Quitting your office day job to start your own company and be a lovable boss sounds like a great idea. In real life, I’m too much of a dunce to succeed on this path, thankfully Startup Panic lets me live life in the head of someone who clearly has more business knowledge than myself. It’s ironic that 60% of businesses fail in the first three years, because Startup Panic starts optimistically before falling on brainless clicking of the mouse. A bit like the office job you quit at the beginning of the game, in fact.
It’s clear that Startup Panic takes a lot from Game Dev Tycoon or the Kairosoft games. It does its best to set itself apart from these, unfortunately it lacks the personality to pull it off. Rather than forcing you into a specific medium (like videogames, film etc), you focus on creating various platforms to take more of the market share. The platforms themselves are seemingly similar to things such as YouTube, Facebook or Steam. From here, the player aims to develop the most diverse platform to take the dominant share of the market from the rival AI characters.
That premise is an interesting one, giving the player the option to focus on various routes to develop these platforms. You can focus on one, or develop all three, there’s not really a correct way of building these platforms outside the obvious advice of ‘earn money fast’. Which works great in terms of player freedom, however it comes at the cost of losing any attachment to the thing your team is making. When selecting which cool new thing to develop, you’re really just picking from a large skill tree. Personalisation isn’t something you do for your creations in Startup Panic, you simply pick the thing that looks like it will give you the most money. Adjust the sliders to create it how you like and you’ll either get a good or bad score. Bad scores harm immediate income, but you can run a quick review of the feature and recreate it using the advice given to find yourself hitting a top score quickly.
That’s the games cycle. Pick the feature, move the sliders, research your creation and adjust accordingly. You’d struggle to find a challenge, especially considering the finances never truly become an issue. As with other games in the genre, you can set your team to do contracts to earn money whilst bigger features are being worked on. A lot of these contracts pay out big for a minimal success score in return. It’s a struggle to fail them and, even if you do, the consequences for doing so are not severe enough for you to care. You still end up pocketing most of the promised cash for a bad job. The end result is you sitting on a pile of money, regardless of how poorly you do your job managing your start up. The definition of failing upwards.
Startup Panic has a basic plot, you quit your day job to begin your new startup company. Every now and then, a new business opponent will appear to tell you how much you’re going to fail, before ultimately being defeated by you in under a year. This happens several times, before you can work towards the end game achievements. The ultimate goal is to hold the majority share of the market. I liked the idea, giving personality to companies and tussling for those shares, sadly it’s another area of the game that I find too easy. Once you pull ahead of another competitor in the market shares, you won’t be looking in your rear view mirror at them for very long. The AI controlled companies just aren’t able to catch up once you pull ahead. Interestingly, the game does have multiple endings, which isn’t something I’ve personally seen from the genre before.
Despite the gameplays ease, I did find myself sitting with Startup Panic for long stretches initially. The lack of challenge does invite a more relaxed gameplay style, which is helped by the soothing music. I usually find myself muting these games to play my own stuff in the background, but I really enjoyed the work that went into the soundtrack here. It’s a simple tune, though calming enough that it doesn’t grate on you after an hour of playing. Similarly, the art style is very charming. Again, it’s simple stuff, yet you can’t overstate how good having something easy on the eye is in a game like this. There’s a lot of UI to manage too, which never feels cluttered. It always maintains a tidy, clear presence no matter how deep into the game you get.
Startup Panic is a fun little game that you’ll likely play for an entire day before never returning to again. What holds it back is the games easiness and lack of personalisation. Not being able to customise the name or style of things you produce prevent the game from being unique to yourself. It’s the same for you, me and everyone else. The visuals and sound will soothe you, so you’ll lose yourself to it the first time you play, however there’s nothing to keep you coming back once you put it down.
Startup Panic (Reviewed on Windows)
The game is average, with an even mix of positives and negatives.
Startup Panic is fun for its first few hours, but tails off quickly. It’s cute art and music will keep you interested, but once you stop playing you are unlikely to return to this office.