In the early era of PC gaming, I had a lot playtime with story-based puzzle games in the form of point and click adventures. However, for a long while my interest was lost, especially with the rise of a dime-a-dozen non-combat RPG Maker-generated titles. I knew that while there were many titles developed away from the aforementioned toolkit, a lot of experiences just felt cheap and soulless; while I know there are some good ones to play and have had many recommended to me, I had lost interest in this genre until I saw the trailer for Yuppie Psycho that left me wondering “What the hell is this game?”
Publisher: Another Indie
Developer: Baroque Decay
Platform: Windows PC (Reviewed), Mac, Linux
We begin the game as Brian Pasternack, a young, nervous, and out of place man who got a job offer to work at one of the largest corporate entities in the world: Sintracorp. Confused and thinking that his first job offer is a joke, he arrives for his first day of work. With a contract sitting on the empty CEO’s desk for 10,000 credits a day, and a social ranking upgrade, he signs as the newest employee. It is then he is told his job description is to do one task, kill the witch.
The setting to the game is strikingly atmospheric, touching with elements of horror, dark comedy, satire, and to put it bluntly- bat shit levels of insanity. Brian is really emphasized as being out of place in a Cthulhu mythos-esque world. Sintracorp is filled with business men and women stuck in a zombie like state, potential hires acting like they belong in a fanatic-like cult, and middle management acting like they belong in a Warner Brothers cartoon.
Through his adventure Brian encounters a wide cast of enemies and allies. On his tail are enraged businessmen who will snap if he interrupts their work, mutant dot matrix printers, even human resource girls whose bodies look great, but with heads that are nothing but a mouth to spit literal venom. His only comfort is the few seemingly normal characters such as Kate the new hire HR assistant, and Stintra, the company network’s AI in the form of a robot girl.
The blend of all these elements creates something unique. One moment you could be walking down a hallway with dismembered employees hanging from the ceiling and “Help Me” written on the walls in blood, to a room of workers that think if they stop moving they’ll die. Almost every location felt ironic and over exaggerated, which added to the levels of insanity.
Yuppie Psycho also goes to the point of being no holds barred when it comes to story events. One moment you can be in a motivational speech with a french revolutionary on a horse who calls you scum, to then attempting to be seduced by the lead of human resources to be eaten alive for clues about the witch.
Even at moments where it felt it would become too preachy about social economic issues, it flips it around and turns it into a twisted bastardization of itself ending in laughable irony or a horrific situation.
While its storytelling is great, there are a few points where it falls short. The game wants you to explore every possible aspect. People playing who attempt just to run through it will end up missing tidbits that greatly enhance the lore, and connects some narrative of the story.
I recommend exploring as much as possible, and talk to any available NPC if you want the most enjoyment of the tale being told. Also, the later half of the games storytelling felt like it changed far too quick, and came off a bit rushed in a few places.
One thing I encourage people who pick up this game, is to find is the hidden VHS tapes scattered throughout Sintracorp. During your time, you will be able to play them and be treated to surrealist amateur full motion videos that at first glance might not seem like much. However, when you find the entire set it does add interesting context to the narrative that makes it worth taking the time to think and put all the pieces together.
Another thing to watch out for is, if you’re expecting a true horror experience you will be left disappointed. The aspects it borrows greatly help the setting, but at no point is it truly scary. The horror is used as a element for the setting, and not to force stereotypical jump scares at the player.
Its major focus on horror is meant to keep a edge of creepiness, and unsettling situations. While the first half blends the dark comedy aspects well with the horror elements, the latter half changes to a much more serious tone which can drastically change the feel of the game.
Throughout your time with the game, Brian will need to scavenge for much-needed items. From boxes to stand on, and screwdrivers to open air ducts, everything you find will have importance. Health regeneration comes in the form of food and beverages that can be bought in a vending machine, or found throughout Sintracorp.
Even some simple combinations, such as coffee powder with water in a coffee machine to make that sweet cup of joe will help keep you alive. What’s especially important to find is witch paper and ink for copy machines that allow you to photocopy your soul and acts as a save point.
I appreciate the way Yuppie Psycho does its problem solving and puzzles. I find that many other games often hold peoples’ hands too much, and makes everything brain dead easy.
Yuppie Psycho provides at the start of the game enough hints on solving puzzles within a confined area. As the game progresses however, hints become much more subtle, and the areas to solve them take up more space of the game’s world.
While some of the problems are just to find items to configure a specific code, the latter half can simply give you clues with no idea on how to use them. Instead, you are left to your own devices to figure it out. Quite often I found myself going over everything I could think of until I had my own ‘eureka’ moment.
Even in later parts of the game, something you thought of as significant but completely forgot about near the beginning could be a key to solving what you need to do next. This becomes prominent if you want the best ending.
All throughout you are treated with a few beautiful anime-styled pixel art cutscenes. These are one of my favorite parts of the game, hands down. It is easy to see the amount of attention and care was put in, and this makes it stand out with its own sense of personality. I do wish that there were a few more in the game at key points, but for what there is, it was enjoyable enough.
I did have a very minor issue with the overall graphics. It’s simplistic, and gameplay animations are done very well compared to other games with similar visual styles. Some elements however had a lot more detail than others due to the size they appear on the screen, and during dialog you’re treated with an anime head shot of the character currently speaking.
It does feel a bit conflicting at quite a few different points. While it’s easy to distinguish different characters, obstacles, and items on-screen, I wish there was just a touch more detail and consistency. Still, it was not disruptive during my time, and was mostly only noticeable during sections that contained heavy storytelling.
Sound design in the game is on point, and adds a lot. While the most prominent sound is Brian’s footsteps, the majority of audio cues you’ll hear act as clues or subtle warnings of what lies ahead.
Quite often I found myself listening to what was in the area around me to prepare for what might be coming, rather than just watching for any visual representation on the screen. Even now, some of the audio stick inside my head, most notably the sound of the witch whispering in my ear.
Michael “Garoad” Kelly brings his musical talents to Yuppie Psycho, and hits it out of the park. From jazzy office tunes to tension-building ambient noise, his work greatly enhances the game and works with it cohesively rather than overshadowing it.
As with his previous work with VA-11 HALL-A, it’s easy to listen to his music and recall what happens when that song plays within the game. In all honesty I don’t believe I could think of a better person to compose the score that would be needed for this particular title.
I did experience one major bug in the game that would cost me play time. Three times during long periods of about 2 to 3 hours, the game would lock up on me visually. I could hear the game’s music and different actions taking place, and even my own death.
I did check other applications on my computer to ensure it was not a problem with my system, but regrettably that was not the case. While I did have to restart upwards of an hour back, it is my fault that I didn’t save as often as I should have. It was a bit frustrating, as I would have to close the game and start it back up again to continue playing.
Being a story driven game, the replay value is limited. I was able to complete Yuppie Psycho in about ten and a half hours with all the endings, and the majority of the achievements. I will be going back to find the few that I missed.
After finding them I don’t really see myself playing again down the line until I want to experience the insanity the game provides, and fragments of the story become distant memories.
Even with a couple of stumbles, and one bug in my time, I still had a great time with the game. When I would stop, I always found my self wondering what would happen next, which kept me engaged up until the game’s conclusion. If your looking for a game filled with atmosphere, horror, dark comedy, and irony, then Yuppie Psycho can be well worth your time.