Few things are more frightening for a young adult than entering the workforce for the first time and starting a new job. After all, it can be the difference between being seen as a failure or success within society. Developer Baroque Decay’s YUPPIE PSYCHO is an adventure game that puts a dystopian twist on these insecurities and then makes the job about 500 times worse than anyone could have thought. In concept alone, it’s a tremendous play on common fears and capitalism, which serves as the root of the problem.
Yuppie Psycho stars a young man by the name of Brian Pasternack that suddenly gets a job offer from a huge corporation called Sintracorp. Not only does it promise a great salary, but it will bump up his class rating from a lowly ranking to the highest, thus labeling him a respectable man among society. It’s only a few steps removed from our current world, where companies like Amazon continue to expand and governments are looking into giving ratings to their people. By not straying too far from reality, it becomes a much scarier experience.
Like nearly everything in life, the job offer winds up being too good to be true. Instead of getting an office job like Pasternick expected, he’s tasked with murdering a witch that roams the multi-storey offices. The story only gets weirder from that point, but it’s all up to the player to do the task that is assigned. From an actual gameplay standpoint, everything in Yuppie Psycho is quite mundane. There is one button to interact with objects, and most of the game is built around solving various puzzles. The act of staying alive is even more difficult, as players will have to closely manage their inventory and evade taking damage from landmines, moving objects, and other hazards.
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Of course, there is one gigantic disconnect to Yuppie Psycho‘s story, which is that most people would just leave the job they were offered rather than stay around and go on a literal witch hunt. However, perhaps to underline just how desperate he is to escape the shackles of the classist society that he lives in, Pasternick chooses to stick with the job. After all, there are few worse looks than admitting you can’t do what you’ve been tasked with and being labeled a failure.
While the game is consistently grim in its tone, there’s an underlying wackiness that keeps it from getting all too depressing. The cast of characters, and how ridiculous office culture can be, is a constant highlight. The contrast between people doing mundane tasks as their desks and then the dark rooms and corridors filled with corpses is quite the sight. Yuppie Psycho is a completely weird experience that surprises the player at every turn. This winds up being its greatest strength as it compels players to continue through its rather pedestrian gameplay (although some of the puzzles are quite brilliant) through storytelling and worldbuilding.
However, it also picked up one of the worst trends of yesteryear in the form of horrendous save mechanics. It’s straight up like the early Resident Evil titles, as players need to find paper and ink in order to save their progress at photo copiers found throughout the building. This is clearly meant to build tension and make players fear death, but it just leads to frustrating moments where players have to redo puzzles they previously solved and go through segments a second or even third time. This creates an unneeded frustration that only hurts the experience rather than adding to it. After all, the scary moments don’t hold up when you already know what is going to happen.
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That being said, credit has to be given to the incredible sound design because Yuppie Psycho is quite frightful from start to finish. The music (which is done by VA-11 Hall-A composer Michael Kelly) and terrifying sound effects can make a dimly lit hallway seem like a haunted house. Of course, these fears are often realized, but the brilliance is in how even a completely empty room can seem like the scariest scenario. At least it does in the first time around as it starts to lose all the drama in subsequent visits when the poor saving structure acts up.
For all of the praise Yuppie Psycho earns for how scary it is, its depiction of a dystopian future is all the more scarier. Every aspect is amplified to the point of parody. It’s not likely that anyone’s next job will involve hunting down a witch (although if you are hiring for that, please get in touch), but it all seems like a step or two away from where we are currently at in society.
Once that really sinks in, it’s far more horrifying than any enemy suddenly appearing or anything you’ll see on the screen. Even all of the insane office practices are a result of how everyone has been told to conduct themselves. The people are afraid of not appearing to be perceived as normal. It’s this very fear that leads Pasternick to continuing his job and it’s this aspect of psychological horror that is quite brilliant. The entire game is an indictment on current society in a way that most games won’t dare to touch.
It’s not the greatest playing horror game, and some aspects feel extremely dated. However, Yuppie Psycho is undeniably worth playing for anyone that is looking for something weird and wants art to actually have something to say. In a field where so many titles are afraid to say anything meaningful at all and will willfully walk back any political commentary that gets included, it’s nice to see it emphatically underlined and bolded. This is certainly a weird trip, and while there are some stumbles along the way, it is one that should be embarked upon.
GameRevolution reviewed Yuppie Psycho on Mac with a copy provided by the publisher.