Ever had a long day at the office? Have you left work with the burning desire to work your way up the corporate ladder and become your own boss? Well, The Company Man from Forust Studios might be right up your alley. A hand-drawn 2D action platformer, it promises a ton of action, satirical laughs and seven action-packed levels. However, is it destined the be promoted to the 2D platforming big leagues, or is it better off being fired?
To give a brief overview of the story, The Company Man tells the story of Jim, an ambitious worker who has one heck of a bad first day. After being prompted by his new colleague William to pull a lever, he inadvertently breaks it and is immediately demoted to customer service. Now, Jim must work his way up the corporate ladder and hopefully reach his dreams of becoming CEO. However, what are his motives, and will he come out of this journey changed for the worse? That’s for you to find out.
The story, as is, is fine. I know this is somewhat of a surface-level statement, but it really does encompass the game. There is not a ton of dialogue with the focus first and foremost on the gameplay. This is far from an issue, but it is worth mentioning.
The game overall has a satirical tone. From the level design to the dialogue to the main premise, The Company Man positions itself as a takedown of office culture. The quality of this satire, however, varies wildly. An accounting level, for instance, plays the frozen assets angle up to eleven, reinterpreting the department as a frozen wasteland. Salespeople are interpreted as werewolves, hungry to find clients. There are some genuinely clever moments. However, other ones, such as interpreting marketers as television-obsessed centaurs and goat riders, don’t exactly hit the mark.
Moving on to the aesthetics, The Company Man is a great-looking game. I have always been a fan of hand-drawn games, and this is no exception. The animation work is outright gorgeous, fluid and lively. The music is strong and fitting for each level. The levels themselves are eye-popping and beautiful. No matter how you slice it, this is an absolutely stunning game to look at.
The gameplay, however, is unfortunately a bit more of a mixed bag. To start with the positives, the level design is very strong. Each level is exciting, unique and flows well. From hidden secrets to exciting gauntlet rooms, there are a lot of fun things to discover. However, where the game unfortunately struggles is in some of the basic, meat-and-potatoes aspects of platforming. Jim’s hitbox, for instance, is way too big. He will be hit by things that seem like they are two feet away. Similarly, enemy attacks are sometimes hard to interpret. If an enemy is striking to the right, why is Jim hurt by standing to their left? It’s not consistent and it can be, at times, immensely frustrating. Hit detection is an issue with enemies as well, as some of Jim’s attacks that should hit them, just don’t.
Throughout the game, you will get a variety of powerups such as a laser that shoots spam emails or a sonic boom-type projectile. Unfortunately, most of these seem inconsequential on the whole, barring the aforementioned sonic boom. Still, it is a fun premise, I just wish it was developed further.
When it comes to performance, I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that the game runs great. No frame-dips, screen tearing or anything. The bad news? I encountered game-breaking bugs no less than three times during my time with The Company Man. For one, I had to play an entire level section blinded with the screen blanked out and hope I could progress (luckily I did). It’s genuinely unfortunate and I sincerely hope this was an isolated incident.
Finally, to briefly touch upon value, The Company Man costs only £16.74. The game itself, however, takes only two to three hours to complete. There are some incentives to play again though, including a tougher difficulty and some corresponding cheevos, so it may be worth your while to jump back in. Still, your mileage may vary on just how much value this game provides.
All in all, The Company Man shows a lot of promise. There is a strong level design, some gorgeous graphics and a unique premise. However, issues nailing some of the core mechanics of the genre, scattershot satire and a number of notable technical issues hold it back from reaching the top of the corporate ladder. As is, it certainly reaches middle management, and the hope remains that Forust’s next game can go ever higher.
The Company Man can be purchased from the Xbox Store