STAFF REVIEW of Dead End Job (Xbox One)

Friday, January 10, 2020.
by Adam Dileva

Dead End Job Box art Everyone’s most likely had a dead end job at some point in their life. You know, the one you know isn’t really a career and you hate getting up for in the morning, but it pays the bills, so you stay. That’s the case here too with Dead End Job, a game that has you controlling a Ghostbuster of sorts, without all of that trademark infringement of course. A twin-stick shooter at its core, you’ll be shooting and vacuuming up ghosts non-stop in this whacky adventure where you’re stuck in a dead end job.

You play as Hector Plasm, tasked with clearing out all of the unwanted ghosts and ghouls from a number of different places. You’re equipped with a plasma gun and a vacuum and will need to exterminate and clear out business offices, parks and more. Your mentor has died though, and you need to get her soul back, but only have 30 days to do so. Each day you take a job to earn money, and to ‘win’, you’ll need to earn enough money, but doing so won’t be as simple as it sounds. It’s a silly premise, but given the artistic style and gameplay, it melds well together.

As you begin your ghost busting career, you’ll only have access to the Business District. Here is where you’ll be clearing out ghosts in office buildings, complete with furniture, shelves and photocopiers getting in your way. As you complete jobs and earn cash you’ll eventually unlock the other areas at certain goals, offering more challenge but more rewards as well. The main goal is to earn cash so you can have a chance at the final boss, but every time you die, you’re demoted and lose any perks you’ve gained along the way.

Every level and room is procedurally generated, so no two plays will ever be the same. While each room isn’t terribly large, at least there is some variety, as you’re going to die a lot and repeat levels many times in this roguelike. To complete a job, Hector will need to rescue a certain amount of civilians before making it to the exit. As you enter each new room, ghosts will randomly appear, and while every room isn’t forcing you to clear it, this is how you’ll earn extra cash and experience to level up.

To defeat ghosts, Hector needs to use his plasma gun to whittle down their health, and once depleted, you use your vacuum to suck them up and collect the cash. Once all the ghosts in a room are defeated that room is now cleared and won’t respawn. In the rooms where the civilians are being held, you’ll usually have to fight a handful of more challenging ghosts before moving on from these locked rooms. If you have a buddy over and wants to play as well, there’s asymmetrical drop in/out gameplay included as well, which makes for a much better overall experience, though I wish there was online co-op support.

While the core gameplay is simple with the twin-stick setup, you'll be moving with the Left Stick and shoot in any direction with the Right. Vacuuming up ghosts is done with the Left Trigger and any items you pick up can be used with the Bumpers. It’s a simple setup and works for the gameplay. You’ll have a tricky time though, as ghosts can wander and shoot through objects, they are ghosts after all, but you must adhere to the laws of physics and avoid tables, desks, trees and other objects. Photocopiers for example will blow up if you shoot them enough, causing you harm if you’re too close, but will also sometimes dish out cash or items. Also, your blaster has a heat meter, so you’ll need to manage your firing and vacuuming so you don’t overheat, left unable to use your blaster for a short time.

To earn extra cash you’ll also be given a list of optional objectives. Most of these are things you’ll already do, like clear a certain amount of jobs, use X amount of items, defeat a number of ghosts, etc, and will help you reach your cash goals faster. You’ll sometimes also earn tickets that can be redeemed to unlock concept art as well, which is a little bonus for those that like that kind of thing. My only complaint with this is that these optional objectives don’t automatically complete themselves, meaning you need to go into the menu and claim the rewards before you’re given a new sub-quest to replace it.

As you defeat ghosts you’ll also earn experience for doing so. Fill up the meter beside your character and you’ll level up. Each time you do so you’re given a promotion with a funny title and get to pick one perk to make gameplay that much easier, such as faster shooting, better blaster cooldown, show where hostages are on the map and more. The problem is that since Dead End Job is a roguelike, you’re going to die a lot, and when you do, you’re demoted and lose all of your perks that you’ve earned to that point. This means that every time you die, you’ll need to work your way up the ranks and earn those helpful bonuses all over again. Trying to do the harder stages with no perks isn’t generally going to end up going your way, so you might need to do a few of the easier levels first, though keep in mind you need to earn a certain amount of money before the 30 days is up as your overall goal.

There’s also around 100 random items to find along the way, ranging from super blasters, bomb-like throwables, disco balls, food for health and much more. While most of these are very helpful, some are power-downs, like making you maneuver super slow or slide like you’re on ice. The main problem is that I know what certain items do by their icon, like food, but others will be a complete random guess, as nothing is said anywhere what it’s called or what it does until you use it. When you’re in the thick of things and trying to defeat a hard ghost, you might inadvertently cause yourself to die by using a terrible item by accident.

For those streamers out there, there’s also interactivity included for Twitch and Mixer. Here you can toggle your viewers to be able to choose your power-ups, or downs, for you; a nice touch for those that stream a lot and want another form of interacting with their audience.

Visually, Dead End Job looks like a weird cartoon or a flash game you’d play on the old Newgrounds site. It’s very colorful and contains a bunch of humor, especially the very clever and catchy opening theme song. Factor in that the music is done by Will Morton of Grand Theft auto fame, and you’ve got a fun adventure in short bursts that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

If you’re a twin-stick or roguelike fan, Dead End Job is worth a look, even if it’s not perfect and does suffer from repetitiveness quite quickly. While I enjoyed my time with Hector busting ghosts, it’s a fun little title to play on a long weekend with its variety of enemies, items and levels. A completely serviceable title that fans should be able to sink a few hours into before moving on from their dead end job.

Overall: 7.0 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 7.0 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10


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