Startup Panic Review: Those are Rookie Numbers

Startup Panic is Available on PC via The Epic Store, Android, and IOS. Joseph Pugh reviewed this game on PC.

You can find a video version of this review here: Startup Panic Review [New Simulation Game] – YouTube

Overview

The opening hours of Startup Panic were a bit surreal, painful, and interesting to experience as a lone self-employed Content Creator. It accurately represented the early days of my website. Alone in my house and slaving away to create something when nobody knew or cared who I was.

In Startup Panic, I watched the days fly by with 0 to 2 users, just as I did two years ago. I revised features I had already made because they weren’t up to par, just as I do now. And I had once again experienced that joy when those numbers finally started ticking upward.

You start out small and humble.

From that point on, the similarities fade. In Startup Panic, you go on to develop platforms more akin to Steam, Facebook, and Youtube. You hire employees, and, you know, actually, make money…but I did enjoy that initial kinship.

As your Startup grows, so does the game’s mechanics. You go from just writing a few features with your main character, to managing money, employees, marketing, and even sabotaging your competitors.

Keyboard Warrior

In the beginning, you’re on your own with a bit of cash to get started and some advice from a familiar-looking paper clip. Once you get the initial features of your platform sorted, you can move from your dingy little room and into a small office where you can hire help.

Employees, including yourself, have different statistics between Technology, Usability, Aesthetics, and Marketing. All of which affect how they perform when creating a feature or doing contract work.

Many tasks require a minimum number of employees, but you can allocate even more for bigger results. However, adding more heads to a task increases the time it takes to complete.

Hiring employee’s with high stats is the key to success

Working jobs and a few random events can lower an employee’s motivation. You need to pay for and send them on frequent vacations to keep them happy, as well as pay them more when they receive better training. Nothing stinks worse than your star employee randomly quitting your Startup.

Eventually, you compete with other businesses and have to factor in global marketing while deciding if you want to play dirty by sabotaging their power or kidnapping your competitors’ employees. Hey, business can get brutal in Startup Panic. But, they also have Dinosaur Park as a vacation option so we will call it even.

It’s an interesting number of factors to mess with, all while also following a story with timed objectives. They rarely result in an outright failure, but they do tell a story of your Startups successes and failures.

Much of the humor is tongue in cheek, and the writing is amusing. When you start dealing with investors, you will find that they range from mobsters to celebrities, and the dialogue is genuinely entertaining.

Eventually you upgrade to bigger offices.

Another aspect of the game is random events that pop up allowing you to make a risk versus reward decision. Do you let a Utuber review your Startup? Do you respond to someone bashing it? It’s an interesting and thematic dynamic, and it really helps that the game’s retro visuals and art style are charming as heck.

I thought it was neat that some of my features kept getting hacked because they had a low technology score, causing me to waste time revising them. It was a triumphant moment when I raised the tech scores high enough to actually catch the hackers and get them out of my hair. It’s moments like that, when Startup Panic’s charm really bleeds through.

Riches to Rags

Sadly Startup Panic starts out strong, but its appeal fades within hours once you learn your way around the mechanics. The game really just boils down to managing some numbers via a few menus.

Early on, you’re advised to put different amounts of focus on a feature’s aesthetic, usability, or technology, based on the features description. For example, your landing page needs to be pretty. The reality of it is, you eventually want a 10 in all three categories anyway. So the choice largely doesn’t matter once you have talented employees.

Most of the games loop boiled down to hiring the highest skill employees I could afford, let the less talented ones go, and throw the highest skilled employee’s at every feature or job. Send them on vacation to get their motivation back up, repeat.

The events are interesting.

If you get a poor result on a task, you can do a post mortem to find out why. After a couple of hours, I never bothered. You just throw employees with high skill numbers on the job. If a category comes out with less than a point 10 rating, hire or train better employees. Repeat.

As lovely as the games aesthetic is, it’s just static. You can’t interact with your office features, and your employees move around at random. It isn’t indicative of whatever task you gave them. When you buy new furnishings for your office, they are automatically placed. It’s essentially a text-based game with an animated background

Your employees are robotic with no real reason to care about them. Motivation is their only need which, just means sending them on vacation. So.. many…. vacations…. Seriously, my employees got one pretty much every other week. And it was to do awesome stuff like Haunted Mansions, Deep Sea Diving and Mountain Climbing. All of which I paid for. I’m the best CEO ever.

Employee’s are really just simple stat pages with no nuance or personality. It’s kind of ironic that a game about quitting a big corporation and creating a Startup is, at its core, running on the simple concept of bigger numbers is better.

Vacation!

Interestingly enough, the game rarely paints running a Startup as a good thing, even to go as far as to mention that your character is so stressed they can’t believe that have survived for that long. The endgame goal is to achieve one of many retirement goals, such as running a bakery instead.

Every retirement goal has its own criteria, but I can’t see many people replaying Startup Panic. You would just be going through the same already simplistic and repetitive motions you did the first time. Put your best employees to work on a job, send on vacation, repeat.

Verdict

Startup Panic is charming and its soul is there, but the body it occupies is just incredibly shallow. I didn’t dislike my time with it, I was always interested in what was to come. At the same time, however, I had to ask myself what I was doing. The reality was, I was just hitting the same few menu buttons over and over again with no real engaging agency. I was reminded of things like Farmville, where you are hardly playing at all.

It does manage to capture the theme and struggles of a Startup quite well, making it an interesting experience for a couple of hours. I don’t think it’s worth the price on PC, but I could see it being a decent commute time waster with the cheaper mobile versions. But if I’m being brutally honest, being a decent mobile game is an incredibly low bar to meet.

You might also enjoy my review of Parkitect!

A game key for Startup Panic was provided for Gideon’s Gaming by TinyBuild for the purpose of Review.

Pros

  • Charming visuals
  • Humorous writing
  • Accurately thematic, and helps you empathize with Startup struggles

Cons

  • The gameplay loop is shallow, basic and repetitive
  • The visuals are just background noise, no interactivity
  • Employees are lifeless and dull