Office DisOrders

Finally, you can live out your dream of rising to the top of the corporate ladder! Office DisOrders is a satirical simulation game spanning 5 working days. You play an aspiring intern named Jennifer who has just received a lucrative internship position at Incomputech. To succeed, you must complete office tasks, maintain a good work/life balance, and even go to Washington D.C. for a bailout.

Microsoft's genre labels can often be flat out bizarre at times, and Moment Games' Office DisOrders finds itself in Xbox Live Indie Games' "Strategy & Simulation" category which seems an odd choice for the game which exhibits the generally accepted gameplay of neither genre. Yet, the label almost connects because while the gameplay may not match the game's placement in the indie library, Office DisOrders riffs on corporate strategies and acts the part of a humorous business simulation. The new intern, Jennifer, must navigate the corporate structure of Incomputech as she seeks to fulfill her newly appointed tasks and do what's best for her and her company.

Moment Games states on its website that it wants "to create interactive games that focus on telling a great story" and backs that declaration up with a lengthy mission statement detailing its views on what makes for a great video game. Office DisOrders thus concerns itself more with its dialogue and plot than engaging gameplay. Although the unassuming introduction and gameplay drag for the first day of Jennifer's five day work week, the pace picks up with the second day onward and is genuinely funny and entertaining. The dialogue is snappy and delightful, and I'm rather impressed by how well the game is written, good enough to desire more as the game ends all too quickly. As Office Space and The Office has shown, the corporate environment is rife with humor, and Office DisOrders nails so much of the inbred silliness found in its subject.

Jennifer's fate is told via a cast of Katamari Damacy people, blocky polygon puppets which animate stiffly but get the job done. The environments, few as they are, are well constructed and make for convincing set pieces. I love how we see everyone but Jennifer playing Solitaire when seated at a PC, and the changing of the Employee of the Month portrait at certain points during the story makes for a nice visual gag. The camera follows Jennifer around but will zoom in on characters during speaking scenes; the zooming allows better emphasis on the scene but does show a bit of texture blur on the character models. While Jennifer herself controls okay albeit a bit tank-like, she'll often shuffle around at length to get in position when interacting with others and objects which looks awkward and can become annoying. Characters need to be a certain distance away from each other before engaging in dialogue, and having to sit through five to ten seconds while the game struggles to position them before allowing the scene to continue is an unnecessary nuisance which can intrude on the game's pacing. Beyond needlessly wasting the player's time, these repositioning interruptions also exacerbate the game's greatest flaw, its tedious shoehorned attempt at gameplay.

Players advance the story of Office DisOrders by interacting with people and objects with the A-button, and the game would be fine if it stopped there. Unfortunately, Moment Games sought to add another layer of gameplay beyond what is required to tell its story, one which nearly ruins the experience to be had playing and enjoying the game. Despite a mission statement which clearly states that "gameplay and technology must serve to tell the story," the developer forces the player to tend to Jennifer's four biological motives throughout the game: "Bladder, Hunger, Fatigue, and Thirst." This means that players will constantly find themselves having to get up to drink coffee, raid the refrigerator for food to microwave and eat, take a nap, and use the restroom. Each of these is a function requiring interaction with an object -- multiple objects when feeding Jennifer -- and will restore one of the four indicative meters used to monitor Jennifer's needs. Not only does this element add nothing to the story, but the meters deplete ridiculously fast requiring several breaks throughout a given day. While this may have been injected into the title for sake of realism as it were, when the player is stuck spending the bulk of each day literally going to the bathroom, it's a problem. When combined with the initial photocopying and other menial tasks Jennifer is instructed to do on the onset of the game, these worthless gameplay elements only serve to put off the player.

It took me three tries before I finally started enjoying the game during the second day as I could not bare the tedium thrust upon me by Jennifer's first day of work. It is unfortunate that Office DisOrders strives so hard to burden the player with tedious gameplay, so much so to where few will likely get to the real fun of the game. Office DisOrders' first eight plus minutes are truly terrible and make for a poor trial. Its two puzzles feel out of place and easy, and all along I never felt as though the developer knew what to do with its game which is a shame and a waste of some great writing. The game is drowning under the weight of what its creator thinks it should be as opposed to allowing the game to breathe and deliver its narrative painlessly to the player. For those who can make it to the second day, Office DisOrders' entertaining narrative begins to take shape and makes the game worth playing, but the suffering required to get to that point let alone make it through the end may be too much for those who have better things to do than playing Tamagotchi with Jennifer's needs.

★★★☆☆
October 3, 2010
January 19, 2010 | 80 points
Developer | Video | Download

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