We overuse the word ‘Kafkaesque,’ but Brian didn’t sign up for, like, any of this.
At least he’s pretty sure he didn’t. Honestly it’s tough to be sure of anything on your first day at a new job.
Brian began his day the way so many of us start our careers in the city: crammed into a tight subway train, briefcase clutched in one hand and acceptance letter in the other. It doesn’t really matter what city this is, the same way it doesn’t really matter what, exactly, Brian’s been hired to do. It’s money. Before today he’d never worn a tie and never been out of his hometown in the country, where his friends call him ‘Brian’ and not just ‘Pasternack’. He doesn’t come from wealth and he doesn’t really have the grades to be here in the first place. In a (satirical?) world where a murky social ranking system determines your ability to survive, it’s a wonder Brian’s here at all. And he knows it.
So the only thing that really matters is that he has a golden ticket in his hand and the promise of a job with Sintracorp. Everything else he can figure out later. How many of us have felt the same.
There’s no turning back, no matter how weird it is. A job’s a job, right?
Fifteen minutes later, Brian – now renamed Pasternack by everyone he meets – has been spit on and called ‘VERMIN’ in the company lobby. He’s witnessed firsthand the brutal hierarchy that seems to run everything in the city, and his presumed place in it. He’s learned that SintraCorp’s ten levels function as a caste system, and that the highest of its floors are reserved for the preposterously wealthy, powerful or both. He’s given the distinct impression that people will kill for these jobs, and that the letter he holds in his hands might be a bigger deal than he’d been lead to believe. He’s also detected the first rumblings that something might be very, very wrong at Sintracorp.
Most importantly of all, though, he’s met Kate: a pretty, bubbly coworker who disappears up to the fourth floor along with the promise of a coffee date later. So he’s definitely not leaving now.
Brian shows his letter to the security camera. The elevator dings, he climbs aboard, and it begins to ascend on its own.
The numbers tick up: 2, 3, 4 (Kate!), 5. . .
It counts all the way to 10. The doors chime.
The room is dark, way too dark to be an office. It smells like blood. It’s minimalist, but more than that it feels empty. Maybe even empty spiritually – who works here? Modern art adorns the walls and a ragged trail of blood streaks past the furniture, up to a contract and a pen. Above the desk, slashed across a wall-length screen in crimson red, is Pasternack’s only responsibility at Sintracorp:
KILL THE WITCH
Yuppie Psycho is a 2019 adventure-horror title by international indie developer Baroque Decay, but they’d rather you call it a ‘First Job Survival Horror.’ You take control of poor, put-upon Brian Pasternack as he slowly unravels the many, many mysteries at the heart of Sintracorp, figures out exactly what his job description means, and navigates the complete mundane horrors of overbearing coworkers, gaslighting superiors and unrealistic work quotas. So it’s like any other job.
The gag, of course, is that everything is, um, Kafkaesque.
From the moment you decide to sign the contract in that blood-soaked, mysterious office on floor 10, Pasternack’s life is a kaleidoscope of surreal, office-themed horrors. As you explore Yuppie Psycho‘s pixelated halls, you’ll have to gather clues and slowly work out what, exactly is going on at Sintracorp while dodging increasingly absurd and disgusting threats. Your big goal, of course, is to KILL THE WITCH, but that’s going to be easier said than done if she figures out you’re after her. She’s hardly the only threat, either: a very early area tasks you with exploring a long, dark tunnel with only the light from a coworker’s flashlight to guide you – the twist being that the flashlight is taped to his chest and he’s extension-corded onto a rolling office chair that you’ll have to push. Everything goes fine, until you realize you’re being followed.
So when something horrible barrels down the hallway towards the two of you, you’ll have a very simple choice to make.
Yuppie Psycho is filled with fun little team-building exercises like this. In between horror sections you’ll restore your health by making coffee in the break room and stealing other peoples’ lunches from the company fridge. There’s no inventory management to speak of, but you’ll slowly collect a wide variety of lighting tools, clues and other resources you’ll need to progress through Sintracorp’s labyrinthine depths. You’ll need everything you can get your hands on – from spare pencils to security passes, inkjet refills and stranger, more eldritch office supplies – to survive what lies above. More than anything else you’ll want to hoard the special printer paper you use to save by smooshing your face onto one of Sintracorp’s many photocopiers. Then use it.
Seriously, this is a gamer protip from me to you: save a lot. This game doesn’t checkpoint, and Yuppie Psycho kills fast. Save.
For the most part, you’re free to wander between Sintracorp’s floors and explore. You can meet up with your very weird coworkers, some of whom are friendly and many of whom are openly hostile. Interactions have consequences and help to determine which of the game’s several endings you end up with, so be careful who you hang out with and what you let slip – you don’t want the Witch finding out you’re on her tail. While there’s no combat in Yuppie Psycho, there are frantic boss fights that rely on a combination of problem solving, reflexes and courage. The game is much more likely to make you carefully inch your way past something horrible and blood-covered than it is to force you to actually fight anything, but you’ll be amazed.
That might be the one thing I can consistently promise about Yuppie Psycho: you will be consistently amazed.
The most impressive thing about it is that, despite its spooky-flash-game looks and grossout occult Horror, Yuppie Psycho is a remarkably approachable game. Yes it’s gross, shocking and very, VERY weird, but it’s also all in good fun. I’ve laughed more consistently playing Baroque Decay’s office-sim than anything else I’ve played recently – and not only because I only play Horror games in October. The writing is quick and earnest, just like Pasternack himself. While the story definitely goes some places, there’s a lot more heart here than you might expect. Despite all the Lovecraft and Kafka, at Yuppie Psycho‘s core is a dead-smart office comedy that isn’t afraid to skewer everything from corporate gaslighting to literal-horseshit management, casual office sexism, nepotism and much, much more. A deep fury simmers at the heart of this game, and to play it is to feel as frustrated as Pasternack, wandering Sintracorp aghast at the mismanagement he sees. On the other hand, sometimes, believe it or not, it can be kind of sweet. In its deeply weird way.
It just happens to focus on a more literal Toxic Workplace than usual.
And if you don’t like it you can quit. Literally.
No one is making you sign the contract in the opening. The rural life awaits and Sintracorp’s front door always stands open, ready to let you out (until it isn’t). But why would you want to leave when the floors above hold such wonders and horrors as:
- Competitive benefits
- A giant, sucking mouth that hates you
- Floors of ash-grey walls and barely-lit, cavernous chambers soundtracked only by the feverish typing and clicking of thousands of unseen hands
- Living paintings that run down the walls in blood
- Printers that crawl like spiders, and mutated spiders that crawl like spiders
- Literal and figurative office zombies
- The opportunity to liaison with a Union and build your professional portfolio
- Striking Vaporwave and 16-bit aesthetics, and anime-style animated cutscenes
- A fast-paced, goal-oriented work environment with a winning team
- Whatever The Witch is
Yuppie Psycho is as funny as it is creepy, it’s a neon-drenched office-space scream. I’m delighted and horrified by it in turn, and that all adds up to one of the most pleasantly surprising Horror treats in ages. Check it out if you’re looking for something a little different or you just want the thrill of totally ruining a very, very questionable company. I know I do.
This has been entry 15/31 of The Long Hallowe’en 2021!