Middle Manager of Justice: Econo-Heroes Assemble!
With the release of Middle Manager of Justice, Double Fine Studios has officially made its first foray into the free-to-play mobile gaming market. But does it hold up compared to the studio’s long-standing record of excellence? Or is this just another cash grab game reeking of a rip off?
Middle Manager of Justice is a clever mobile game that puts you in charge of managing a team of superheroes. As a middle manager in Justice Corp, you’ll be responsible for training heroes, keeping their morale high, and even rewarding them with promotions when they gain enough experience.
Like most management games, there’s a heavy emphasis on upgrades in the game. And of course, they’re more than necessary. You’ll need to upgrade gym equipment to make sure your heroes get stronger or more HP, upgrade beds to help them rest and restore HP, and even build additional facilities such as Recreation rooms to reward your employees with some much-needed R&R.
This is where things start to get hairy for free-to-play games; while most of them do have this strong emphasis on upgrading and improving your facilities and characters, they typically stick lofty price tags on items in an effort to force you to spend actual money to buy in-game currency and pay for something you aren’t likely to achieve without a mind-numbing amount of level grinding.
Thankfully, Double Fine was able to find a fair medium point in Middle Manager of Justice by making level achievements reasonable. Sure, it would help you evolve and move things along more quickly if you purchase additional coinage for use in the game, but it’s not impossible to level up your characters without spending a dime, either. This is how free-to-play games should be structured, anyway; don’t cheat me of a game simply because I don’t choose to dump multiple dollars into it. Rather, make it enticing and something that I want to purchase, rather than something I have to in order to play an otherwise broken game.
In-game purchases aside, Middle Manager sees itself being part management sim, part superhero game. One large part is spent helping your characters level up at the office while taking on desk work or doling out one-on-one motivational meetings and employee training. From the office, you can also purchase myriad upgrades to aid your heroes in combat or beef up your facility, hire new heroes to come and join your team, monitor crime on your world map, and engage in several challenges to achieve certain levels of greatness with your branch. While it sounds like a lot to deal with, it’s actually handled in a fairly concise manner, easily accessible with the touch of your finger and simple to sort through thanks to great UI.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a superhero branch if you couldn’t send your heroes out on missions across the world. Different missions will appear on sections of the map as you start to work your way through them, be they heroic events like stopping a runaway bus, or even going out to stop a crime in progress. As you send heroes out to fight, you’ll have the option to watch them in an overwatch mode called the “hero cam”, where you can order them to perform special attacks and even boost their critical hit damage and morale through your own moves. While it’s not a strategy-heavy minigame, it’s still fun and satisfying to engage your heroes with villains and henchmen out in the world.
The entire game is presented in a cartoonish art style paired with Double Fine’s classic humor and some smart writing. Heroes will take jabs at villains for having dumb names, thugs mock heroes for having non-matching outfits, and the entire idea of the game is centered around an absurd idea that proves itself to be a charming and fun experience.
Don’t come into Middle Manager of Justice looking for the most comprehensive and in-depth take on a mobile strategy game. It’s an easy game to learn and perfect for random pick-up-and-play moments for those times you’re waiting around and need some entertainment. Being both fun and one of the rare reasonable free-to-play games on the mobile platform, it’s the perfect game for both the casual and hardcore markets looking for a fun time-killing app.
(Note: This review was conducted on the iPod touch. The game is also available on iPad and all other iOS devices.)