Review: Big Chief10 Apr 2018 0
Review: Big Chief
Released 29 Mar 2018
First-time designer Kiernan Bensey describes Big Chief as the "ultimate Swipe-em-up for Corporate-America-Enthusiasts". In this stripped-down business simulation, the aim is to hold on to your position as the CEO of a large company for as long as possible. Hopefully, when the times comes to step down, all your hard work will be recognised with a generous exit package.
Your first task is to give your company a name and decide on an industry type, maybe you want to set up a technology company or produce snack foods. Next, you select a product that you want to sell, a tech company, for instance, may want to develop a range of mobile phones. Although these choices have no direct influence on gameplay, they do add to the theme.
Playing the game could hardly be easier. An employee will approach you with a suggestion and you must decide whether to accept it. You also need to consider the employee’s personality traits. If you are told that an employee keeps things very tidy, then you can assume that they are very organised which will have a positive impact on the rest of the team. You then make your decision by either swiping right to act on their idea or swiping left to sack them. The staff you keep and the ideas that you initiate will impact on the creativity, communication, organisation, work ethic, honesty and appearance of the company.
For your company to progress, you need to consider your success in three areas. First is Joe (or Jo) Public; the population in general and your customers. They tend to appreciate companies that offer good value for money and have a social conscience. They can usually be manipulated by cheap marketing tricks but take care because their reactions can be unpredictable. Next up are the company’s employees, they are, naturally enough, interested in earning a good salary with added benefits. They appreciate being treated with respect and love cake – I have always been more of a biscuit man, myself. Finally, we have the fat cats themselves. The Board of Directors oversee your progress and prioritise profit, they insist on keeping the firm’s financial interests in mind. Directors discourage excessive spending but are not averse to the acquisition of pointless and expensive stuff.
If you manage to earn the maximum rating in any of these three categories, the company will grow in size and you will progress to the next level. Conversely, if any of these categories hit rock bottom then you will be asked to step down and receive your severance package. Do badly and you will leave with only a few hundred dollars and a photograph of Donna, the company snake.
Big Chief plays up to the world of office politics and in-jokes that anyone who has ever worked in an office will immediately recognise. Who hasn’t worked with a colleague like Linda, her desk piled high with paperwork since she refuses to throw anything away just in case it may be needed at a later date? However, despite feeling an initial affinity towards these guys, it is worrying how quickly Big Chief brings out a ruthless streak. You may begin by soul-searching every decision you make and feeling the guilt as you consign yet another member of staff to the scrapheap, but you quickly become desensitised and will soon be giving more people the chop than Henry VIII.
The author does a great job of presenting players with scenarios that range from the sublime to the ridiculous, which makes for a humorous and entertaining experience. In a nod to The Office, there is even a guy who likes to encase office equipment in gelatine. Some decisions are obvious, for instance, the employee who brings her dog into work that then bites someone on company property is destined for the big heave-ho. As is the employee who wastes time and office stationery by spending hours practising his origami skills. Other decisions take a little more weighing-up, like embarking on a company-wide re-branding project, which may impress customers but comes at a cost that may not go down too well with the Board.
Things can get frustrating; sometimes you make a decision based on what you consider to be good logic, only to see your popularity plummeting and you heading for the exit with just a cardboard box for your possessions. There are over 5000 unique questions, but the speed at which you blaze through the game means that you will soon see similar situations appearing and repetition becomes a real concern.
The graphics style is, shall we say, vibrant, with little animations applied to your employees’ faces adding a little more character. Rather fittingly for a large organisation, the swing jazz soundtrack sounds like ideal elevator music. There is no escaping the game’s similarity to Reigns, with the fantasy kingdom setting replaced with that of the modern workplace. Reigns wasn’t the deepest of games but benefited from being more story-based, it felt that your decisions were actually progressing the plot. Sadly, Big Chief feels more like a series of random & unrelated events.
What the game has got in its favour is a smart sense of humour and a pinch of cynicism to engage the player. There are many genuinely funny moments, and anyone who has worked in an office will give a knowing smile when confronted by an annoying character quirk that they recognise in a real-life colleague, like the woman who refuses to refill the printer, or the guy who never empties the fridge. These accurate and knowing observations really enhance the game and paint an unerringly accurate picture of a typical workplace.
Unfortunately, the simplicity and repetition soon begins to take its toll and it will not be long until you have seen all the game has to offer, even the best jokes become stale on retelling. Big Chief falls between two swivel chairs; the simple gameplay should appeal to the casual market, but these are the guys who are not used to paying for apps. Those willing to pay usually demand a little more meat on the bone.