20
Aug
unnamed

A superhero is likely to have various powers suitable for defeating the forces of evil and causing a ton of collateral damage. You know, leaping tall buildings, conjuring fireballs, and so on. But can they fill out health insurance forms? Collate printouts? Can a superhero – no matter how powerful – navigate the murky waters of human resource complaints? The answer to all these questions is no. The venerable middle manager is the only one with these skills, and now you can slip on the sensible shoes of such an individual and manage a branch of Justice Corp. in the newly released Middle Manager of Justice. Does this game successfully turn office management into a treat, or will you be anxious to punch out for the day?

Gameplay

At its heart, Middle Manager of Justice (MMoJ, for the sake of my hands) is a simulation game. You'll notice some similarities to titles like The Sims. Although, there is a lot more going on in MMoJ than other top-down simulations. You are the manager of a struggling branch of Justice Corp., but you've been allotted a cache of Superium to get some new talent. It's only enough to hire an entry-level superhero, but that's okay – you can train superheroes to make them more super.

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The main interface is a top-down view of your Justice Corp. office (you can call it a base if you want). You can pan around, zoom, and tap on characters to interact. The game's default view is zoomed way in, so you'll want to back out for better efficiency. Tapping on a hero or your manager pops up a file folder of options and stats. This view is a bit confused – not all the functions are clear from the start. I'd say this is the essence of the learning curve in MMoJ. You simply have to learn what all these buttons do.

In the upper left corner is the crime map button, which will give you an overview of the bad stuff going on in the various districts of the city. Your goal is to keep everyone happy. Let crime run rampant? People won't be happy. Each district sends you cash commensurate with how happy it is. This is easy to manage at first, but as more districts are unlocked, things get crazy.

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Battles are mostly automated. You can send any number of heroes, then watch the action play out. Each hero has a special attack that you can trigger, but managerial powers and items are also available to give boosts to your units. If you're swamped at the office, you can delegate the battle, which sends your heroes off to fight in the background. You take care of some paperwork and check back after the dust settles. This is a great gameplay mechanic that keeps things moving along nicely.

That Doesn't Sound Super-Fun, Why Is It So Fun?

I will admit to being a bit bored during my first 20 minutes or so with MMoJ. It felt tedious, and indeed there are tedious things about it. Sending your heroes to rest or train after a battle shouldn't require tapping on each one of them individually, for example. But something funny happens after you get into the groove of managing the office. As you train, offer pep talks, and hire heroes, it all becomes yours. You will develop a fondness for your heroes. The office can be upgraded and expanded however you like, which is also neat.

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After an hour or so of gameplay, MMoJ forces you to keep multiple balls in the air. You'll have battles raging in the background, heroes training, and inventory to manage. I find myself bouncing from task to task, finger often hovering over a button waiting for something to finish so I can issue an order and move on. MMoJ just fills your brain cycles very well. And there's also the RPG aspect of leveling up your characters and learning new skills. That's compelling in its own right.

MMoJ has a good sense of humor, as you can probably guess. The superheroes are wacky, and the Office Space vibe works well with superheroes. The dialog is also amusing in an Office Space kind of way.

The Graphics

If I had to pick a single word to describe the graphics in MMoJ, it would probably be "clean." It looks a little bit like a cartoon, which makes sense. It uses solid fills and simple textures. However, the lines are very crisp. Everything looks extremely polished.

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It's nice that the game renders clearly no matter the zoom level. There's no aliasing, and the animations look good. It's not going to wow you with amazing particle effects and dynamic lighting, but that's not really what it's about.

They Want How Much?

The game is free, but has in-app purchases. Frankly, this is fine. Put the pitchforks down and hear me out. MMoJ gives you plenty of starting capital, and the gold used to upgrade the office and buy items is plentiful. Superium is used to hire heroes and speed up training, but it's more rare. Still, you do get plenty of it if you play the game well. The waiting mechanic doesn't even matter here – there is so much to do that the game doesn't stop while a hero improves his or her stats.

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Should you decide to buy a little bit of Superium, $0.99 gets you enough for a mid-range hero and some extra to instantly skip a few training levels. It's a very fair price.

So is MMoJ worth your time? Yes. I dare say it's even worth your money. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got a date with justice.

Ryan Whitwam
Ryan is a tech/science writer, skeptic, lover of all things electronic, and Android fan. In his spare time he reads golden-age sci-fi and sleeps, but rarely at the same time. His wife tolerates him as few would.

He's the author of a sci-fi novel called The Crooked City, which is available on Amazon and Google Play. http://goo.gl/WQIXBM

  • Akbar

    Played this game for a bit, its fun but requires a lot of time. Haven t had the chance to get back to it since the first day of game play and quite frankly I didn't feel the urge to go back either. Good game over all thou for anyone wanting to pass time :)

  • McLean Riley

    Crashes constantly on my S4 running CM10.2.

    • http://www.youtube.com/pixelfreakgames Pixel Freak

      S4 running stock here - didn't see a crash in 2-3 hours of play.

  • naysayer

    I know it is a first world problem, but I don't like the sight of the legacy menu button. I bet the game doesn't even use it. They're most likely just to lazy to fix this.

    • Matthew Fry

      This is the first time I've seen someone point out a new game released with a legacy menu button being downvoted. I don't know about others, but having a gigantic "..." on the right side of my HTC One kind of sucks and they should fix it.

  • Kevin

    I've played this game for a bit now. It has some fun elements, and I love the idea, but it just gets old fast. At it's heart, this is a resource management game, and the main resource is your time - how long you're willing to wait.

    Let's say I want to fight some baddies. Send my hero in & watch him fight. Admittedly, this is fun, but it is also very passive. He loses some health during the fight, so I send him to bed. Wait until he recovers. If he's leveled up recently, I'll send him to the gym to boost one of his stats. Wait. Then maybe he's unhappy, so send him to the boss for a motivational speech. Wait again. Now you're probably ready to fight another baddie.

    It gets more interesting with multiple heroes (I think it caps out at 4 active ones), but the waiting periods get substantially longer. There's not a lot of options when it comes to "character building" either.

    • http://www.youtube.com/pixelfreakgames Pixel Freak

      Towards the end the game gets a bit more repetitive simply because you tend to max out your facility before you finish clearing the enemy areas. At that point all that is left to do is fight, rest, fight, rest, ad nauseum until the game is over.

  • Matthew Fry

    In the end, games that have in app currencies that are collected slowly but can be purchased are intentionally balanced poorly to incentivize purchasing it. I know I'm preaching to the choir here, but it behooves us all to realize that this business model does not have gamer enjoyment as its first priority. DoubleFine is a well known maker of quality games and it is saddening that even they are driven to use the freemium model to generate enough revenue on the mobile platform.

    • http://www.youtube.com/pixelfreakgames Pixel Freak

      The difference here is that $2-$4 is the cost of balancing the game. You want it free? Well you get a worse experience, but you still get a good experience. It's games that only have purchase mechanisms of disposable virtual currency that remain unbalanced. With only the $2 Superium plant I played through this whole game at a pace that was enjoyable (took a couple days) and I saw everything there was to see.

      • Matthew Fry

        Glad to hear it. I may actually give this one a real try. However, there was no way for you to have known that going in (like I do, thanks to you) until you'd made that first purchase. The $2 Superium plant may have been all that was required, but for all you know there could have been another pay wall. Maybe all that was required was the dollop of Superium, if that were the case would you be unhappy that you paid double? Another person might get the bucket of Superium because they're unsure. Would they be happy to know they paid more than double what you did? The uncertainty is an incentive. You get more per dollar if you pay more, that's an incentive. You can complete things that cost time by using premium currency, that's an incentive. I'm not saying that DoubleFine is being egregious in its implementation of the freemium model, I'm saying the model is flawed and exploitative.

  • Chady Aboulhosn

    I have been playing the game and while it has been good and I have put several hours into the game. I will say that there are some things that annoy the heck out of me.

    After you play for awhile or so the game gets really laggy and input is not registered for several seconds so if you tap afterwards the screen seems to jump around a bunch.

    The other criminal feature that is missing is the ability to share game save data across multiple devices. It seems like from a developer like double fine they would be able to add this feature to the game.

  • jack

    Took me a few days to fully get into the groove of it. Cash is low at first so it's tough to afford new add ons to your base. Once I had about 4 districts I was protecting, I had enough cash to make the necessary add ons. The rec room is hands down a requirement. You can send your heroes there for a pep talk. In 30 seconds they're good to go, and you don't have to use the manager. Despite in app purchases I don't feel cheated by the pay out of the premium currency. After a "boss battle" you get 10 units of superium. You can get an additional unit if you have a regular battle and lose no health. So, the game goes: crunched for time, then heroes are underpowered, then you train them and win 2 boss battles, then you have enough currency to easily buy add ons. My only complaint is the game burns through my battery wicked fast. The only in app purchase I made was the coin copier, $1.99 and you get double coins on every activity. I have six heroes, I can send any of them to fight at any time, you can only have four inside your base at a time (healing, training, etc). Game is super fun. Would recommend even to freemium haters.

  • Syje

    I wanted to like this game last week when I played it, but I couldn't go more than 15 minutes into it. The game is driven by you waiting around for things to happen.

    To understand this, pick a classic game you've played before. For example, imagine waiting 5 minutes between fights in Mortal Kombat. You finish the fight only watch Scorpion literally take a nap while you admire the bones on the wall of his dorm, waiting for a clock to tick down There is no actual reason for this to happen, unless you, as the developer, are offering a currency to speed that process up, which can be purchased for real money or earned at a very slow rate. Or take a game like Elder Scrolls. When you clear a zone you gain experience and can use those points to increase your damage. Imagine that instead of that streamlined process, you spend the points on a damage increase only to watch your knight swing his sword at a practice dummy for 10 minutes while you spend more money in a nearby room on activating his ability to wear shoes or use potions (but pick carefully because it could be hours or days before you've saved up enough of the currency necessary for this amazing upgrade!)

    MMoJ isn't a "game," it's an exercise in patience. I like to play my games, not wait for them to let me play them.

    • RyanWhitwam

      As I pointed put int he review, I felt exactly the same way for the first 20 minutes. As the game ramps up, there are multiple things to manage. You have battles, training, and inventory management all going on at once.

    • WhyWai

      that's free-to-play. and I hate them too.

  • Jack Tay

    Incompatible with my gnex. haih

  • fg

    Its not exactly the same, but this reminds me of Freedom Force.

  • http://mercurypdx.tumblr.com/ MercuryPDX

    I am in the last district, with all four heroes, 90% of the building and the manager maxxed out on levels... and I did not have to make a single in app purchase. It's a fun game, but you will find yourself grinding through workout sessions (to raise power and HP) for the last few districts.

    TL;DR: Fun game, and you don't need to buy anything to enjoy it all the way through.