Bouncer Story PC Review

Here's a Bouncer Story for you: work, work, work, fight, work then pay the Mafia. Coming late 2020.

Out towards the end of the year, Bouncer Story, from Helmi Games and published by Plug In Digital, will be released for the PC and Mac and is a management game with RPG elements.

Door work is hardly a desirable job – it’s hard work. Some bouncers may be deluded in thinking that they can pick from the ‘line up’ of punters entering a bar or club with the aims of wooing them later or similar, but the reality is, bouncers finish last. At least you’d get in a scrap, if that’s your thing.

Well, Bouncer Story isn’t exactly a brawler, but a Papers, Please observation game. Standing at the entrance to an establishment, you get to decide who goes in and who doesn’t. Fisticuffs occasionally follow from that denial, or perhaps at leaving time when they’ve had too much to drink.

Bouncer Story PC Review

But the fighting is such a small percentage of the game, a sequence you don’t control, but can raise your success rate by investing in the strength stat. You need to make sure that the customers aren’t underage, already drunk, using a fake ID or perhaps on a ban list.

Bouncer Story - Lobe
Lobe Story. Source: Screen capture

The selection process comes from a Tinder-style swipe (I’m assuming this was designed for mobile), swipe to the left to refuse, right to accept. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get my PC version of Bouncer Story working so playing this on the Mac, and the Magic Mouse was perfect for swiping.

In the beginning of Bouncer Story, you get to work one bar, then as you level up, new venues open, each with their favourite customers, pay, hours of work and themed nights. For example, the Irish pub wants more customers in on a Tuesday and Thursday so have a quiz night, and the karaoke bar holds a talent show at the end of the week.

Scanning through the customers is relatively easy at first as you need to confirm they aren’t underage as the ominous-looking inspectors will dock you money. As you build up your stats and overall level, the challenges get much trickier with a banned list of names you have to check before letting anyone in.

The Life And Times Of A Bouncer

With the stats side of things, you have four areas:

  • Energy – your health. It replenishes at the end of each shift, pending on your strength stat, but if it goes to zero during a shift because of a fight, you ‘fail’ that night.
  • Charisma – the better it is, the more money you’ll earn each night.
  • Intelligence – this helps spot if a customer is already drunk with bubbles appear above their head and can also help your card game (more on that in a second).
  • Strength – this is how hard you hit in a fight and your recovery. Not essential at first, but when you progress, fights are a little more frequent.
Bouncer Story - Stats
Check out mah stats. Source: Screen capture

You increase these stats with your earnings each month, but every Sunday you have to pay a base rate of $100 for your rent – the odd increase/decrease as you progress. Additionally, you’re indebted to the Mafia for $10,000 so need to pay that off in increments, as well as improve your stats.

If you fail to pay, a mob member will turn up at work to request the money or beat you up. One way of getting a steady income is playing Blackjack at the Mafia HQ. It’s the standard rules, and you get three attempts a night to potentially double your money.

You can’t grind Bouncer Story to overpower your character as the difficulty increases with progression. Fines aren’t that much, but when you need $1200 for a stat increase, pay $150 to the Mafia and $100 rent, and all you earned is $120, you’re in trouble. If you’re unable to pay, you could end up on the streets. It doesn’t mean game over, but your energy will be continuously low and not a position you want to be in. 

If Your Name’s Not Down…

Bouncer Story is a very low-key indie game. When I think about similar titles, Papers, Please and perhaps Booth, it has a similar mechanic of observation and responding as swift as you can (there’s a timer each night until closing time, then you have to kick the customers out).

The visuals are much better in this game than the pixel art approach most of these in the genre go for, and the soundtrack is pretty good if a little disconnected with the game at times. Generally speaking, I liked the presentation.

Bouncer Story - Time
Time at the bar. Source: Screen capture

This does feel like a mobile game though and ignoring the increasing challenges, the game is pretty much the same all the way forward, albeit, addictive to some degree. There are in-game achievements too, awarding you for how much money you earn, winning Blackjack and playing the game for months (game time).

Bouncer Story won’t be for everyone, but within the context of the genre, it’s a much better-looking game than its counterparts, and the fundamental observation mechanic is enjoyable if a little repetitive and mundane in areas.

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