The Company Man

The Company Man initially presents itself as a colorful, cartoonish platformer with a tongue-in-cheek whimsical take on corporate culture and what it means to climb to the top of CEO Mountain. In private conversation, Half-Glass Gaming’s owner Josh (let’s call him Editor in Chief for today) said it oddly reminded him of Mickey Mania. To an extent, I can see where he’s coming from, though I think it more closely resembles the SNES- and Genesis-era Aladdin platformers. But all of these comparisons are, unfortunately, only skin deep.

Once you get into the nitty gritty of The Company Man, it can feel incredibly thin, sometimes a little cheap, but also rewarding and challenging with real moments of accomplishment, fun, and satire. 

The premise is simple: You play as a guy who’s trying to climb the corporate ladder by knocking off the lower rungs of department bosses, each housed in their own themed level, until you ultimately take on the head honcho and claim your spot at the top of the heap, so to speak. You have a basic slashing attack, as well as a secondary projectile attack that levels up with various new ways of “firing” people, like the email-styled shotgun blast.

The Company Man

The story is kind of insane, but it works, and the actual platforming controls are concise. I never felt like a misread button press was ever at fault for my not succeeding or missing a jump or landing. And that alone goes a long way toward helping me enjoy this game.

As you progress, you earn coins from defeating enemies, with larger coins that can be found throughout each level with a little sleuthing. These coins can be spent in the lobby at the coffee shop to upgrade your health or projectile meter, increase your meter regen rate, or purchase a small number of other buffs to aid you in your quest for corporate dominance. I’m playing this on the Nintendo Switch, and the coins in The Company Man reminded me of the coins you get from the Nintendo eShop from digital purchases, which was either conveniently coincidental or a nice nod to the platform.

Much like the platformers of yore, you will find each level in The Company Man follows the tried and true method of delineating each one by applying a general theme. There is an ice level, replete with slick surfaces that result in the character sliding for a short distance after you stop running. There is a machine-themed level that has vats of acid and conveyor platforms, as well as spinning blades you must dodge and avoid. There is a level that resembles a prison right out of hell itself. And so on. For the most part, the attention to detail and overall design of each of these levels go a long way toward making them stand out from one another — which is a blessing because, for the most part, each one plays mostly the same as the one before it.

There’s a decent amount of variety to enemy types, with very little overlap between stages. The main issue I had with these enemies is that there aren’t a lot of them at any given time, which makes each encounter feel almost like a mini-boss, albeit one you have to fight anywhere from three to six times per stage (depending on the specific enemy type).

There are towering giants in the finance department that slam their ledgers into the ground and send a huge tidal wave in the player’s direction. You might fight a small handful of these enemies, whereas the older lady that summons and shoots forth a smaller yet wider-reaching ice wall will probably show up a dozen or so times. But each time, once you get the idea of their attack pattern, it’s pretty easy to make short work of all of them.

The Company Man

And this is the same for the level bosses as well. They seem to only have roughly three or four attacks that, once you can see their tells and figure out how to avoid them, just become games of endurance. You’ll mindlessly repeat the pattern until you reach the requisite hit count while letting the bosses play out on autopilot. On one hand, it’s refreshing to play a platformer that doesn’t suddenly spike in difficulty or feel cheap, but on the other hand, The Company Man is a bit of a pushover.

And speaking of cheap, there were a number of instances when a cheap hit really soured my time with the game. There were a couple of instances where I wasn’t able to see beyond the screen space, only to find an enemy waiting on the edge of the platform I was jumping to. This, of course, resulted in my getting hit and killed, which, on at least two occasions, resulted in having to restart from the last checkpoint. Thankfully, checkpoint spacing is usually quite generous, although there are a few places where they feel like they’re a bit too far apart.

In hindsight, the music seems like a flatline, as I can’t even recall a single theme or tune — nothing in the game’s soundtrack has stuck with me (compare this with the recent Firegirl: Hack ‘n Splash Adventure, which had memorable melodies in spades). For that matter, the general sound design works well enough for what it’s trying to convey, but it can also be a bit grating and lackluster. 

The Company Man

And if we are airing grievances, I gotta say, the protagonist struck me as a bit odd and off-putting. He seems more like a drug-addled deviant than a corporate go-getter: twitchy, head darting back and forth, casting furtive glances as if on the lookout for the authorities he expects are hot on his tail. I assume this is supposed to represent his agitated state, since you slam coffee after coffee to regain health and set your checkpoints. But when you see him engaging with the female receptionist, it just feels like he’s more of a pervert than a put-upon, loveable hero. 

On a whole, though, The Company Man is a fun and enjoyable platformer. It’s not incredibly deep or challenging, and it mostly skates by on the charm of the visuals. There is nothing that stands out here, but for a game that can easily be tackled in a few playthroughs, it can be fun for a little while.

Disclaimer: I was given a complementary review code for The Company Man on Nintendo Switch, but the opinions expressed here are my own.

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