Let’s face it. Monday’s are rough in the workplace, and despite best intentions, many often find themselves off in a bit of a daze part of the day. This is where a new game from UK-based Zoe Mode comes into play. Office Daze is a virtual space, business sim that seeks to poke fun at the monotony of corporate work environments in an attempt to show the lighter side of work.
Well, that’s the idea anyways, as Office Daze attempts to follow in the footsteps of other satirical titles such as Office Heroes or the role-playing game, Ponzi Inc. with its humor. At times, the virtual space sim succeeds in this regard, giving the user something to smile at every once and a while. However, the times in which this occurs feels few and far between, and, as a whole, the game feels very dull with little reward and poor user feedback.
Since work itself can be dull at times, so in Office Daze, players are not the employee, but the employer. The idea is to build a successful corporation by building out their own virtual office space and filling it with quirky characters dubbed “minions” to do all the dirty work. That said, the methodology of play is exceedingly simple.
The basic business works sort of like Sim Hospital, in that players construct specific cubicle spaces within their office in order to do work. These range from secretarial cubicles, to data entry, to meeting rooms, with each one allowing for a different type of work to be done. This “work” makes up part of the game’s comic relief with jobs such as sending “Idle Gossip” as a form of data entry or send “Email Complaint[s]” as secretarial work. Each job takes a set amount of time to complete, and will earn some semblance of profit upon completion.
As one can see from the two examples, the jobs aren’t all that funny, and there is nothing more to them than the titles. Office Daze attempts to make up for this, slightly, with the minions one hires to do said jobs. Similar in respect to employees in Ponzi, each minion must be hired (candidates file in whenever the user creates a new cubicle space) and have a brief blurb describing their personality. For example, “Tatty Matt” is a “scruffy, charming and wholly underrated. Cooks for his girlfriend.” Again, though, it is attempt at humor that only sometimes earns a polite chuckle.
The game also incorporates décor, which is expected for any sort of virtual space oriented game. Unfortunately, the game is weak here on many fronts. First off, the décor works sort of like Nightclub City, in that it boosts the rating of one’s office. Unfortunately, the description of what this does on a functional level is said only once, in a brief tutorial blurb, and never accessible again. It is supposed to do something along the lines of keeping workers “happy,” but what that exactly means is unclear. If we had to make an assumption, it would be along the lines of attracting new, and more qualified minions.
Each minion has a set of attributes associated with them, shown by a star rating, as well as how much they cost to do a particular task. However, there are also two other stats that are icons of a happy looking character and a banana peel. As for what these mean, we have no idea as there isn’t even a mouse-over tooltip. Once again, we have to make an assumption and this probably affects how much money one earns from doing a task. Why make this assumption? Because upon completion, tasks have a star rating as well. The better the worker, the better the rating, and thus the more profit earned… we think. The game likes to keep secrets.
As for other issues with the virtual space mechanics of Office Daze, décor elements are very unintuitive and unrewarding. For starters, players can place, say, chairs and the game, in fact, asks them to do so in the tutorial. One would expect that doing so consists of dragging the icon from the in-game store to the office floor. One would be wrong. The game gives users a sort of décor arrow icon and they must click on an existing chair to change it to a new one. They cannot place it anywhere they want; only where a chair is already placed in a built cubicle.
This leads to yet another décor issue. Players can’t be creative! Whenever any decorative item is bought, the game shows players where they can put it. There are only four decorum slots in each cubicle and, initially, four slots around the office itself. In addition to this, players can’t even change the walls or tiles of the office, only the cubicles. Decoration and creativity are huge elements to these types of games, and Office Daze effectively stunts both aspects. Ironic, considering it is trying to make fun of lifeless, corporate jobs.
The social elements of the game are rather uninspired too. As users might expect, they can hire friends, that play, as minions, and visit their virtual offices for daily, monetary rewards. Aside from this, the other basics include a leaderboard system and sending gifts. Furthermore, there are sections for achievements/awards and in-game collections, but neither have been implemented yet. Oh, and, of course, players can post accomplishments to their Facebook feed.
These basic elements are, in fact, the biggest problem with Office Daze. As you can probably already derive, everything has a basic cookie-cutter design to game play. There is no flair or style with the game, and everything feels done because, “that’s what popular games have.” About the only saving graces, is that as players level up, their décor options change from shoddy and rundown to classy and professional, and the avatars themselves have a moderatly amusing, bobble-head style to them.
Unfortunately, this makes up for the shortcomings in no way, and is even further forgotten by the lack of information given to the user. It’s not like Office Daze is difficult, but it just really doesn’t tell the player anything other than make cubicles, hire minions, and do work. There aren’t even tooltips half the time. Heck, players don’t even know they can rotate cubicles unless they read the FAQ, and even then it’s done with arrow keys, not a context-sensitive mouse click like pretty much every virtual space game ever. It’s done with the arrow keys (on that same thread, if players try to place décor and want to cancel, they have to hit escape, not click it off with a cancel button).
In the end, Office Daze does make an attempt at a premise that is a bit more uncommon, but is tragically flawed in both design and usability. Players are left with questions on what things do, and have minimal creative control over their spaces. Furthermore, the humor is bland, at best, and the majority of the game just goes through the motions of trying to be an interesting title, bringing no flair of its own to the table. All that in mind, the application is about exciting as the mundane jobs it attempts to crack at.