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Startup Panic Review
Source: Steam


Startup Panic Review: The Client Wants Comic Sans!

Wanna quit your job and start your own business? Do it the safe way with a game: Startup Panic on PC.

Is embarrassment a trait I want to associate myself with when reviewing a game? Dunno, but my integrity needs to be somewhat consistent, and that means being honest: I thought Startup Panic looked crap, and I’d probably play it for a short time and be done with it, but I ended up getting into it.

That’s not a bad thing to be wrong and enjoying a title – it’s better that way than looking forward to a game that disappoints on all levels. Some of the ingredients are right for my palette; strategy, creativity, somewhat casual, but the aesthetic is one of those two-a-penny tycoon games you see on Google Play and not the type I’d actively seek.

Today’s Startup Panic review originates not only from a review code, meaning I have to review it or will have my eyelids plucked (that’s right, I did type eyelids), but it’s a tinyBuild production, developed by Algo Rocks, and I do like their variety. It’s worth a look, right?

Startup Panic Review

The premise, unbeknown to me, is a cubicle worker that’s had enough of slaving and goes solo. The intro was incredibly brief, followed by scattered tooltips and dialogue boxes to teach one how to play the game. Still not my thing.

Startup Panic - Snip Snip
Snip, Snipp. Source: Steam

Then there’s the first freelance job that’s come through – design a landing page. Using a draggable gauge, you select how much percentage of the project should be on Aesthetics, Usability and Technology. This is right up my alley (ooer) as I’ve freelanced for many years, web design being one of them.

Allocating a bit of time into something that looks nice with good UI gives me a 9.3 ranking (hopefully out of 10), and I’m given a new trait to use in my arsenal. I’m in, but this could be a niche title for those either in web development, looking to pursue a career, or just like design type stuff.

No HTML, no PHP, no dodgy clients saying ‘but we all use Comic Sans at work, why can’t we use it for our corporate site?’.

You won’t be doing any actual design – no HTML, no PHP, no dodgy clients saying ‘but we all use Comic Sans at work, why can’t we use it for our corporate site?’. For the record, while I’m a font whore, I have to say Comic Sans is an excellent font for the right reasons, but we’re talking games, not design elitism.

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Corporations Are Bad

One thing to give you a heads up on: corporations are bad. That’s the message in this game. After successfully pulling off some 9 point whatever scores, I gained attention from the big hitters offering me a job. As an IRL freelancer, the security of an employer is appealing (though I’d choose freelance if realistic any day), so when in Rome… I accepted the job only to be presented with a title screen indicating I made the wrong choice.

I get it, it’s called Startup Panic, and I sold out. Didn’t think that would warrant a game over, you cheeky devs, you. So, back into the game and thankfully it continued from where I had left off, so I told that fat cat where to go.

Startup Panic - Holiday haircut
Haircut holiday! Source: Steam

When you do a good job, you not only get a cookie and sticker, but a trait that can be used to improve your work. This is separated into Office, Employees and Development. To me, they seem quite self-explanatory, but to give you the gist:

  • Office – accounts for reduced rent, employee salaries, that sort of thing.
  • Employees – covers training, holidays, motivation and lawsuits for when you tell a joke that offends (I made that last one up).
  • Development – skill, McGill. This lowers the penalties incurred for contracts and improves the duration of marketing and features.

Invest In This Pyramid Scheme

No offence intended, but the music makes me want to buy timeshares, plan for my retirement or get some boat shoes for when I go out on the yacht. It’s so promotional video material – I should know, I use similar tracks for the videos I make for non-game related stuff.

It’s the kind of tracks you’d find under its own genre ‘inspirational’, but all it inspired me to do was mute it and listen to some Megadeth. You don’t need the sounds in Startup Panic anyway as it is no-frills and all about the gameplay, which is good.

The graphics reflect the UI as it’s easy to navigate, traits and features are explained well without walls of text.

Startup Panic is all about simplicity, but you have to think about what you’re doing too. The graphics reflect the UI as it’s easy to navigate, traits and features are explained well without walls of text. Additionally, you’re supported by James Snipp (him off of MS Office, replaced by Cortana or whatever her name is).

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The dialogue sections are pretty witty and a bit opposite to the main game, which appears to be mostly serious. It works well though, and work is work, and any interaction with others is the play part, although you don’t get a say in conversation that much, you do make decisions that affect the results of your business.

A Sound Working Environment

Other than the irritating music, Startup Panic doesn’t feel that manic, other than managing your bank balance and keeping up a reputation. The latter comes from doing decent work and achieving high rankings. It’s a fickle thing like real life, and you’re only as good as the last job you did.

Startup Panic - Startup office
Startup office. Source: Steam

And for me, that’s its flaw as determining how good a job is will be based on you dragging a bar to invest in Technology, Usability and Aesthetic. For a t-shirt design, you may well put aesthetic into that, but then the customer will complain about the method used. On one occasion, I invested 80% of my skills into the aesthetic, and the client gave me a 5.5 even though they said it was ‘a masterpiece of work’.

Again, it reflects real-world clients. When working in the design world, it’s hard not to be deflated by their criticisms and not understanding design principles, but then again, that’s your job. Your role is to convince the client that it works and why, but if you have to explain too much, then you’ve missed the brief. You can revise your submission though, so that’s a good start.

I mentioned that Startup Panic was a bit of a niche. Before playing I would have said that because of the design style. There are a lot of games that look and play like this, so will appeal to a particular crowd on face value. But, under the hood, it’s an enjoyable game if you have a slight interest in the startup scenario using design as the main service, just don’t expect too much flexibility.

Startup Panic Review Summary

Not many people like to admit they are wrong, let alone like to be wrong, but this applies to be on both accounts – I’m glad I was wrong about Startup Panic and stuck it out as it’s an enjoyable strategy game, flawed, yes. Still, the learning curve is excellent, and the rewards are satisfying.

The score totals a 6.5 out of 10

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