Double Fine releases its first iPad game, but is Middle Manager Of Justice worth trying or is it just another throwaway freemium game? Find out in our review.
Published on Dec 14, 2012
Double Fine is quickly becoming one of our favourite developers. Few devs are afforded the luxury of having a ‘thing’ and if that thing is making bloody good, genuinely funny games then Double Fine deserve all the respect. All of it.
And in that sense, Middle Manager Of Justice is as typical a Double Fine game as you can get. It has a unique art style, a clever well-implemented central concept and the traditional humour we’ve come to expect from Tim Schafer and co.
Here you need to turn a rundown superhero business – yes, business – into a thriving and successful branch of a wider, corporate franchise.
The opportunities for humour here are obvious, and that trademark Double Fine comedy is present and correct – poking fun at those people who have ever non-ironically used the term “going forward”.
The game itself falls into two parts: the Theme Hospital style office management and the combat missions.
In the office you can build new rooms, upgrade those that are there and add in additional equipment with cash earned out in the field.
Each room has a specific use, whether providing health regen for injured superheroes, a place to rest and recover morale or the necessary opportunities to improve stats and abilities.
On iPad the sprites are stretched a bit, which is a shame.
Initially you won’t have room for all your superheroes to complete simultaneous activities, so you’ll need to carefully manage their tasks to ensure you get the most out of them.
Everything takes time and, though they can be hurried with purchasable Superium, it never feels like one of those frustrating freemium social games that the iPad is absolutely littered with.
In fact, the fast paced nature of the game means you’ll never notice these insignificant waiting times. You’re always building towards something and very rare are the moments when you’re not doing anything.
The largest chunk of the gameplay is the combat missions, however, which plays out as a series of fights with thugs and evil bosses in pseudo-turn-based combat.
It soon becomes challenging enough that you’ll need to grind a few missions before taking on tougher boss fights, while careful decisions in the superheroes you use – and the stats you choose to increase – is more important than it might initially seem.
The animation isn’t quite as slick as we have come to expect from Double Fine, truth be told, with very few frames of animation. It’s a shame because the art style really does fit the aesthetic of the game, and combat would feel considerably more appealing if there had been a little more flair involved.
The battles get tougher and tougher, but you won't know which is hard until you try it.
But it’s a minor concern when the combat is so fun. Each battle – win or lose – is usually over within a minute, while easier missions can be delegated to superheroes to complete without your participation.
Other alternative missions – such as stopping a runaway school bus or saving a damsel from a burning building – also provide nice added extras that are better suited to specific skillsets, providing easy but often rare rewards.
All this ties into the morale of an area. Complete these missions quickly and you’ll be rewarded with a happier district that, in turn, provides additional cash for you to spend on upgrades and facility improvements.
But to complete them quickly you’ll need to level up to successfully take them on, which requires completing more missions and so on. It’s a fluid system that takes a lot of balancing multiple different elements, keeping you consistently hooked.
Our only concern is that after a couple of hours you’ve seen everything new, and you’re left with the gradual grind to the end. Once all the rooms are built your only options left are to purchase upgrades.
Additionally, though each superhero has three different abilities only one can be equipped for battle, meaning you’ll invariably resort to improving those skills and ignoring any others.
There’s entertainment in battling towards the end to see the different henchman and super villains the game has to show you – which is testament to Double Fine’s humour, we except – but outside of that the game does eventually drag.
However, there’s still a lot of quality here and unlike most free games on the App Store Middle Manager Of Justice doesn’t try to passive-aggressively fleece you of your money. Which is nice.
8.0 / 10
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8.5 / 10
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8.0 / 10
There’s really no reason not to download Middle Manager Of Justice. Double Fine is a developer that deserves supporting and though this iPad game isn’t quite perfect, it’s still a lot of fun.