Remember when games were all about high scores?
When cinematic presentation, advanced A.I. and 3D open worlds were just a pipe dream and gameplay reigned as king? I do, and whilst I don’t look upon those days overly fondly, sometimes it’s nice to take a trip down memory lane by playing something similarly old-fashioned; something that is just pure gameplay and no filler, where the only real aim is to secure a high score on the leaderloards. My Night Job by Webcore Games is one such game, and whilst it possesses many of the vital ingredients that a classic score-driven arcade game should have, one thing lets it down: it’s just not much fun to play.
Your task in My Night Job is simple; venture into a spooky abandoned mansion that no emergency services seem to dare enter, and rescue 100 survivors that have inexplicably found themselves in there. Now that would be easy if all you had to do was find your way around the place, gathering up all the hapless individuals stuck within before getting the hell out of there, but unfortunately the mansion has been infested with all manner of ghastly monsters too. Monsters that are as violent and destructive as they are grotesque and varied.
The gameplay of My Night Job essentially boils down to be a scrolling beat’em up in which you attack, jump and dodge to combat the forces of evil whilst going about your business. Whilst you only have one attack button, there is a huge range of weapons (over 60 apparently) available in the mansion. In fact, pretty much anything you can get your hands on can be weaponised, such as TVs, brooms, motorcycles and chests. Of course, the best weapon you can have when faced with a ghastly threat is a gun, and the chances are you’ll find a few of them during your heroic exercise, but if there’s nothing at hand you can always rely on your bare fists to do the talking too.
It’s all well and good fighting for your own life, but you have to remember that your main aim is to fight for the survivors you’ve discovered too, granting them safe passage to one of the many helicopter escape areas littered on the external areas of the mansion. You can gather as many survivors as you want all at once, and some will even assist you with defending the group if armed, but the more you have in your entourage the more cluttered the screen becomes with bodies, obscuring your view of the action which may lead to casualties. The best tactic then is to gather small groups of five or six before heading to an escape point, with all the survivors making it to safety providing a boost to your score and quite often a bonus such as gun or small boost of health.
Adding an element of strategy to the whole proceedings though is your management of the rooms of the mansion itself. Leave any room unattended for too long and monsters will accumulate in it, jumping up and down like rockers in a mosh pit. Eventually, their concerted efforts to “stomp” the room will see it destroyed, preventing any more survivors from spawning in it unless you get there beforehand and eradicate the ghoulish perpetrators. This means that if you want to make it to the end and save 100 survivors, managing rooms effectively is a must; going from one to the other, thinning out the hordes of miscreants before they become too unmanageable. The trouble is, as time passes the harder it gets, eventually making your task truly challenging.
When your health is depleted, you save 100 survivors, or all the rooms get destroyed its game over unfortunately. Your score is tallied up and placed on a leaderboard, and if you’ve cut the mustard you’re asked to enter your three digit initials, just like in the good old days. From there, all you can do is start the game anew and try again, hopefully this time with more luck. There are no other modes to try or options to change the gameplay in any meaningful way, although the fact that the actual PSN trophies you can earn by playing the game unlock in-game bonuses is a nice touch.
With its charming 2D graphics and unique premise, My Night Job truly is a game full of character. Unfortunately though, character is not enough to make the game fun or sufficiently engaging to play in the long term. It’s not a bad game by any means; its mechanics work rather well and there are no technical issues to speak of, but it’s just missing that vital hook. After playing it, you never feel the urge to dive right back in for one more go like an arcade game should. In the end, My Night Job comes across as inexplicably mediocre. That’s not to say that some players may not thoroughly enjoy it in short, sharp bursts however.