After a year of almost perpetual lockdown, it’s difficult to remember what it was like to go shopping. Can you remember the hustle and bustle of a busy high street on a Saturday afternoon? The smell of a shoe shop or that light and sound explosion as you went walking into your local game store? If you’ve missed your local shopping experience then Rip Them Off might be the game for you. But instead of being the intrepid consumer walking bedazzled from shop to shop in a state, you are in control of the shops themselves. Your goal being to suck the consumer dry for all that they are worth. Let’s go shopping.
Rip Them Off from Lozange Labs is a sort of shopping management sim, a dystopian story of consumer greed mixed with a puzzle game unlike any other. Originally made for the mobile game market you are presented with a tutorial that explains the game. It’s a hard one to describe though and even after the tutorial I’ll admit that I struggled to get to grips with the ideas for a while. But as they say, practice makes perfect and when it clicks everything in the Rip Them Off world is great.
A tower defense game at its heart, Rip Them Off sees the shoppers as the enemies and the shops, the towers. You are presented over the course of the game different shopping districts on a 2D map, left to utilise some building-shaped areas and fill them with some shops. All the different styles are available from the start, with plenty of info available; when you click on the shop it shows you how much money it costs to build, how many customers it can hold and how much profit you will be likely to make. The problem is, you only have a small amount of money to start with so you will start small as the game begins.
When a shop is placed you can then begin the day. Each day is separated into time periods or stages, initially with three parts to a day. Yet later on, that time schedule becomes longer and with more stages. The idea is to hit a profit target by the end of each day – fail to hit that target and it’s game over, leaving you to repeat the whole day or restart from one of the stages.
When you start the clock, the customers, or ‘dupes’ as the ‘board’ likes to call them, will arrive from a certain point, or various different points as the game progresses. Dictated by their direction of travel, you’ll need to decide what shops are best to put in their way. The dupes won’t go into the same store twice though, unless it’s been upgraded to add new features. The idea is to do as the title suggests and to rip them off completely so that they are drained of all their money on the route. The more money you get, the more you get closer to your target. And thankfully you can speed the day up with three settings, from normal to high speed.
There can be a few moments in Rip Them Off that feel quite abstract, mainly as you have no idea what this game wants you to do for success to be found. You’ll need to prepare to get it wrong many times. But when you work out when to spend your money on new buildings and gather up the ability to work out each dupe’s needs and wants – as well as the ability to gamble or to stick at the right moment – Rip Them Off begins to excel. There are some good level challenges included in here, with a variety of different routes to explore. And that is all helped by some witty writing as well as the board’s expectations and satire of high capitalism.
The visuals are a delight, capable of employing a sort of 1950’s art-house cartoon style with a minimal yet cool design with excellent colour choices. Everything from the menus to the level design looks too cool for school. The soundtrack is fantastic as well with a jazzy bebop composition that never grows old, happily guiding you smiling through each level.
Rip Them Off on Xbox is one of those games which is perfect to play for a while, before you start to feel frustration, put it down and then get swiftly tempted back in order to find a solution. Perhaps finding players to persevere with it is going to be tricky, especially as initially it can all be a little too confusing and not very noticeable as to what to do next. But when you get into what it delivers, the experience and the gameplay are both grand and rewarding. In fact, once you get into the rhythm and work out how the game is challenging you, it works very well indeed. All this is helped by a visual style and soundtrack which are elegant; they make playing it even more delightful.
It’s a cheap enough game to purchase and so if you’re looking for something to take a gamble on, and you’re a sucker for puzzle games or are looking to challenge your brain, Rip Them Off is well worth considering.
Shopping will never be the same again.