upgrade his weapons to shoot emails automatically and change between the two styles anytime. The second item is a cup of coffee that restores his health and energy each time he drinks it.
The Good Water Company has eight departments, which serve as the game’s levels, and as a freshman, you’ll start by climbing your way up from the Customer Service Department. In each department, you’ll encounter many co-workers, which you must defeat like a keyboard warrior from the bottom up to the higher level of CEO. Not to mention, each department has a variety of mini-bosses and last, but not least, the stages’ final boss fights themselves. All of the enemies don’t have a health bar, so you won’t know how much damage you’ll need to defeat each enemy – this adds a sense of difficulty to the otherwise medium challenges.
After defeating a boss, you’ll get a free coffee coupon (Oh, the irony!). You can use it to upgrade specific skills, like increasing your health bar or getting a coffee that makes you invulnerable for 5 seconds when you’re low on health, which can help when progressing to new stages. This can be done at a coffee shop in the main lobby, an area that is accessible after completing a stage. When you reach a department, sometimes there will be a sudden conversation that leads you to upgrade your weapon automatically inside a department.
Fun fact: All of the coffee beans are named after Malaysian towns, cities, or states like Johor, Sarawak, Sabah, Melaka, Klang and Ipoh – that’s a nice reference to the developer’s country of origin.
The only significant con of this game is the enemies’ hitboxes. You need to hit them at close range, but you can also be damaged instantly if you touch the enemy. Finding the proper distance to attack can be a bit finicky.
At first glance, a platformer game is usually about defeating hordes of monsters or non-human creatures. For me, what makes The Company Man unique is the unusual setting with a theme of an office worker’s daily life in unhealthy work cultures and his need to change the system by any means possible. It could be that The Company Man carries a hidden message, hoping that work culture can be changed to a better and healthier way. A topic that is especially important to the game development scene, where many events of toxic and abusive working conditions have been reported in recent years. The impact may not be directly significant, but the game itself can be seen as a small step to remind us that work environments everywhere can be changed for the better.
The Company Man is available for PC on Steam. This review is based on a free copy provided by the developer.