In a burst of stunning pixel art and a flourish of chip tunes, Sunny Side Games has landed on the app store with The Firm [$1.99]. This developer has strong momentum with follow up game Towaga already in the works. From a glance at their site, you can see their commitment to visual presentation, the only question is do their games live up to the fanfare that is on display.
Our forum members have made comparisons to Rules! [$1.99] and Papers, Please. There are some noticable similarities. If you are a looking for a similar experience, however, you won't find it here. With a strong focus on repetitive reaction style gameplay, The Firm really doesn't delve into memory recall nearly as much as Rules! It also almost completely avoids any type of simulated human interaction that is a trademark of Papers, Please. If I had to simplify it further, Papers, Please is to a psych evaluation as The Firm is to a twitch reaction test. You won't be worrying about your little trader because as much as you try, he has an appointment with the pavement in the street below and you can really only delay the inevitable. There isn't much to build a relationship with when your protagonist is constantly being replaced by clones of himself. The concept of the game is really intriguing. Wolf of Wall Street meets Papers, Please could really be crafted into an amazing experience. I don't think the scope of this game could have really caught the potential of that idea though.
The gameplay of The Firm consists of approving or denying proposed transactions, mostly based off of whether the stock in question is rising or falling. Red sell papers should only be approved if the stock is falling, and green buy papers should only be approved if rising. After a bit of in game time, you also are given 4 names to remember for blue papers, which you are instructed to either buy or sell at the beginning of the round, regardless of stock activity. Failing a blue paper transaction immediately ends the round, but success on one will momentarily slow the influx of transactions. High point scoring rounds are based heavily on speed and more heavily on accuracy with a point multiplier building on each correct action in the same vein as Guitar Hero. When you watch the trailer to the game, you might think gameplay opens up further after a while:
It's an amazing cinematic. I would rank it right up there with Rocky IV for hyping me up, but the problem is that the cinematic is adding a lot more than just gameplay. You never take control of more than one broker, nor do you get any cutscene close ups of your guy. The game is sort, sort, sort until you die on the pavement below. I would really appreciate a way to actually save my broker, but it doesn't seem like there is a way to avoid his fate. With each new promotion you purchase, new purchaseable boosts unlock that give you momentary benefits. To me, the cost is prohibitive as some of the 2-6 second long boosts cost more than I make on an average run. The boosts themselves are very helpful and with a price adjustment could really help someone reach higher scores. Boosts like slowing down game speed, automatically completing them, and doubling their score are all things that you could conceivably want to burn currency on, but I see the chance to make it back somewhere between 2% and none. I'm not sure why you would put a buff in a game that has little to no chance to recoup it's expense. Sunny side are considering making changes to the price of boosts, and along with investigating some game center high score issues, they seem to be offering an appreciable amount of support.
The price of the app is reasonable, and there are no IAP. For what this game is, it is executed well. On occasion I enjoy some mindless twitch gameplay and this game is wrapped up in a pretty pixelly package. Games like Rules! have a deeper gameplay element that really draw up more replayability. I think that there is a missed opportunity to develop a story that games like Papers, Please have capitalized on. The only bit of story you get is a long line of stock brokers committing suicide by jumping out the window. This is kind of a dark theme and even to my jaded soul it seems a little careless. It didn't bother me, but I could understand if awareness groups had a bone to pick with how the game portrays suicide. As it is, The Firm's monotony, gallows humor and lack of depth are holding back an otherwise very beautiful game.
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