In my previous career, we used to love going into constant training as each session usually ended up with us all playing a game of Jenga in order to forget how mundane both the job and the training was. Red Accent Studios and Oasis Games have also come to a similar solution with their latest PSVR puzzle game, Salary Man Escape. Within this rather tricky title, you must help the ‘Salary Man’ escape from his workplace and reach the exit by effectively playing a game of Jenga to create a path for him to follow.
“Salary Man” is a term used by the Japanese to describe their white-collar workers. Salarymen are expected to work long hours, participate in lots of overtime, and put their work above anything else in their life. They usually start working for a company as soon as they leave college and stay with that company for the rest of their working life. No wonder the guy within this new puzzle game can’t wait to make it to the exit and escape to freedom!
Salary Man Escape has you wielding either the DS4 or a single Move controller as you remove red blocks, from a stack of red and white blocks, in order to create a clear passage for our poor overworked guy to get out. Speaking of the controls, both methods has it’s own advantages and disadvantages with neither of them delivering the perfect experience. My personal choice would be to use the Move controller as you hold the move button to effectively grab the level and spin it around or pull it towards you, so you can get a better look. Then you just reach out, hold the trigger, and yank or push at the various red blocks in order to move them out of the way. The downside to the Move controller is the tracking. The controller wobbles quite a bit in VR and one incorrect move could result in you blocking your way out for good – unless you restart the level.
The DS4 allows for more precise movements as you grab with the trigger and use the sticks to move. However, rotating the map is done via the D-pad and it’s pre-inverted. I’m fine with up being down and down being up as that’s how I play all of my games, but the left and right are also inverted – that’s something I never do as it doesn’t feel right. Also, playing the game with the DS4 kind of defeats the object of playing the game in VR as you simply become a viewer with no physical interaction with the world. As such, I’d recommend playing with the Move controller, or at least try both until you find which one you prefer.
Working your way up the ladder:
Salary Man Escape is comprised of six chapters, each containing ten levels. As you progress through the various stages, each level looks similar but different enough to keep you engaged and interested. The game also begins to throw in new aspects such as weighted platforms that spin, lifts, and conveyor belts. The levels get progressively more difficult as you move through all ten of them, with the first two or three in each chapter being quite simple whilst teaching you the new mechanics you need to understand in order to complete the later levels. There is also no hints or help in the game, so you’re on your own in this one!
Some levels have extra ‘objectives’ to them. By that, I simply mean that some of the levels have collectable coins which you can seek out and collect if you wish. The problem with these is that they are usually out of the way and require you to really think about how you can obtain them and still have the means to escape once you’ve done so. The other ‘issue’ is that these coins are actually used to unlock some of the later levels as well – so if you want to experience all the game has to offer then you really do need to collect these, even if it means staring at a level for over half an hour until you figure out what to do (yes, I did that).
A few of the longer and more complex levels will have cups of coffee for you to collect also. These act as checkpoints – so you’re best trying to get these if you can.
But what do you do?!
Okay, so I’ve not actually told you ‘what’ you do yet. As I said above, you must move red blocks to create escape routes, but this comes with a few issues/technicalities. The game’s biggest disadvantage is physics. When pulling or pushing the red blocks, they can only move along the level they are on or fall down. You can’t lift the red blocks up. So, if one accidentally slips down a crack a bit or if it hangs off the edge and sticks its butt in the air, you can’t readjust it and get it back to where it was. The majority of the times this wasn’t an issue, but as I said above, the move controller does have a tendency of wobbling a bit in VR which means you could accidentally nudge a white block a little bit too far away for the Salary Man to escape.
Speaking of which, you don’t control the Salary Man, he will move once there is a path created to either the exit, some coffee, or a coin. This makes it even trickier as you have to try and work out why the path isn’t being created, even if you can see a direct path – which has happened to me. It’s usually because of a small gap in the floor or the game hasn’t detected that there is enough room for him to get around some other blocks. This was the cause of a lot of my frustrations with the game and probably the biggest issue I had with it. Maybe if we had the option to point to a location we wanted him to walk to, then it may have made it more reliable and less prone to not doing as we expected? Regardless, it’s not a major issue as the game does work itself out the majority of the time, it can just be a bit picky with what it wants to do sometimes.
I know what you’re thinking – “What’s the point in getting stressed and moving things around incorrectly? Just take your time and ensure you get it right”. Yeah, you can’t do that. Each level has a timer, which appears on your Move controller, and if the timer reaches zero… Let’s just say, someone finds out you’re trying to skip work and isn’t too happy about it…
Graphically, Salary Man Escape looks rather interesting. With its three colour palette – Red White and Black – with a few shades in between. This helps all the interactive parts stand out and all of the slaves to the system. I really loved the VR environments as well. On some levels, you’re placed on a giant desk with a keyboard below your feet and a phone near the monitor, others have you within an office room with the level floating in front of you. The level select screen even has you choosing the levels as windows for various offices in the surrounding skyscrapers, as if you’re helping the person from the office you’re pointing at. Sure the textures are quite low and basic, but the overall artistic design is really well done.
Now we get to one of the best things about Salary Man Escape – the music! I absolutely love the music the game had. It’s a welcomed selection of 80’s Japanese pop songs which fits perfectly with the game – almost. Okay, so the music is really upbeat and jolly whereas the game is about escaping from work because you need a release. So technically they wouldn’t work together, but it’s just like how the jolly music in Guts and Glory works great with the tone of that game, it does a similar thing here as well.
I really enjoyed Salary Man Escape, even with its faults. Sure, there were many occasions where I was swearing at the TV and frustratingly restarting the level because I had nudged a white block and now my guy won’t see the path which I can very clearly see with my own eyes, but that’s fine. It’s all part of the game – it isn’t easy for these guys to escape from their routine and break free so why should it be easy for me to help them achieve that goal? The music was a really nice touch and the timer just makes things more intense and interesting. My only suggestion would be for us to tell the guy where to move too and to give DS4 users the option to disable invert on the X and Y axis (individually – so we can keep Y inverted if we want to).
Salary Man Escape is a fun puzzle game with a very catchy soundtrack. The game does have its flaws with its controls and the physics, but once you’ve got used to them and you know how the game works, there are many hours of entertainment to have here as you aim to save all 60 employees. Every time you successfully complete the later levels you get an immense feeling of satisfaction and joy, especially if it’s a level that has had you stuck for quite a while. Salary Man Escape is another VR title that greatly benefits from being played in small doses rather than for long periods at a time.
Since launch, ‘Flat Mode’ has been added, allowing you to play this game with or without a VR headset.
Salary Man Escape£11.99
- Interesting theme and mechanics
- Difficult puzzles which will take you a while to complete
- Really fun soundtrack
- Fun environments which immerse you within
- The tracking of the Move controller isn't very reliable
- The Salary Man is very stubborn with his movements
- Could technically work without VR
- The physics in the game sometimes work against you
- the whole D-pad is inverted with no option to customise each axis!