Hector Plasm, a brute of a character who might not be very intelligent but makes up for it in sheer bravery (that’s what we’ll call it), works the late shift, capturing ghosts and saving civilians. The idea of Dead End Job is a lot like the Ghostbusters franchise. You injure an enemy enough to put them in a weakened state, then capture them using a vacuum of some sort. The goal isn’t really about rescuing people or even being a hero. Instead, this is set up as a business to make money. You take on “help wanted” ads as side quests and as you make money you’ll open up new areas that have new types of ghost enemies to fight. You gain a lot of money bonuses based on time completed, items collected, captured enemies, and can simply find dollar bills within the missions. It’s sort of a dungeon-crawling, top-down, twin-stick shooter that utilizes the triggers on the controller. If this sounds like the job for you, no interview will be needed! You start now.
Here’s what I liked:
I Ain’t Afraid of No Ghost — So I’m afraid of all ghosts? While you won’t find the Marshmallow Man or a cool station wagon to drive, you will definitely get the vibes that you’re a ghostbuster. There are even slime dogs! At first, when I played, I thought it was a bit too easy. But as I continued, I realized there were some chaotic rooms that I would get killed in. There is chemistry the ghosts have that seems to work well. You have different classes you will encounter that compliment each other. For example, the slime dog I mentioned leaves behind a trail of purple sludge that severely slows you down when you walk in it. If you’re caught in this, it’s hard to dodge the incoming ectoplasmic bullets flying in your direction. Or, maybe you’re hiding behind a desk from the bullets and a charging enemy rushes at you. These enemies are never difficult one-on-one, but when you’re facing them at the same time they can make you need to strategize who to take out first. There’s also a really cool look to the enemies. They have this neon look to them that almost radiates a glow, but still has transparency. The ghosts are also not just human forms. They can be ice cream cones, blobs, and saw blades. I guess they’re possessed. These enemies are not scary in the slightest and you’ll have a blast blasting them.
Progression — What makes you keep playing a game? For me, it’s having a lot of things to do and records to prove I’ve accomplished them. So I was pleased to know there was a book in the headquarters that will let you know pretty much everything you’ve done. It tells you how many jobs you’ve done, time played, and just a bunch of other statistics. I especially like these records because it helps me keep track of my achievement progress to a degree (yet another way to prove my accomplishments). What’s funny is no one actually knows I’ve done any of this stuff, it’s not like there’s a leaderboard I can brag about. It’s just all in my head that I’ve done something with my life in those hours that I played. Okay, back to the game. Within this handbook of stats, you can see all ghosts you’ve caught. There are slick animations and information about them as well as how many you’ve brought to justice. It’s a nice break to browse the book. You can even unlock stuff in a concept gallery that shows you first drawings and ideas. It’s really neat.
Here’s what I didn’t like:
Item Confusion — There is a ton of different items you can collect and attempt to use to help you out. You can eat various snacks, obtain power-ups, and even use different weapons for a short period of time. The main problem is that you hardly ever know what’s going to happen when you use them. Scissors, for example, I have used a handful of times and all that has done was injure me. So when I realize I’ve picked one up, I am a little annoyed. It takes up one of two items you can hold at one time and there is no way to ditch the object when you find a new one. Let’s say, for example, I find a nice machine gun on the ground but have a pizza and an apple. I cannot do anything with the gun. I have to go get injured on purpose to be able to use the food to free up a spot. I figure “hey, why am I being stupid about this? I’ll just go to the handbook where it lists all the items you’ve used” so I can learn what they do. I was wrong; instead of helpful information about these items, it attempts to be funny. “Don’t run with scissors, kids.” What? Is this a riddle!? Am I supposed to stand still when I use these and see what happens? I’m certainly not picking up scissors again. So yeah, some items are pretty cool but I just wish I knew what the (enter explicit word here) to do with them.
I had never heard of this game, even though it came out a few years before this review. But with Halloween coming up at the time of writing, it seemed like a fine time to give it a try. I liked the simplicity that could still be difficult at times, without being overwhelmingly frustrating. It can be calm and hectic all at the same time. I enjoyed the artistic approach very much, especially the way the ghosts looked. Leveling up (being promoted) over and over again was always exciting. My biggest concern is the way items are used. Not being able to drop them is a problem, but even more so is the fact I don’t know what most of them really do (with no help from the in-game manual that covers them). It’s too random for my taste and besides just using them all once, only the heal items make much of a real difference. Somehow the game doesn’t get boring even when repeating the same levels (because they are never actually the same, they’re random). If you’re after the usual horror games for Halloween this will not give you that craving. However, if you’d rather just have some casual fun within the spirit of ghosts, then you can at least play this on the side.
Score: Highly Recommended
Dead End Job was published by Headup GmbH and developed by Ant Workshop Ltd. on Xbox One. It was released on December 13, 2019, for $16.99. A copy was provided for review purposes.