Secrets of the Inner Office - Reader Review  

Secrets of the Inner Office
by Robin Crew

Click here for game information
20-40 Hours
+ Great dialogue and replayability
+ Surprisingly exciting battle system
+ Above average graphics.
- A few too many pop-culture references to Dilbert or Conan the Librarian.
- Sophomoric humor loses luster before you've seen all the game offers.
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   Sometimes, you play a game and just know that you've experienced something wonderful. Other times, you play a game and you feel the urge to pull an Oedipus, because just playing the game is a sin equal to that famous character's own. Sometimes, you just plain won't know what to think. Usually, that's what happens when a game is so thoroughly average, you can't even remember who the villain was. In the case of Secrets of the Inner Office, the first title released by Crewd Entertainment Inc. none of those reactions are quite right. Much as it pains me, the only plausible reaction to this wildly unique game is "LOLOMFGROFL." Liek, 4 Rlz j0.

   Imagine for a moment what would happen if you bred Hamlet with Office Space, and gave that child to a circus to be raised. The unholy fruit of that union would grow up to be something very much like Secrets of the Inner Office.

   Eneter John Brownson, a perfectly ordinary 20 something entering the work force for the first time. John Brownson is the epitome of the average 21st century man. Unless you count his incredible good looks, the talent that drips from his every pore, his Harvard MBA, and his burning desire to get revenge on Richard Head, current CEO of Blue Johnson inc. the world's foremost manufacturer of plumbing supplies. The game opens with a heavily stylized dream in which our hero witnesses his father, Orange Johnson's murder at the hands of his Senior Vice President, one Mr. Richard Head. Waking up, John Brownson (secretly Brown Johnson) needs to prepare for his interview for an entry level position at the company his great grandfather, "Baron" Red Johnson built in an elaborate scheme to quietly rise through the ranks and steal his family business back from the slimy, pudgy hands of Mr. Head and his own deluded younger sisters, the triplets Magenta, Chartreuse, and Seafoam, whose hair and eyes, like all Johnsons, match their name.

   This is where the game really gets good. Or bad. Or something. I'm not really sure. The combat system of SotIO is a fairly standard turn based ordeal apart from the way that combos work. The most obvious comparison would be Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter. In SotIO, you map out a series of basic attacks at the start of each round, similar to a Legend of Legaia game. However, like Dragon Quarter, fancier moves require you to hit with more basic moves first. Stronger moves require more energy, so fewer can be used at once. Energy regenerates as a percentage of the character's maximum, which increases slowly as the game progresses so that by the end, planning out your combos properly makes them flashy and incredibly destructive. That's because each time a hit connects, all successive hits within that combo receive a bonus damage and accuracy, a necessity to break your enemies' guard skills later in the game. Techniques, the equivalent of magic can only be used once a round, in place of regular attacks. They aren't necessarily very powerful, but they serve two functions. The first is to create effects regular attacks couldn't do- healing, stat boosts and the like. The other is to buy time as your energy regenerates at the start of each round up to triple their base value so that you can pulverize anything that gets in your way with a two minute long beat down.

   You'll do that pulverizing with a bizarre variety of equipment, including but not limited to staple guns, stale croissant boomerangs, keyboards with hidden beam sabers, and John Brownson's trusty first special move, the Tie Whip, which has a chance to cause paralysis while slowly choking the life out of the target, similar to poison in most RPGs. Each character has their own unique equipment types and special moves, as well as a wide variety of accessories, which makes the characters far more customizable than the average game. Consider Andes Leaf. In a euro-Meideval setting he'd be the loyal retainer. Weighing in at over three hundred pounds of pure muscle, Andes wears Tremendous and Long Suits, accessorized with rings, tie clips, and cologne. His preferred method of fighting is bashing people over the head with old monitors. If that doesn't give you a good idea of how the game is written, I don't know what ever could.

   Chock full of metafictional humor and references, SotIO combines banal Dilbert style office humor about cubicle sizes with RPG clichés, and yet creates a product so amusingly strange you're almost embarrassed to enjoy it. Almost. The fetch quest for the Red Swingline stapler may be the best gag quest in RPG history. The game isn't afraid to veer off onto any path that could be amusing, either. My favorite character is actually an NPC, a dirty minded, drunken old mailroom clerk and spy extraordinaire. I nearly choked when I heard the voice actor's delivery of the line "I've got a package for you" To the brainy and buxom administrative assistant Winter Mint. Is that a box cutter in your pocket or are you just happy to see me? The answer: Yes.

   Don't think that it's just some quick romp into inanity. SotIO clocks in at just over 20 hours for the main quest and about that much again in sidequests. But wait, there's more! Play now and you'll receive four different endings and two main plot lines, a fifty dollar value yours absolutely free! Each time you play, it could turn out quite different. SotIO features a hidden stat system based on the personality you create for John Brownson based on your responses to the events of the game. As an example, early in the game, you'll have the option of sharing a cab with another applicant to your interview at Blue Johnson Inc. You can ride together and split the cost, improving a hidden stat for compassion, and thus boosting your defensive techniques, or you can choose to push him out of the cab and go alone, making him late for his interview and boosting your offensive techniques. And with the impressively detailed graphics, some of these techniques are very offensive indeed.

   With a highly original, though somewhat stupid, story and atmosphere to match, a simple but incredibly addicting battle system, and dialogue options that actually matter, Crewd Entertainment Inc. has created a hybrid Japanese-Western RPG that, while it has its flaws, most notably its juvenile sense of humor and... classic, storyline, is an incredibly fun game and far more than I ever expected from a startup. With their next project scheduled for the fall, an SRPG tentatively titled JB Witches, this reviewer has high hopes for the new developer. Oh, and JB stands for "Jelly Beans." The official website claims that strategic use of Jelly Beans is essential to controlling the flow of battle, but we all know what you thought it meant. Naughty, naughty.

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