When I was asked to review Dead End Job by Developer Ant Workshop I had honestly never heard of it, however, after a short download, I was whisked back to better days.  Dead End Job has nostalgia down pat with the classic 90’s art style a la Ren & Stimpy or Courage the Cowardly Dog.  The music is no slouch either, with that same 90’s feel I found myself tapping my toes on more than one occasion.

The premise of the game is rather unique in that you play as Hector, a paranormal exterminator bent on saving his friend’s soul after they died. The game doesn’t take itself too seriously, which is refreshing.  There are spoilers right there in the theme song and a fair amount of fourth-wall breaking.  The game sends you right into the action with your first job and zero tutorial.  There is quite a large learning curve in this game.  If you don’t know what you are doing you will quickly become frustrated.  I would recommend taking a moment to acquaint yourself with the controls before proceeding as there are some things I didn’t realise until after an hour of playing and lots of swearing.  (Pro tip: you can rotate in a circle, trust me, it makes a huge difference!)

The gameplay, once you get the hang of it, is fairly straight forward, shoot the things then suck them up.  Feel free to break everything in the room for some extra cash, which helps you open up more levels later in the game.  Each level has different requirements on how many civilians you must save to complete the job. The baddies are unique and adorable.  Each has its own ability to hamper your progress and makes constant movement a necessity.  Learn to run and shoot.  Bosses will be sprinkled in through the level, don’t worry, they are well scaled and easy to adapt to.  Each boss gets a fun intro scene when you first encounter them and once you realise their ability they will be easily dispatched.

As you progress through the game enemies will increase in difficulty adding new challenges for you to overcome. Movement and timing gradually become more important if you want to succeed in your mission to save your friend.  Don’t worry, you won’t be empty-handed.  There are tons of items, health regens, and one-time-use weapons to keep you fresh and fighting ready.  Whatever you do not use during a level will carry over to the next job so gauge your pickups wisely.  As you level you will have options for permanent buffs, so long as you do not die.  These buffs are welcome benefits, ranging from faster firing to extra cash when you break stuff.

All-in-all Dead End Job was not a terrible game.  After I learned how to better navigate around the screen I became very fond of the game and have had some trouble putting it down to “adult”.  When I want a good time sink I turn to this.  As I generally play very emotionally heavy games this is a nice break to just enjoy mindless ghost vacuuming.  The music, the art, the fourth-wall breaking all make this game a decent jaunt.  I am giving this a 7.5/10.  While the lack of tutorial and non-intuitive controls sink it quite a bit it is still worth your time to pick up and give it a go!

Dead End Job

7

Score

7.0/10

Pros

  • I love the art style in this game, it has a sense of nostalgia and makes me long for the “good ole days”. It is fun, bright, and eye-catching.  I love games that take me back to my childhood days with either their art style or the gameplay. I look forward to seeing more games adopt this type of art!
  • The music is lively with a sense of urgency, it will help keep you moving as you suck up all the baddies in your glorified vacuum of undeath. It is a toe-tapping bop that is good enough you won’t be upset it is on a constant loop.
  • The gameplay is in both categories this time. After you get the hang of how the character moves and shoots it becomes enjoyable to bob and weave and hoover up the ghosts on your quest. The top-down camera allows you to strategize on the fly and better see the path the ghosts are traveling and all the “don’t stand here spots” in the room.

Cons

  • I told you gameplay was going to be on both. I became very frustrated in the first hour of playing, as the controls are not intuitive at all.  In most games, there is a standard set of controls that allows you to immediately jump in and know what you’re doing.  That is not the case here. There was a brief moment where I questioned if I was too old to play video games until I realized you can turn around with the other stick.
  • The lack of tutorial is a big miss for me. Your first mission takes you through the very basics, however, it fails to really show you HOW to play the game. Having a tutorial would have saved me some embarrassment and a small existential crisis.  I feel that having a tutorial would have not only saved me time figuring out how to move, but it would make the game more enjoyable.  If I am playing a game that I struggle with for more than an hour I put it down and walk away.
  • Hector, the protagonist leaves much to be desired in a hero. He is dimwitted and very bland.  The other NPC’s outshine him in personality and likability.  I wish there was some basic customization that you could change who you play as. Alas, we are stuck with Hector, however, you can change his name.