When I heard that Double Fine had put out a free-to-play iOS game yesterday, I hopped on it like no one’s business. Are you kidding me? Did anyone know about this? Why wasn’t I notified? Quickly downloading the new game, called Middle Manager of Justice (love the name alone), I immediately rolled up my sleeves and got to work tapping away. But is the game any fun?
Middle Manager of Time Management
So here’s the premise, as hinted at by the name, Middle Manager of Justice. You play an average, balding middle-aged white guy, aptly named “The Manager”, who is hired on by a local superhero franchise to make their business of fighting crime profitable. You do so by managing a team of somewhat unique superheroes, sending them out across the city fighting evil, then managing their actions back at the headquarters in between missions. You can have them train in the gym to get stronger, rest to recover their health, chill out in the break room to raise their morale, research new items in the lab and so forth. Very similar to games like Farmville with a little touch of The Sims thrown in for good measure, you slowly level up your characters, build your base, recruit heroes and take the city back from villains, all while painted with a whole mess of Double Fine production value.
Doesn’t that sound great? I thought so as well…but I also played through almost the entirety of the current content Middle Manager of Justice has right now yesterday and discovered some gripes about the game underneath its gorgeous hood.
Villain: The Time Bandit
Middle Manager of Justice is meant to be played in small, bite-sized chunks, but the problem then becomes the entire game becomes about spending time watching your heroes sleeping or hitting a heavy bag. Unlike most free-to-play empire builder games out there, the increments of time do not count down when you’re not in game. The game attempts to remedy this by making the increments of time manageable ranging from thirty seconds to five minutes as your characters level up, but things like training new skills take upwards of 15-30 minutes where your one hero is out of commission from the battlefield. You can have up to four heroes in your superhero branch, so while Crimebot is recovering his health, I can have Sweet Justice working on a new prototype for an item while I delegate Surge Protector out to go rescue an out of control school bus. By the time Surge Protector is done, I come back to the base and fine Crimebot is up and ready to go for another task. Very rarely did I find myself wanting to use Superium, the in-game purchase that allows you to speed things up, and one point of Superium can be used to great effect. I have never purchased a dime of Double Fine’s Superium and I’m currently sitting on 45 points of them as we speak.
Villain: Cloned Bad Guy
When you’re not in the base, you’re out in the field with your team of heroes fighting crime. You start with a single district to protect, and as you defeat thugs and goons, you slowly uncover a larger, more sinister plot leading to a district villain through an “investigation bar” you fill up with each gang of henchmen you round up. The big concern is that outside of stat increases, the recycling of enemies and even bosses is apparent. No robot cyborgs? No zombie mutants? Everyone has to be a bat or laser pistol wielding thug palette swap? There are a total of eight current districts that you slowly gain control of over time, with Double Fine showing two more as “coming soon” (future content release), but there are only really four bosses, with two of them being reskins of each other. Even the clever Double Fine banter between heroes, thugs and villains gets old quickly as it gets reused over and over again. Middle Manager of Justice attempts to mix things up from just straight combat by adding “Rescue People from Fire” mission and “Stop an Out of Control Bus” mission, but those simply require a simple stat requirement, which you do nothing but assign a hero to execute the mission and watch from the sidelines.
Villain: Difficulty Spike
Middle Manager of Justice’s combat system is fairly simple: you put your team of up to four heroes on one side, the enemy henchmen are on the other side. The battle plays out in front of you based on both thug and hero statistics, giving you the ability to jump in and use special “middle manager” powers or the heroes own pool of powers to turn the tide of battle. You can also use hard earned cash to purchase one-use-items to recover health, add to defense, for a short time over a battle. However, you will find that once you get four heroes on your team, every fight becomes a cake walk. As soon as the fight starts, use each one of their super powers and boom, decimate the bad guys. Strangely, when you decide to delegate the mission out (not actually watching the fight or providing power up cues) while doing other things, their chances of success range from above average at best as your team refuses to use their super powers. The big problem is that the game is laughably simple until the current final boss fight, which takes the difficulty from a one to a ten in nothing flat. Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize I was going to be fighting a World of Warcraft raid boss all of the sudden. While it was nice to suddenly have a real threat on the city map, one that I had to dig in and start researching high level tech items and use all my training points, a more gradual difficulty curve would have been nice.
Villain: Electro Sucker
This may sound like a minor quibble, but never in the history of mobile iOS gaming have I ever had a game suck the life out of my iPhone 5 faster than Middle Manager of Justice. Not even playing Infinity Blade 2 did I have my iPhone 5 plugged into a wall socket and found the game was still draining battery. I thought I was losing my mind that I took a break playing with it plugged in and charging to check my email to find that I was at 1% battery life! From a fresh start of 100% and turning the phone on to the notification of 10% battery life took approximately two hours of playing. I don’t know what this Draegon engine that it uses is, but it apparently is an energy hog, turning my phone into a portable heating device.
The Price is Right
All the complaining aside, this is a Double Fine game we’re talking about here, and for what you’re getting for free is a cute little time waster on your mobile device. I wholeheartedly recommend you not do what I did and grind through the entire thing over the course of a day, and you’ll have something you regularly go back to and looking forward to. I do look forward to seeing Middle Manager of Justice get a balancing patch with maybe a handful of new enemy, mission and villain types. As of right now, it’s pretty decent, but coming from Double Fine, I expected more. A lot more.
Go check out more information about Middle Manager of Justice from Double Fine’s website!