Indietail – Startup Panic

Startup Panic tells the story of you quitting your job as a corporate drone to start your own startup and to potentially make it! Even if the tech bubble is oversaturated and even if only 10% of all startups “make it” in the end, we still have a dream and try to do better by managing projects, developing features, hiring employees, training them and competing with rival CEOs! The whole idea is a premise that I personally really adore as it has this satisfying snowball effect of sorts built into it. Expand your startup from a tiny project in your bedroom to a global megacorp and take over the world! It’s fun and satisfying even if it has some flaws to it as well.

Developer: Algorocks
Publisher: tinyBuild
Genre: Simulation, Strategy, Indie, Tycoon
Release Date: January 20th, 2022
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC (Windows), Android
Copy was provided by the publisher.

But first things first, after quitting your job and familiarizing yourself with a Clippy knock-off, you get to work and start generating revenue by completing contract work and developing features for your platform while trying to survive the initial stages of the tech bubble. It’s a tad slow and quite challenging, especially as you need to train up your CEO while also keeping their motivation high, on top of having to deal with rival companies, hackers, and social media campaigns. While the beginning is slow, though, you eventually begin to snowball out of control. It just takes a while. The initial jump from one user to three to four takes a while but as you develop more features, you amass a userbase that may actually bring you to a point where you don’t necessarily have to rely on contract work and loans to generate revenue. It’s a tad slow at the beginning but even so, it gets more and more rewarding as you go on. At a certain stage, you upgrade to a small office, purchase furniture, hire employees and manage your own company without a care in the world before the first few challenges arise.

The management aspect of Startup Panic is easy to get into but hard to master. Different employees have different areas that they have expertise in and it’s your choice whether you’ll level up their strong points or whether you balance out their weaknesses. These stats govern the success rate of your dev work as well as the research and contract jobs that you assign people to. Through the sliders for Technology, Usability, and Aesthetic, you govern what your developers focus more on. Different jobs require different stats, after all. As you grow your company and platform though, you’ll inevitably just add the high-stat employees to jobs and try to get scores of 10s in all categories. But high-stat employees often are accompanied by either high salaries or traits that may not be favourable. These traits drain a workaholic’s motivation when they’re not working, for example, while lazy workers may end up finishing work later than usual, etc. There are also good traits but given that you can’t influence them and given that traits are added randomly at times throughout the game, I found the system a bit hard to deal with for the most part.

Speaking of motivation, you have to pay for vacations that your employees go to. I don’t know what that says about you as a CEO but your employees hate it there. Being on the job constantly drains their motivation/morale. The lower it is, the lower success rates become, resulting in a situation where you obviously have to do something about it. For starters, you can purchase furniture that increases your employees comfort so that they regenerate motivation in their downtime but this can get expensive quite fast. At the same time, vacations may be a bit cheaper but they take time to get done with. At one point during my playthrough, my employees were doing really great with their jobs but their constant morale issues caused trouble for me as I had to increase their salaries, buy furniture, send them to vacation, and deal with that and it became a bit overwhelming. I don’t know what I’d do if there wasn’t the “group vacation” feature that gives you a discount based on how many people participate. If it weren’t for this, I’d probably hate this game by now.

Startup Panic also has a lot of other things going for it though. As you expand your company, you also start developing features in different areas that influence your demographics. Eventually, you’ll have to worry about market shares, sabotaging rivals, and advertising whatever it is that you’re developing. Initially, I thought this was just a website or blog of sorts but then you suddenly add a chat feature, gaming, videos, social features, etc. which makes this seem like more of a Steam/Facebook/Discord situation than anything else, which isn’t bad but I honestly would have liked it more if the order of you developing features wasn’t so linear. It branches out over time but personally, I didn’t like how I couldn’t access some features without first getting research done which kind of delays the process a bit.

What I really didn’t like was how the game tells this story of a corporate drone quitting its job to start its own startup. As time goes on and as you snowball into this huge corporate structure, though, I noticed how we just became what we were fighting this whole time. Employees have no personality which bothered me quite a bit. Employees get reduced to stat checks and while the micro-management isn’t as harsh as before later on, I found it a tad hard to deal with the global market share marketing sabotage stuff… I mean, it’s not hard but it can feel overwhelming, in my opinion, but regardless of that, I found it even harder to stop playing the game and I just amassed hours of it in a brief period of time. Another thing that bothered me was how I could move around and zoom in as I wanted to on my little company and the windows that are open everywhere showing work progress and market shares and stuff like that takes up too much of the screen. This is a major flaw in my opinion as the game is pretty and I wanna see more of it. Having smaller windows, being able to resize them in the settings and maybe even closing or reorganising them would be an incredibly nice touch that the developers will hopefully add into future patches. Would love to see that for sure!

All in all, Startup Panic is a lovely little game that captures that management/tycoon style gameplay quite well and lets you experience a story of sorts that shows how you go from a small company in your bedroom to a huge corporation that isn’t as bad as the company you worked at… but… you know. Anyway, I really enjoyed this. The art style is quite vibrant and nice, in my opinion, with cute little pixel animations and details in every corner. The humour is fun but a tad hit or miss and some of the challenges you face get a tiny bit absurd even, which was honestly rather fun. I really can recommend this game to you if you enjoy micro-managing people but I could see how this game could turn off people that enjoy the macro more than the micro. You can check it out on Steam and on GOG!

Cheers!

This post was first published on Indiecator by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken. If you like what you see here and want to see more, you can check me out on Twitch and YouTube as well.

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