Title: Dead End Job
Available on: Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Apple Arcade
Developer: Ant Workshop
Publisher: Headup Games
Genre: Twin Stick Shooter
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Official Site: https://deadendjob.ant-workshop.com/
Release Date: Out now
Where to Buy: Eshop, Steam, PSN, Xbox Marketplace, Apple Arcade
I’ll be honest with you and let you know that when I was asked to review Dead End Job, I wasn’t excited. I hadn’t seen much on the game, and it seemed to be your average everyday twin-stick shooter. These sorts of games are everywhere, and I wasn’t sure Dead End Job would hold my attention more than any of the others.
After booting up the game, I could see that I did not need to worry. The opening song is funny and helps to showcase the art style, which looks just like a ’90s cartoon and evokes wonderful memories of gems such as Ren & Stimpy.
Dead End Job stars an overweight ghostbuster by the name of Hector Plasm, who, unfortunately, finds himself, one co-worker, down thanks to an accident involving a sandwich. The premise after that is simple. Hector must take jobs eliminating ghosts to earn enough money to resurrect his dead colleague within 30 days. Classic.
The story is pretty lacking, and most of it is presented through text-based dialogue in between missions. I didn’t mind this, though, as what we do get is funny and well presented. I was more interested in the gameplay, although I would have loved about 20 more songs.
I ain’t afraid of no copyright infringement
The game does play like most other twin-stick shooters; however, it has its own charm that, for me, helps to elevate it above quite a few other games in the genre. Presented in a top-down aspect, as expected, Hector runs around random dungeons shooting ghosts with his plasma gun before sucking them up with his trusty vacuum cleaner.
Doing either of these actions will cause the equipment to heat up and overheat if the player doesn’t back off the buttons. This can lead to some sticky situations if you’re not careful, and with only three hits before you die, careful is something you need to be.
Sucking up enough ghosts will allow Hector to level up in the form of a promotion. Each level shows a higher rank on Hector’s employment card and brings with it certain perks. After each promotion, you’ll have a choice of 3 employee benefits. These perks can range from extra firepower, better weapon cooldown, or extra hit points.
The higher level you are, the easier things get.
The levels themselves are broken down into different themed districts. Each district requires the player to earn a certain amount of money before they are unlocked and, shock horror, they get harder as they go along.
Moving around the levels is an absolute joy; the cartoon style looks lovely and means that Dead End Job will always look pretty nice, even in 50 years. It does have some issues, though.
Shooting the ghosts is fun; however, the game uses a semi auto-aim system. The player uses the right stick to aim in the general direction, and the bullets will go where they want. Mostly, this works well, but there are occasions where it will not shoot where you want, and this can cause early death.
I found myself having to adjust my position a fair amount to compensate, not that it was too much of an issue; it’s just worth pointing out.
The biggest problem throughout my entire time with Dead End Job was slowdown. I haven’t played any of the other versions, so I can’t comment on those, but the Switch suffers from it a fair bit. It isn’t a game-breaker as it only happens when things get hectic, but it is noticeable and offputting.
I was almost glad to find it as I was having so much fun during my playthrough and needed to find some negatives for the end.
Gallery of ghosts
The levels themselves are relatively bog-standard and are nothing to write home about, the ghosts, on the other hand, are an entirely different matter.
Each ghost is fairy different and will try to attack Hector differently. Some will slime him, some will charge at him, and others will launch projectiles, making me feel as if I was playing a bullet hell on occasions.
I loved the design of the ghosts on the whole and found them to be pretty amusing, especially the Microsoft paperclip. I’ve waited years to shoot that little so and so.
Each dungeon has several citizens (idiots as they are called) to rescue. Saving them is as simple as dispatching every ghost that occupies the room they are trapped in. Rescue them all, and it’s a choice of either leaving with the job complete or hitting the remaining rooms to earn more money — a nice bit of risk/reward.
Oh, I mentioned above about the extra benefits that promotions bring; what I didn’t tell you is if you die, you’ll lose all your perks and have to start as a basic employee once again. Any money earned is still yours, but the upgrades are lost. This happened to me near the end when I was a superhero, and I can’t begin to explain how devastating this felt.
Excuse me, Sir, may I see your reference?
The whole package is scored with some genuinely great music, which is composed by Will Morton of Grand Theft Auto fame. It fits in very well, and the biggest compliment I could give it is that half the time, I didn’t even notice there was music. It’s not that I couldn’t hear it but that it just blends in perfectly.
Finally, we come to my favorite aspect of the game, the references. There are various power-ups to collect as you play. Some of these will be helpful and will do things such as restore health; others will have a negative effect. Once you have picked up a new item, they will appear in the main menu, complete with reference to something that you will probably enjoy.
I spent absolutely hours trying to find all of these and way too long looking at each reference. They are mostly hilarious and joyful. I won’t go through any and ruin the surprise, but I found references to all sorts of properties, including The Simpsons, Resident Evil, and even British darts based game show Bullseye.
I enjoyed my time with Dead End Job, Ant Workshop has done an excellent job with it and has heaped on lashings of nostalgia.
With a game that borrows so heavily from so many other sources (GhostBusters, Luigi’s Mansion, etc.) it would be easy to label it as a lazy ripoff. Oftentimes I might agree. With the case of Dead End Job, it couldn’t feel farther from the truth. The whole thing feels like a love letter to classics that are made by fans.
Verdict: Dead End Job is a fun game that’s full of charm. It has some issues with the slowdown, and some players may find it repetitive. It is perfect for playing in short bursts and is something I could see myself coming back to again and again. The amount of references is astounding, and I don’t think I’ve smiled at a game this much in years.
- Great style and full of references
- Easy to pick up and play
- Wonderful music
- Does suffer from some slowdown
- Some may find it repetitive
- Auto-aim can feel off