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The Company Man Starts Off Charming, But Ends Up Being Cheap
Genre: 2D Action Game
At first glance, the Malaysian-made indie 2D platformer The Company Man starts off jovial and satirical. You play a corporate worker named Jim as he rises to the top, fighting co-workers in a big corporation in different sectors using his keyboard weapon like a sword and emails as projectiles.
The first few stages of The Company Man is clear as day with its homage. You’ll get vibes of Mega Man X as your main man Jim can perform Zero-style slashes and air dashes, as well as “send emails” in the form of long-ranged bullets or in a wide short-ranged “shotgun” burst.
The title is pretty fun when you’re just cruising along, hitting each checkpoint, and braving the next challenge. There’s even a simple upgrade system where defeating a boss nets you a free coffee beans coupon, giving you your choice of powerups ranging from health and energy extensions to skills like life-leeching and destroying projectiles with your keyboard swipes.
But once you’ve proceeded past the initial stages and enter the realms of Accounting, Marketing, and beyond, you start to see the design cracks of a supposed solid platforming base. The game devolves into an exercise in frustration with fewer checkpoints leading up to the obviously tough bits to the odd hit detection and situations where it looks like you can make a jump or assume your main character’s dash gives you a low profile. It doesn’t.
There are also one or two wasted segments begging for challenges and gauntlet-style segments; I was hoping for more action when Jim was on an airship platform in one of the game’s later stages. That segment was quite a bore as I just killed a slew of the same marketing enemies I fought, the platform slowly flying to the right side of the screen amidst the scrolling background.
Some challenges seem like they were added with not much thought. There’s a stage using teleporters that feature a puzzle that requires you to quickly switch teleporters while mid-air after you made the blink. However, you fall straight down and aren’t given much time to react from the get-go.Â There’s also a frustrating part at the penultimate stages where spiked barricades send you back to the beginning of the course if you so much as touch them. While it’s better than starting over from the last checkpoint, I feel that there can be other ways to not make these segments this quirky.
Plus, the later bosses in the game seem to die faster than usual, leaving final tense moments a little anti-climactic. Long story short, the difficulty spikes here are about as unstable as a startup founder after getting way too much for its seeding goal. The less said about the banal music the better; save for the end credits theme which was given more thought to make than the entire OST.
The Company Man is not as polished as its inspiration. It barely hits the level of competency and averageness when it comes to indie-level 2D platforming. There are also some technical issues too; the game doesn’t seem to register me defeating the game’s last few bosses.
It’s a shame because I see a lot of potential with the game’s engine and controls.Â While I’m glad that there are more folks making 2D action games in the veins of the Mega Man series, this Malaysian game really needs more fine-tuning and polish. It’s one thing to be a difficult game, but The Company Man just crosses over that delicate line of challenging and frustrating with no indication of such spiking curves from the get-go.
I finished the entire title, but I felt that I got through by blind luck and using exploits in hit detection rather than through pure skill & practice. For comparison, the 2D indie title Cyber Shadow sets those expectations early on and doesn’t let up from start to finish.
No amount of charm and cute art is enough to hide The Company Man’s skeletons in its closet. It’s not the most superficial and worst title I’ve played, but there are way better and more rewarding indie 2D platforming options out there.