Startup Panic Review – Mitigated Madness

    Title: Startup Panic
    Developer: Algorocks
    Release Date: January 20, 2022
    Reviewed On: PC
    Publisher: tinyBuild
    Genre: Simulation, Time Management

If you played mobile games in the early 2010s, odds are that while swiping through the App Store, you came across several games made by a company called Kairosoft. The most notable of these was Game Dev Story, a company-management simulator that put the player in charge of a startup video game developer. Game Dev Story went on to heavily inspire the much more well-known Game Dev Tycoon, which is the most evident influence for the title we’re looking at right now, Startup Panic.

Startup Panic is, right out of the gate, a satire. The game opens with a short cutscene of your chosen player character getting burned out while working crunch hours at an unknown software development company and deciding to strike out on their own. You start in your humble bedroom, developing a brand-new social media site that slowly gains competition in the scene as it grows.

Startup Panic starts a little bit on-the-nose.

The crux of the game is hiring employees to develop features for your site while also working to improve their stats and upkeeping their motivation through vacations. If their stats aren’t high enough, or the motivation is too low, the feature will more than likely suffer for it and need to be redone (for half of the original development cost) later. You’ll need to balance development with the time and cash it takes to train people and keep them happy, mainly as your office and staff grow in size.

In the meantime, you’ll slowly gain competition in the market against others who actively develop their own features. You’ll deal with ghosts and hackers in your office, you’ll have to pay pirates’ ransom when they kidnap your vacationing staff members, and it all gets a bit goofy…

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But my biggest issue is that it doesn’t go far enough. If you took away the dialogue and the silly descriptors, Startup Panic would be a fully-played-straight management sim like any of the ones I mentioned at the beginning of this review. It looks charming enough yet extremely generic considering that it’s directly inspired by the looks of the Kairosoft titles. Nothing about the actual gameplay really screams that this is a satire.

For example, regarding staff, it would make the most sense for this game to slowly encourage people to burn out so that I could hire better people when they quit. There’s lip service paid to corporate espionage, but why can’t I train people to directly steal my competition’s ideas? Every time I saw a funny text pop-up or a skill with a heinous description, I chuckled to myself. Still, I was keenly aware that the title could have taken its satire much further.

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For the most part, Startup Panic is clean, competent, and amusing. I wish I could say more than that about it, but I don’t feel like the game goes in hard enough on its premise. It’s fine if you’ve been looking for a new company-tycoon title (particularly one that does not involve you developing video games), but if what you’re looking for is biting satire of capitalism, it doesn’t commit hard enough to being that, and that wasted potential is what’s left me struggling to find anything to say about it.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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