APP OF THE DAY: Middle Manager of Justice review (iPhone)

Middle Management: an existence sandwiched somewhere between power and pointlessness. Seems like a strange theme to work up into a game, but give it the DoubleFine treatment - Tim Schafer's studio, the head honcho behind turn-based classic Monkey Island - and something altogether more exciting happens. But that's because this is Middle Manager of Justice, and it's your job to manage superheroes. Yup, superheroes.

Middle Manager of Justice

Format
iPhone & iPad (iOS)
Price
£Free
Where
iTunes

If you have a desk job then, well, you probably ought to not play this game as it's so endearing, amusing and downright fun that it'll eat up far too much of your time. And make you wish that you managed superheroes.

Middle Manager of Justice is one of those genre-surfing titles, but done in a way where it pools the best of multiple ideas into one place. It's hard for it not to sound complicated, but play through it and you'll quickly see that, at the core of it, it's simple, good ole gaming done right.

The bulk of the game swings around a The Sims or even Sim-City-esque theme of building up an office, buying superheroes and various training facilities. But to do that you need to spend money, which has to be earnted in a number of different ways.

The most fun one is to keep various areas on the map clear, safe and villain-free by jumping in to real-time, yet turn-based fight "levels". It's possible to send in up to four superheroes - as and when you acquire them - to try to topple the bad guys.

If that keeps the townsfolk happy then coins come raining in from, er, well somewhere. We don't exactly know where, not that's it's important - but it's cash that you'll want because it's essential to buy all the rooms and hardware required to train up your 'heroes.

It's not just the pride thing of building up a top-notch office with all the best nuts and bolts, it's an essential as you advance through the game because you'll need to boost superheroes' abilities to pass the tougher fights. 

Each superhero's abilities are broken down into power, health and intelligence, or, roughly speaking, "how hard you punch", "how hard you can be punched", and how you can use your brain to make special items.

There are also individual superhero's special moves, shop-bought items - which you can create the more intelligent you become - to boost energy mid-fight. You, AKA the middle manager, also have some additional specials on offer - such as reversing power bars.

However, buying new superheroes isn't dependent on coins. As per lots of "these sorts of games" there's a dual money system, here represented by coins and, secondly, "Superium". Although the game is free to download it is possible to buy both of these currencies in the game using real cash.

Where Middle Manager of Justice differs from those other - and, as you'll see, unnamed - titles that depend on a similar ecosystem is that the waiting times for training and the logic of earning more coins and Superium doesn't feel so far stretched out or plain unreasonable that you'll ever really feel the need to buy into the ecosystem. At least we didn't and, frankly, that pleased us.

In fact, if the game was a mere money-grabbing experiment then it wouldn't have made it into an "app of the day" consideration, which many similar "build your empire" type titles that we've played have fallen foul of. There might be times when you want to treat yourself to 69 pence of Superium to buy that next level superhero, but at least you can legitimately "work" instead of paying out the cash.

As the game progresses it doesn't get particularly "difficult", as such, but the management process does become more complex. It's only possible to handle a limited number of superheroes within the office space, despite your being able to purchase more and use more to fight. Then it becomes about juggling heroes to keep everything ticking over successfully and that's where the complexity comes in.

What makes Middle Manager of Justice even more charming than its gameplay is its stylised graphics and, typical of DoubleFine and, indeed, Tim Schafer, its absurd humour. Let's face it, the theme was hint enough of that, but the dialogue is entertainingly silly enough to make us smile. There's a storyline running throughout here, which makes you want to kill the bigger bosses to progress and keep coming back to the game to see if your toughest hero has finally learnt his level three "butt slam" of death. Sounds like Asda-style to the extreme.

We're rather taken by Middle Manager of Justice. It's well worth giving some time to. In fact it's quite hard not to.



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