Weekly Time Waster: Corporate Climber
Over the past decade or so Cartoon Network's Adult Swim programming has built up a reputation for exploding all our childhood cartoon nostalgia only to reincarnate it as surreal and "mature" programming fit for the older us. They're doing a pretty good job of repeating that magic with their online gaming section. Comprising a catalog that spans from the crude to the uber-ironic, the satirically simple to just plain no-nonsense fun, each of their games harkens back to some distant memory of hours spent with 8-bit graphics, bleep-bloop soundtracks, and rudimentary controls. Not every game is an instant classic, but most are worth at least a few minutes of your time.
The old platforms and genres are exploited, riffed on, tweaked and updated to get rid of the frustrating limitations you always had to overlook, so the games feel seamlessly aligned with the way you want to remember those halcyon days of time-wasting. One of AS's newest offerings, Corporate Climber, pits you as a lowly naked man trying to work his way up (literally) to the top of a company called Monster Corp. Start by getting on some clothes and proceed to work as a plumber, electrician, communications manager (send that spam, dammit!), dodge questions from the IRS, burn documents, pass out pink slips, and, of course, enjoy some donuts in the breakroom. Each floor of the building holds a new, quick challenge as you try to get to the next elevator on the other side.
Once you get to the top, you are ousted pretty quickly and end up in limbo where you get the choice to either try again to pull yourself up from your bootstraps or descend further in hell (we'll leave the commentary of what that means to the game) and defeat a giant demon to unlock "hardcore" mode. Replaying has its own rewards: There are secrets to unlock and items to deliver on lower floors that you couldn't have made it back to before. As with all PixelJam games, the graphics are retro, outlineless blocks of color realized in a fuller palette than what those first and second generations were capable of. The change of music from floor to floor is likewise a nice touch.
If you climb the ladder and feel a little empty with your success, check out PixelJam's Dino Run (also on Adult Swim's site), a game to which we're still indebted for saving one of those incredibly long holiday airport layovers/delays some winters past, and another strong showing of how detailed and pitch-perfect this design team can be.
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