The Firm – Review

Title   The Firm
Developer  Sunnyside Games
Publisher  Sunnyside Games
Platform  iOS, Android
Genre  Strategy, Puzzle
Release Date  April 16th, 2015
Official Site

In days of old, before particles and polygons were even considered in the aesthetics of video games, we had practically no choice but to immerse ourselves in what became known as the ‘twitch’ genre.  It involved lightning-fast reaction times, very little in the way of forward thinking, and practically no strategy whatsoever.  They relied on the player being able to immediately take stock of the situation and react accordingly, with penalties for half-arsing it and rewards for whole-arsing it.  Except, the better you got at them, the more they attempted to punish you by making everything faster and throwing more at you in a shorter space of time.

Perhaps the best example of the genre is Tetris which, considering its age, has shown incredible staying power.  So the fact The Firm immediately made me think of Tetris is bound to be a good thing.  The premise is simple – you play the role of a new employee at a stock broker, tasked with investing company cash in order to rake in a profit and, ultimately, sit at the top of the tree as the Chairman of the Board.  Investment opportunities quickly pile up from the bottom of the screen and you have to quickly decide whether to buy or sell, depending on the performance charts.  Buying stock which has a rising green chart or falling red chart will result in additional revenue, whereas stock with a falling green chart and rising red chart must be sold.  Get either of these wrong and you’ll be financially penalised, and the rate at which the investments appear will increase. As soon as the pile reaches the top, in the same way that the bricks in Tetris reach the point of no return, you’re fired.

Over time, blue stocks will be introduced where you’re shown the front page of a newspaper which reports on the good and bad investments for that period.  Getting these blue stocks right results in a considerable revenue bonus and can randomly clear a number of investments from your pile to ease the pressure. As the game progresses, you’ll unlock perks which will aid in your campaign for greatness: pills to slow down time (let’s just admit that it’s Speed) and allow you to deal with built-up investments more efficiently while the duration timer ticks down; inside information to give you at x2 multiplier; call in a favour to turn the top-most stocks in your pile to the aforementioned blue stocks; and the lazy man’s route to the top – the tradehack, which boils down to autopilot where each of the stocks on-screen are automatically bought or sold in your favour.

Perks can be bought through the store using your in-game currency, and will either be a worthwhile investment or an entire waste of your much-needed cash.  For example, spending $11k on the tradehack perk could mean an easy time if your screen is filled with potential investments, but if you screw up shortly afterwards and end up being fired then the chances are you never pulled in enough cash to cover the cost of the perk.  Thankfully, since Sunnyside Games aren’t complete assholes, they will also drop random perks into regular gameplay if you’re performing well.  Using them is just a question of timing, as you don’t want to blow your load too soon and end up being fired because your pill is no longer available when you really need it.

The art style in The Firm harkens back to the traditional 8bit era, and is beautifully realised.  Keen viewers may read between the lines and see the darker side to The Firm – when a new recruit after a firing, the excitement of them arriving with a pot plant for their desk and the prospect of a financially stable vocation is overshadowed by the broken window behind them, caused by their predecessor jumping to their death after losing so much of the firm’s money.

The shot of the long line of applicants queueing at the building entrance in the dismal rain, with the body of the fired employee face down in a puddle speaks volumes of Sunnyside’s sense of humour, but the self-referential approach to the companies’ names drives this home when you’re deciding upon the fate of the likes of Macrosoft, ActiVizzard Corp, Aucuslarts Industries, Mokepon Studios, and Fordon Greeman Consulting.  The problem with injecting so much humour into a game of this type is that it moves far too quickly to really appreciate the effort they’ve gone to.  When you do manage to catch the names, they’ll undoubtedly raise a smile.

Ultimately, what makes The Firm such an enjoyable ride is how much it screws with your head in such a short space of time.  While most of us would naturally see red as a negative and green as a positive, and a rising arrow as a positive with a falling arrow as a negative, Sunnyside’s abstract combination of both can play havoc with your natural reactions once the pressure is piled on.  With no in-app purchases, and a price tag of less than £1 on the Play store, The Firm is a great way to pass a few hours without having to immerse yourself in a deep storyline and its pick-up-and-play style means that the one thing you won’t necessarily have to invest is time.

  • Easy to pick up
  • Quirky 8bit graphics
  • Pleasantly addictive, without being frustrating
  • Cheap
  • Repetitive when you want to go from $250k to $500k
  • Can take a long time between higher levels

The Firm is one of those inoffensive games that you'll come across every once in a while where you're not necessarily compelled to buy it, but see no harm in taking a punt as you'd only lose a small amount of cash if it didn't pan out well. Thankfully, if you're a fan of the Tetris-style twitch gameplay and don't mind 8bit graphics, there's a lot of enjoyment in putting your brain through the early confusion of mastering the code. It's also less than £1, and you can't really go wrong with that.

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