Working Stiffs brings players back to the golden age of gameplay-centric gaming –where all the focus is on having a fun and addictive gameplay structure without sacrificing form for function. The result is a 16-bit pixel adventure that will have you guiding panicked employees through everyday office obstacles as they maneuver around zombies and fight for their lives.
The game starts out pretty simple: with a very vague explanation of how the zombie mess started. When an employee (working pretty late at night) decides to ignore the warning to not open strange email attachments, she gets infected by a virus. Yes, the virus does not attack the computer, instead it infects the person who opened the file. The results are instant and drastic: the woman is knocked right out of her chair and topples on the floor. By the time she stands up, she is already a zombie.
The game does not explain how long it has been since that initial infection started but judging from what you will be playing, it appears that the entire office is jam packed with employees even during the night. This means that plenty of them have already been turned. It is up to you, the player, to manually guide the remaining human survivors out of every office floor.
As one would expect, the game features a variety of office-worker themed zombies. From security personnel, to secretaries, to mail carriers; these are the folk you expect to find in an office. But the most interesting zombies come in the form of bosses. Yes, the boss fights actually put you up against zombie-fied office heads. From security chiefs to floor managers, to the head-honcho himself, the game takes you on an exciting fight and flight zombie-survival roller coaster from the beginning till the end of the game.
Fire exit locations: it may be the kind of information that we all take for granted, but knowing it helps (and outside of the game, you really should know the fire evacuation plans for any building you stay in, it can potentially save your life). Working Stiffs will have you herding employees out of each floor and into the fire exit –once they make it there, they will be safe from the rest of the zombies.
To guide the employees, you will have to use your mouse as a way point for them to follow. You can be specific or general with your instructions. Ordering employees around will require you to first make a selection of targets, then you must tell them to go in a specific direction. These guys (and gals) will automatically pick up items and swap weapons with anything they find underneath their feet so you have to strategize how you will make them move around. Also, attacking zombies with weapons is also automatic –so once a zombie comes into range, these guys will start shooting and quite likely, start wasting ammunition.
While a bulk of the initial feedback from players is all about how ‘clumsy’ the controls can be (with the lack of predefined employee commands), the one-click controls are actually a major part of the game’s dynamics. You just need to be prepared for the challenge –otherwise, like other players; you will be unpleasantly surprised by the controls.
Despite that warning however, the game does have some frustrating moments. This is especially true when your people start wasting bullets on a few harmless zombies or when they start panicking over the slightest sign of trouble. Of courses, these are all part of the game’s challenge and they must all be overcome by the player in order to reach the very end.
Finishing each stage, or floor, with all employees alive is always a good goal, but for those of you who would prefer to breeze through the game, the only thing you need to do is to complete all floor objectives (some have none, some require you to collect certain items or kill certain zombies), and get at least one human survivor to the exit. Also, none of the employees are more special than the others, each one is randomly generated at the start of the stage (this is proven when players restart a stage), the employees are all in the right positions but their character models and names will be different.
Pixel style graphics are making a massive comeback in online pop-culture and we are happy that Working Stiffs delivers it exceptionally well. Each employee, zombie, office desk, doorway, cubicle, copy machine, and in-game/background element has been finely crafted. One look and you can tell the difference between a zombie and a human survivor, the pathways are easy to distinguish and most importantly, it all looks really good.
The music also fares pretty well, with simple tunes that somehow match the zombie-fest of a game Working Stiffs can be. The true audio based glory of this game lies in the sound effects. From the crunching of shoes on the carpet to the light sprays of gunfire from your people, every auditory cue is so a matched for the game.
All in all, the graphics and the music of the game lend themselves very well to the overall feel of the title. Sure, the slightly cartoon like approach does make for a less immersive experience, but with the challenges of the game already being as hard as they are, seeing something to remind players to take it lightly is always a welcome change of pace.
Working Stiffs is hardly a new game (it has been quite some time since it first came out), but until today, the game still sets a pretty high standard for other browser based games. Be it with design aesthetics by Biscuit Locker, the production values by insane hero, the great use of the zombie theme which comes with many casual titles of its kind to play at zombiegames.net, the hardcore challenge it provides, or even the unconventional lack of direct controls –it all boils down to a having a really good game that is definitely worth playing. Working Stiffs is definitely not for the first time casual players, but those who are hoping to earn a solid gamer reputation would do well to get this one under their belt.