As soon as I saw the announcement trailer for Good Job! I knew it looked like my kind of game; An action-puzzler with a quirky sense of humour set in a working office. I mean, not only is that one of my favourite genres but the title of my all-time favourite TV show just happens to be The Office… so let’s just say I was interested. Now, after having spent a few days with it, I have to admit that it actually didn’t hook me at first. However, soon the relatively short game hits its sweet spot and becomes the fun little game I hoped for. And it quickly had me quoting the immortal words of a certain Michael G Scott: “Well, well, well… how the turntables.” Now, for those of you wanting the details – ‘stay tuned’ by reading the paragraphs below. And yes, I will be peppering my review with as many The Office quotes as I can squeeze in.
“I knew exactly what to do, but in a much more real sense, I had no idea what to do.”
By just watching the announcement trailer, you actually get a pretty good idea of what you’ll be doing in the game, at least early on. You are an eager, destructively creative and remarkably clumsy new employee and you are tasked with completing certain objectives around the office. It could be something as simple-sounding as delivering a new projector to the conference room. Or perhaps sorting coloured delivery parcels and sending them to the correct office. Pretty straight-forward, right? Well, not quite because, as you can imagine, the office areas are designed to make these tasks as difficult and hilarious as possible. Completing a task (and therefore solving the puzzle) usually involves making a large mess, breaking down some flimsy office walls and riding a fire-extinguisher or two along the way.
….the initial two or three rooms feel a little slow and the puzzles a little one-dimensional.
This all seems marvellously fun. And it is. Unfortunately, starting off, the game doesn’t often give you a lot of guidance as to how the different items you find in the office function and how the physics of the game actually work. There’s a lot of attempted environmental story-telling going on (you know the whole “show don’t tell”). But I found it to be too unclear and often found that I was unsure what exactly to do with items I found. And while this was solved with a little trial-and-error, this initial ‘learning process’ wasn’t as intuitive or engaging as I had hoped. And because of that, the initial two or three levels also started to feel a little slow and the puzzles a little one-dimensional.
“Sometimes I’ll start a sentence and I don’t even know where it’s going. I just hope I find it along the way.”
What probably emphasised the frustration (mentioned above) was that I wasn’t really sure how the game wanted me to tackle each level. After each ‘puzzle-room’ is completed you are given a rank based on three criteria: 1) the time taken to complete it, 2) the amount of damage incurred (in a dollar?… err some currency amount) and 3) the number of broken items. Now, at the start of the game, I kind of assumed the goal was to complete the task as quickly as possible, creating as much hilarious havoc along the way. I mean that’s kind what made it look fun in the trailer, right? Well, while timing is the most important ranking criteria – the more maniacal your approach, the more damage you do and the more costs are incurred. And this then affects your rank for each room.
Seeing this so early on, the ‘completionist-get-the highest-score’ part of my brain kicked in and I then started to try to be as delicate as possible. As you can imagine, this actually slowed the game up a lot, and actually removed the main fun element in those early levels. I realise they were trying a risk/reward mechanic for the game but the balance just felt out. Even when I had inadvertently destroyed much of the room to complete my mission – there seemed to be no ‘punishment’ for doing so. The new level would still open up. And actually the small cosmetic upgrades hidden in each area (whimsical hats and outfits on 3D stick men) were actually easier to find by increasing the destruction. And to be honest – craziness is the point, right? I therefore quickly decided that the way forward was simply to ignore the ranking criteria, and try to complete the task as quickly as possible – and endeavour to destroy things as creatively as possible. And that’s when it got as good as Pretzel day. Yup… pretty darn great.
Simply ignore the ranking criteria, and try to complete the task as quickly as possible – and endeavour to destroy things as creatively as possible. And that’s when it gets pretty darn great.
“Breaking things, beets, Battlestar Galactica”
With my new purpose, I dove into the next few levels braving the jazzy elevator music that permeated each stage. And thankfully things took a big swing in the right direction. Where the first few puzzles felt a little repetitive, each new level in the building contained interesting new mechanics to be learned. Breaking fancy sculptures and mopping floors, were soon replaced by operating unwieldy cranes in tight spaces, flying across rooms on the end of an impossibly powerful hose pipe and collecting magical goo into a cube the size of Table Mountain and dragging it across peoples’ desks. And yes, it’s as satisfyingly destructive as it sounds.
The puzzles themselves also became more challenging. Rather than simple fetch quests, new challenges involved pied-pipering employees across a bizarrely treacherous warehouse, cleverly deflecting laser beams to power up strange machines and using a crane to lift another crane to reach a hard-to-find item. It all becomes wonderfully creative. Each level in the building also follows a regular formula – 3 regular puzzle rooms introducing and practising a new mechanic, and then a much longer and tougher boss-type room where you use all your acquired skills to achieve Office-Olympics-yoghurt-lid-gold-medal-type brilliance. The first of these boss-levels are a little tedious, but everything in the latter half of the game just feels great; Giving you an almost perfect blend of challenge and achievement all wrapped up in a wonderfully quirky space.
It all becomes wonderfully creative. And yes, it’s still as satisfyingly destructive as you’d imagine.
“I love inside jokes. I’d love to be a part of one someday.”
As you can imagine, in a time of quarantine and isolation it’s also great that Good Job! features couch co-op prominently. My wife and I jumped into a few rooms to try out this mode. The levels are exactly the same whether you tackle them with a partner or solo. However, as with most of these type of games once you get the choreography and communication portion right – having an extra pair of hands to push, pull and throw makes some tasks much easier. The co-op is very chilled too, so it’s a good game if something like Overcooked feels a little too frantic. However, my wife echoed my thoughts about feeling like you been thrown into the deep end (of the koi pond) at the start, not really knowing how any of the physics work. However, after a few goes and letting my wife take the lead it was interesting to see that the puzzles often had multiple solutions and destroying as a duo was just as much fun.
“Oh, it is on, like a prawn who yawns at dawn.”
A little like how I first felt when watching The Office TV show, Good Job! needs a little time to grow on you. My initial confusion about the way to play it and the less-interesting early puzzles almost put me off. However, thanks to wordless, oddball humour, a fun premise and enough glimpses of hidden hilarity, sticking with this short game really is worth it. Ideas, puzzles and general madness just grows with every new room. And during a time when the world is a little scary – it’s fun to play a game that’s all about solving slightly odd-world issues in a lovable but completely incorrect way while making a tremendous mess and seemingly getting promoted to a high paying job for doing so. And if that’s not the story of Michael Scott then I don’t know what is.