What would be an evil version of Facebook be like? Oh, right… that’d be Facebook.
But, thanks to Startup Panic, you can create a social media empire where you don’t get hauled in front of congress for being a law unto no-one but yourself. This PC-based pixel-art sim sees you quitting your job and starting a social media empire that, with half a chance, will turn you into Bizarro Mark Zuckerburg.
One of Startup Panic‘s neat touches is that, when you’re adding features to your simulated site, you can choose how to balance usability, technology and aesthetics. I decided I was going to be Elon Musk, so I started cranking out features that were technologically advanced, pretty to look at, but ultimately functionless. My ‘innovations’ went down like a lead balloon, forcing me to actually doing something useful.
Fortunately, Startup Panic does offer plenty of opportunity for mayhem and unethical conduct later in the game. You can be on the receiving end of said behaviour or, having resigned from your job due to excessive overwork, you can inflict that misery on your employees. I steered clear of crunch but the temptation was always there.
I’m hoping that, if I do fall to the dark side on a subsequent playthrough, there’ll be actual consequences. But then again, Startup Panic does try to echo real business so I wouldn’t be surprised if the overall consequences are minimal. Still, whatever path you take, building up your empire is entertaining enough, and it’s a real rush when you to get to recruit your first non-goldfish employee.
That said, there’s one thing about Startup Panic that never really landed for me. Since you’re running a social media company, you don’t really have any actual products to speak of. Hence, it feels a little abstract adding features to an undefinable thing. If you were, for example, running an exercise or diet startup, that’d give you something to visualise. Even when you’re physically expanding your business, every now and then you realise you’re not entirely sure why you’re successful.
Sure, you’ve got your customers addicted to your services but… what are those services again? Hang on… you’re a big fraud. Oh God… what if people find out? You’ll be ruined! But while your company can collapse under the weight of your bad decisions, no-one ever calls you out on your mysterious lack of a service. And, before you know it, you’re pondering the market value of a human soul.
Whatever your ethical stance, Startup Panic is an entertaining little sim that will give you the opportunity to put your business resolve to the test. If you feel like taking the reigns of an up-and-coming social media empire that does something really vague, Startup Panic is worth a go.
Startup Panic is available on Android, iOS and PC via Epic.