Taking a Satirical Look at Business with Office Heroes on the iPhone

Office HeroesLet’s face it, the corporate world isn’t exactly known for its entertainment value. But as satire, it’s brilliant — the routine nature and drab existence of the every day workplace provides the perfect canvas for a bit of humor. Thus we come to the brand new iPhone game Office Heroes, from Astroape Studios.

This particular game is all about moving up the corporate ladder. Well, sort of. Set in a tiny office, players perform the menial, everyday tasks of the cliché office worker as they, bit by bit, earn rapport and upgrade a brick of an office into an executive suite. Connected to Facebook, Office Heroes is a simple virtual space game with standard social elements, but its attractive visual style means that its lack of uniqueness in some areas can beeasily overlooked.

If Office Heroes were comparable to anything, it would be most similar to the Facebook farming genre. The difference, however, is that instead of crops, players do jobs, and instead of a farm, they have, well, an office.

Bigger OfficeStarting off with two functional pieces of furniture — a 1990s-looking computer and a corded phone — players begin performing their day-to-day tasks. This is where the somewhat dry and satirical office-based humor comes into play. For the most part, the work isn’t what one would consider “real work,” but users can actually take on jobs such as “Tweet,” “Chat,” or “Make a Personal Call.” Nothing that an employer would actually pay for, but all things employees tend to do nonetheless.

Each job will take a set amount of time that ranges from 30 seconds to several hours, and can earn one of two things. The first of the two is the in-game currency, “Career Points.”This is your primary pool of income used to purchase the various decorative objects needed to sate one’s aesthetic tastes.

The second is something called “Reputation,” which only seems to increase the amount of Career Points the player passively earns while logged off the game. Reputation can be increased, beyond just doing jobs that reward it, by visiting friends’ offices and helping them out. Conversely, it is lost if a player does not return to “complete” a job once it is finished (like letting crops wither).

Helping OutUnfortunately, it doesn’t feel like Astroape tailored this mechanic to its full potential. What Office Heroes does with Reputation is not bad thing, but it feels like it could hold a bit more style. This lack is further reflected in “helping” friends, which consists of the typical “help them” prompt upon visitation (though there is a nice feature of posting to their Facebook account from their office). The concept of having it earn more money is also fairly reminiscent of FrontierVille’s rep system, which, like it or not, is a much more interesting method of incorporating the same basic function.

Regardless, as players level up, they earn a number of interesting elements beyond just decorum. Some of the items unlocked are functional and offer more jobs (e.g. a filing cabinet). However, based on level, only so many can be owned at any given time. Additionally, as one increases their level — and, in turn, their office title (Slacker, Office Ninja, etc.) — higher rated functional items become available. This rating, indicated by a number of stars, will allow for much better paying jobs to be available once the object is purchased. It is also worth noting that the number of functional items allowed in an office is also gated by level.

PaperclipsIronically, “Office Ninja” is a good example of office titles as it also has a very literal connotation. Office Heroes actually has an in-game virtual store that sells virtual goods that cost a virtual currency called “Paperclips.” This includes a myriad of themed item sets for both one’s office and avatar. Of the latter, two very cool sets include an Office Pirate and Office Ninja outfit that can truly exemplify one’s personal style.

As mentioned above, Office Heroes’ visual style is quite good, so the decoration element stands out. That said, it is a bit obnoxious to actually decorate, requiring the user to tap and hold an object to move it. It wouldn’t be that bad, except that the input seems a bit unresponsive, and when either moving a placed object or purchasing a new one (done by dragging it from the store to the office), we constantly ended up just moving the camera around. More often than not, it took three or more tries to get things where they were wanted them

All in in all, Office Heroes is still a pretty decent game for the iPhone. It has a nice visual and satirical style to it, and does work well for a virtual space sort of game. The downside for experienced gamers is that the play and social mechanics are a bit unoriginal, while the Reputation system feels unfinished. Nevertheless, the game has a strong base, and plenty of room to grow.