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Undead Plots Never Die and Working Stiff's Adds to the Pile
On a dark and stormy night (and yes, as cliche as that is, the story really begins that way), an employee is checking through her email. And despite the many warnings of the screen to not click on any strange attachments, a label of "cute kitten pictures" proves a little too hard for her to resist -do not laugh, one of our game reviewers tends to fall for the same trick quite often. And just as one would expect, the email contains a virus. But this one is not some plain old vanilla computer virus that you could easily fix with a few anti-virus software and some registry edits. This is a very different kind, this is a zombie virus. The hapless worker is quickly overwhelmed by the virus and she turns into one of the living dead.
Yes, that sounds ridiculous, and the concept is quite illogical. But the game is not trying to be any more than that, and as silly as it sounds, anything that makes you smile at the start of an adventure is always a good thing. The game will start with you in control of random employees in each floor, all of them trying to get to the fire exit (which apparently, zombies do not know how to use). The problem is, you have got an entire office-full of zombies waiting in between you and that all too important escape route. Will you make it? Or will these employees be turned into soul-less creepers forever doomed to stay in the office without overtime pay (because currently, they still have souls)?
Guns and Zombies, Always a Great Mix
The controls are a little confusing, you guide the survivors as opposed to manually moving them around -basically, you move your mouse cursor to a desired location where you want them to move and they try to follow your command. If there are doors, chairs or tables in between, they will try to either move around it, push it or in some cases, try to break it open in order to follow your commands. If there are zombies in the way, they will automatically try to avoid them, but if they are cornered or are outrun, they will most certainly be eaten alive -and your goal is to save as many of them as possible.
Getting to the fire exit is no simple task, it is often locked and you must find all the keys on the floor in order to unlock the exit door. Some stages will also require you to collect colored keycards and later, important documents that could lead to all the answers behind the reason why the office has suddenly fallen to a massive zombie outbreak. And with all the nasty zombies lurking about, it will be quite a challenge to accomplish this task.
Fortunately, the office is not entirely populated by zombies, there are also plenty of locations where you will find weapons such as pistols, shots, uzis, flare guns and other useful items that will help you fend off the undead. It is never an easy task to keep plenty of people alive, but fortunately, they all seem to be capable of using firearms. Ammunition is limited, but if you have enough people to carry all the weapons you find, it will be the same as having a small army with you -which is really useful against hordes of zombies. Fire is also a very useful tool in the game, it can ignite surfaces and get zombies caught on fire (apparently, they are highly flammable). And the best part is, they explode when they die from fire -and they will get each other caught in the blast, causing a giant chain reaction of exploding undead creeps.
And while the presence of a good arsenal works in your favor, the game will also present you with enough undead hazards to make you think twice about charging in with guns blazing. As we said, the ammunition is limited, so you will still want to hold off on using the guns until you really need it. Also, there are special boss zombies that are able to take plenty of beating. And by bosses, we also mean that they were bosses in real life. Supervisors and managers have all turned into powerful, giant sized zombies that are hard to kill. Also, as strange as it may be that the fire escape has no zombies, the elevator is even weirder: it spawns zombies, indefinitely. Maybe there is something about that droning elevator music, or they really know how to get around.
16 Bit Rules
Hardcore gamers will certainly enjoy the nostalgia of the retro pixel-look of the game. The graphics are nicely made and everything falls into pace quite well. You can easily identify the different elements in play such as the office surroundings, important items to pick up, interactive objects, roaming zombies and of course, the people you control. Rooms, hallways and other areas will light up and go dark depending what you and what you are doing. You can even push printers and large cabinets if you need to create a small barrier. Overall, it is a pretty impressive looking game.
The music is unforgiving dark. Zombie groans will echo on your speakers as you sneak past corridors. And if a survivor dies, the game makes sure you hear the deadly crunch of flesh and bone being chewed though. The sounds are morbidly detailed, ensuring that you take the game's challenge seriously. More importantly, it adds a sense of realism and urgency that encourages players to strive hard in keeping their survivors alive till the very end -which is a testament to how effective the audio of Working Stiffs is.
Not an Easy Task
The first couple of stages are pretty easy to beat -after all, they are tutorials. But as you progress further in the game, the difficulty rises and you will have to start playing real smart and real safe to make it through the end. And if you intend to keep everyone alive, then that challenge gets even tougher. Ammunition and weapons become more rare in later stages and you will be encountering floors with multiple elevators (which means that you will never run out of zombies to run away from) and of course, the bosses become a whole lot tougher.
Overall, this game was made to give even veteran players a serious obstacle to overcome, which we really, really appreciate. Like the undead it features, the Working Stiffs is a relentless challenge, hardly giving you any time to breathe. Some stages, on your first try, will have you restarting if you failed to view the entire area (and failed to notice that you have one survivor in some random room that needs a little baby sitting to keep alive while you control the other survivors). The multitasking element is made harder by the fact that your people will move on their own when you are not giving them directions (after all, they have their own minds). While others may see this as a problem in the game, we see it as a distinguishing gameplay element that provides a frustrating, yet logically sound situational challenge. Besides, anyone who has seen any decent zombie movie will know how impossible it is to keep a group of people well behaved in a situation where they are surrounded by undead.
The only issue that Working Stiffs is suffering from is a lack of a more distinguished title. Sure, we get the humor of it, but by the name alone, it is pretty much impossible to discern that the game has anything to do with zombies. Going past that, everything else about the game is gold. The challenge is solid, the controls are innovative and the delivery has made the most out of the 16-bit pixel design. This is how a light horror game should be, easy on the eyes, heavy on the mood. It is dark, it is morbid, it is funny and entertainingly desperate. The game knows how to make you fear being driven to a corner before it actually pushes you there -and how you get out is where the fun begins. Working Stiffs is the perfect game for zombie fans looking for a great game with plenty of challenge. We give this title an isolated accountant's