The Company Man is a 2D platformer that plays it really safe in regards to expanding beyond what is considered standard within its genre. Focusing instead on stylistic choices to attract an audience, the gameplay won’t deter anyone but will hardly blow them away either.
You play as Jim, a first day employee at the Good Water Company, who is already dreaming of becoming the CEO. What begins as an over stretch of aspiration becomes an even more daunting task when Jim is actually demoted after being tricked into breaking a very important piece of machinery by William, another employee competing to improve his company status. What follows is seven levels, all thematically based on different departments of the organization, representing the climbing of the corporate ladder.
The elevator that transports you between levels will open its doors to a series of very different looking environments. The accounting department left the air conditioning on allowing for the obligatory ice level, whereas marketing takes place in an above the clouds environment that is very representative of the creativity that goes into the task. These are not just visual changes however as each stage also possess different gameplay elements such as the dodging of saw blades and acid pools in research and development or the gravity changing platforming of the sales department.
Each level will also include its own cast of enemies to overcome, many of which are very clever nods at the stereotypes associated with their positions. Firebreathing call center agents in the customer service department for example or vampires that hint at the bloodsucking nature of sales and legal. The exclamation point to every level is the boss fights that were quite enjoyable. Honestly, much of this game is not difficult, which might be a deterrent, but the boss fights will at least pose some initial resistance until you get the pattern recognition down.
You are provided with a very baseline level of abilities to make it through such as a basic attack, a dash, and a ranged attack where the projectile types will periodically be expanded on. All executed perfectly as I had no issues with controller precision. Upon defeating a level boss you will also get a free coffee coupon to use in the lobby café to purchase some upgrades. These are not groundbreaking by any means but if the first one you purchase is the ability to recover health upon defeating an enemy, congrats you have just made the game even easier. Coffee stations within the levels also act as checkpoints which are pretty generous and refill any missing health.
From a mechanics standpoint, that’s about it. Your ranged ammo recovers over time, coffee coupons are the only currency to purchase upgrades and you have unlimited lives meaning there is no real reason for collectibles or power ups. In fact, unless an enemy kill is required to open a door, there is no benefit to fighting as opposed to dodging and fleeing. This diminishes the need to explore and heightens the pointless nature of a lot of the hallways you run through with no jumps or enemies.
At no point during my 4 or so hour play time did I feel the need to turn the game off but I will also walk away from it with no lasting impressions beyond the visuals. These were saved for last because they are absolutely gorgeous. There is a bold and vibrant feeling to all of the animations which admittedly needed a day one patch to smooth out but after that never missed a beat. After just the first time seeing Jim chug a cup of coffee or fall down from the force of pulling open a lever I was hooked and couldn’t wait to see what else was in store for me. The visuals, coupled with the creative dialogue and light hearted approach to the subject matter leaves a footprint of charm on the game.
I enjoyed my time with The Company Man even though I don’t have anything overly glowing to say about it. Fortunately I also don’t have much negative to say about it either especially since most of the bugs, all minor, that I encountered have been patched within a day or two leaving me confident in the developer ironing out the rest. All that said, even with its budget price, the shorter run time and little replayability means waiting for a sale isn’t a bad idea.