Review: Yuppie Psycho

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Review copy provided by developer

The Count Lucanor was a wonderful little surprise of a horror title, a compact adventure that got a lot of mileage out of the dark side of a classic fairy tale. It wasn’t the deepest or most fleshed out game around, but it did enough with its premise to earn itself a spot in any indie horror lineup. I’ve been looking forward to the developer’s follow-up, Yuppie Psycho, for some time, eager to see what the team could do with a story all their own. Even knowing what I did about this one, it’s managed to surprise me again and again with its twists and brazen descent into absolute madness. It’s a clear evolution of Baroque Decay’s style, and one that kept me even more compelled than before.

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Welcome to Sintracorp! Country boy Brian Pasternack has scored a dream job at the biggest company in the capital, assuring him wealth and status he never could have imagined. But his first day doesn’t exactly go as planned, between the creepy and aggressive co-workers, the unfamiliar beings roaming the dark halls, and the corpses burst on the walls of the backrooms. Turns out the company is suffering under the curse of a supposed witch, and our boy Brian has been hired specifically to downsize her. He’s got a lot of ground to cover if he’s going to align his synergies with this goal, however, delving deep into the history and inner workings of the company. With some unexpected allies behind him, he’s got a chance to change the trajectory of this business forever, provided they can all survive the rigors of his first day of work.

I came into this one with the expectation that it would start off by presenting a perfectly normal office and work culture, and then let the horror bleed into that slowly. Instead, I stumbled across corpses and nearly got murdered by appliances within the first few minutes of employment. Yuppie Psycho drops you directly into a company seized by madness and rotting from within, victim of both corporate excesses and supernatural corruption. Years of indie horror have soured me on psychological and symbolic monsters, so it was incredibly refreshing to jump into a game where everything is fucked in very real and unique ways.

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That’s not to say there isn’t some poignant symbolism to digest here. Corporate culture is a constant, often oppressive force in countless lives and Yuppie Psycho derives at least some of its horror from seeing that twisted to deadly ends. Awkward office politics and administrative red tape will play important roles in this tale, and help ground the otherwise fantastic events that unfold. Having to fill out a form by visiting multiple departments and organize a birthday party for someone you hate are perfect examples of how the game gives you logical tasks that can be colored by ominous and threatening events. On top of this, though, you have bizarre creatures, impossible geometry, and grisly tableaux that form an atmosphere of surreal dread, one that grows remarkably intense as the game rolls on.

Despite the chunky pixel graphics and anime stylings, I found myself jumping at moments of isolation and unexpected reveals. Baroque Decay had some moments of greatness in The Count Lucanor with showing you hints of a threat and then sealing the deal in a creative way, and they’ve only gotten better at it with Yuppie Psycho. Using a bound and gagged co-worker as an unwilling light source made for a tense and grim setpiece that got a good jump out of me, and the aforementioned birthday party is certain to end in a way you won’t see coming. There are shocks of all kinds to be had here, from creepy implications to unnerving dialogues to the just plain weird, and they all serve to form a masterful atmosphere throughout the office.

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Gameplay-wise, this will be the familiar isometric adventure that so many indie horror games have used before, The Count Lucanor included. You’ll rifle through filing cabinets, wave a flashlight around the darkness, collect a wealth of items, and solve simple puzzles to progress. The inventory is a real highlight here, full of resources to combine and ration out to help you survive the journey. Food items can be combined by cooking to give you more health, including office staples like instant noodles and coffee. Saving is also a limited resource again, this time using one item to save and another kind to unlock optional save points, but I found I was getting enough of both to save quite freely whenever I felt threatened. You can also scrounge up money to buy additional items you’re low on, which you’ll probably need to do even if you’re diligent in your searches.

Besides that you’ll be avoiding enemies and traps for the most part, and while most of these make fine roadblocks there are a few exceptions. Most notably there’s a sort of mine that you’ll need to use an item to clear away, but you can only use the item from your inventory, and you must be in a very narrow sweet spot where it’s about to attack you to clear it. It gets a little tedious considering how many you’ll have to deal with, and the whole inventory shuffle feels like it slows the game down. The same can be said for the boss encounters as well, which tend to be more a simple deduction of mechanics than any sort of tense or horrific challenge.

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Those gripes only comprise a small part of the experience, though, and they are absolutely worth looking past to enjoy this unique tale. Surreal office horror is not something that comes along often, and the creative minds behind this one did significant world building for you to uncover as your task becomes clearer. The structure provides an opportunity for all kinds of horror experiences, from collecting amateur horror videos to exploring a supernaturally corrupted corporate database. It’s a lengthy game as well, running at least 7 or 8 hours just for the main plot, and plenty more to plumb the many secrets tucked into the building and the multiple endings. Yuppie Psycho is a real treat, a smart and unique horror adventure that really pushes the boundaries of its fantastic premise.

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