The most popular video ever on our YouTube channel was my First Play of Startup Company, a business sim in a similar genre to Game Dev Tycoon. Startup Panic is a newcomer to the genre from Indonesian-based Algo.Rocks, so let's see how it compares... is it a ground breaking offering, or just a copycat trying to capitalise on a flooded market?
From the developers - Algo.Rocks
Manage your time as a bedroom programmer. Pick projects, contract-work and vacation days to get by, then start to build some passive income through your startup. Beware though: Once you start hiring your first employees and upgrading your office, you'll attract the attention of competing businesses...
Is Startup Panic anything new?
Well.... yes and no. It's safe to say that Startup Panic isn't just a copy of another game in the genre, but the developers clearly took inspiration from a few of the existing offerings. At best, this game is a mashup of other games to make something slightly different. That in itself is not a bad thing, sometimes a twist can refresh a concept and make it feel new... but I'm not sure they've succeeded this time.
Much like Game Dev Tycoon (and Game Dev Story) you start in your apartment as a one-man team with limited skills and funds. Rather than developing multiple games trying to find one that will be successful, this game follows the progression of just one product, your 'startup' app, and each development is a 'feature' in the app which attracts more concurrent users, which in turn generates money. You can of course accept contract work from outside companies to boost your income, but I found that development of new features was so quick and easy that you were making money off your own back very quickly, and there was very little need to accept any contract work (other than to complete a quest and achievements).
One feature I did enjoy was the ability to go back and revise existing features to improve them, which means you can train up, or hire more staff and then go back and make all your features 10/10... although I did find it was a bit TOO easy to get a perfect score when revising a feature. In fact, that is kind of a running theme through the game, it's a little bit too easy for my liking. It actually feels like they intended for it to be a 'pay to win' mobile app, and then changed their minds and just removed the micro-transactions and just fixed everything at the point it would have been if you had bought the premium upgrades.
Is it playable?
Actually yes! As much as it doesn't break any new ground, the game is quite well put together, and I did find myself playing it for 2 hours solid with the 'just one more feature' mentality. I did feel it was a little slow in places, and the fast forward function didn't really seem to speed things up very much, but had it been much quicker, factoring in the level of ease with which I was making money and adding new features, the game would have probably lacked any feeling of accomplishment. The balance still isn't quite right, but it's ok.
I felt it was a shame that you couldn't choose where to place furniture (like you can in Startup Company) however, the placement of the furniture wouldn't really make a difference to the game since staff don't seem to need to be at their desk to be counted as 'working', and they don't actually interact with any of the other furniture you buy, so I guess where the furniture is placed is just a matter of aesthetics.
Staff motivation is the main challenge to manage in the game. Every task you give your staff to do will sap their motivation, so after 2 or three tasks the quality of their work will be so poor your features will actually be loss making rather than profit making. Staff will (very) slowly recover motivation over time while they are not assigned to a task, or you can pay to send them on vacation (wish I had a boss that paid for my holidays) to recover a bigger chunk of motivation in one go. Motivation drops quickly, perhaps too quickly, so you will find yourself regularly paying for vacations to keep your staff motivated... but as I've already mentioned, making money is quite easy, so I guess they needed something to eat into your profits.
Graphics-wise, the game is reminiscent of the Japanese 'Story' games (Game Dev Story, F1 Story etc). Unlike those games, the staff do actually walk around, and certain furniture items have had animations shoe-horned in to stop it being a picture clicking game, although some of those animations are a bit... odd. It's not going to win any design awards, but the graphics are charming and probably quite appropriate for a game of this nature.
Startup Panic is available on Steam, Epic, Android and iOS. Judging by the fact that the game is available on mobile app stores in the same form as it is for PC, perhaps this game was more targeted at the mobile market, and as far as mobile competition goes, perhaps this does have the edge in that market.
All-in-all the game is OK, fun to kill a few hours, but I can't see it being one you'll get hooked on.