Rip Them Off Review: Up Yours, Consumerism

Rip Them Off - for everything they've got! It's alright, it's not real. Instead, we have a unique strategy title available on Steam and mobile, and it's super stylish, folks.

Never has the con been so stylish with Rip Them Off. Also available on mobile, this apparent tower defence type puzzler is also on Steam, and the source of this review. Thanks to developers Lozange Lab for a review code.

Tower defence games are among my personal favourites, such as the Kingdom Rush series and Pixel Junk Monsters, but this one is a conventional top-down map of choosing turrets to fend off waves of enemies, instead, encourage the waves into your establishment, rinse them of their money and send them on their way.

Why should the genre follow the exact rules of turrets and violence? Any new concept is welcome, but without going down the path of genre debate, for me, Rip Them Off isn’t a tower defence game. Perhaps in concept, but not the application. Instead, let’s broadly say it’s a strategy game, but a unique one like any other (adding a sprinkle of positive spin here).

Rip Them Off Review (PC via Steam)

The Board in the game charges you with buying up any property on a map and installing some retail therapy where the customers will spend all their money. The hordes of customers, referred to as Dupes, will have a spawn point and will follow a set pattern across the map, or High Street, stopping at every shop on the way.

Rip Them Off - Slope of consumerism
Slope of consumerism. Source: Lozange Lab

Rip Them Off is a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to instruction, and dare I say, it’s not particularly intuitive. The initial hurdles aren’t the gradual difficulty of the game but working out how to play it, and as a result, it’s a lot of guesswork.

These sections are incredibly witty, well-written and have a certain board-like feel of ‘them and us’. They’re clearly better than their employees and the Dupes, on a higher astral plane.

However, the interface for the game revolves around shapes and symbols. If you studied Barthes, it’s a doddle. Still, despite the developers best attempts at a tutorial, it’s just hard to comprehend, and a swifter way of describing the experience would have been trial and error.

Learning The Ropes

The tutorial made sense but going out into the wild, there was never enough money to invest in a shop that would be suitable, so you end up trying everything until it works. This was frustrating as I’ve never played anything like Rip Them Off before. I wanted to get stuck in, not just because of the intriguing style of play but also because the presentation was so good.

Rip Them Off - Scenic
Scenic. Source: Lozange Lab

Enlisting the help of my daughter to try to work it out too, she asked why there were so many nuns on screen. When the Dupes start spending money, their heads turn white, while their bodies remain in a silhouette form, undoubtedly giving the impression of this being a nunnery simulator. For me, I was picking up Hitchcock.

One of my favourite directors of all time, Alfred Hitchcock, used to employ the legendary Saul Bass – a graphic artist whose style is prominent here. Without getting into art theory and what-not, Rip Them Off is very abstract in its design and fused with the rather excellent jazz soundtrack; all the ingredients are there for a top-notch game.

But the gameplay was abstract too, and for that reason, I was struggling a bit. Re-reading the info on the Steam page, I read a couple of comments which brought up the same opinions. In two of the responses, the developer pointed to an FAQ. Studying this advice mightily improved the experience, and some of the concepts started to make sense again. 

You can read the FAQ here.

Rinse Them

Armed with this insight, it started to become clearer, and while the game definitely gets more challenging, it makes sense and much more rewarding. The team at Lozange Lab are clearly intelligent people, and that comes across in their design and interaction with fellow gamers.

Rip Them Off - Crossroads
Crossroads. Source: Lozange Lab

I do feel that if the instructions were dumbed down a little more, it would appeal to a broader audience. Then again, if you watered down the feedback from the Board, it would lose a lot of its brilliant satirical commentary.

So again, from my perspective, Rip Them Off isn’t a tower defence title. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t one, just from my viewpoint. It’s like saying Nioh 2 is a beat ’em up. Yes, some specific themes and mechanics are resident in the genre, but not enough to say it fits the same mould. On the upside, there isn’t anything I’ve played that resembles this game, and as long as you have the patience to ‘study’ the gameplay a bit more, it becomes a unique experience. 

As the lockdown and travel restrictions lax, I wouldn’t be surprised if I purchase this separately for iPhone when travelling on business as I believe the interface will work pretty well for a touchscreen and has that engagement where you don’t have to interact with the other Dupes on the train, planes or automobiles.