by Tom Mackey
reviewed on PC
My Night Job can now claim to have achieved something that few other retro platformers can. Sure there have been others, and in a lot of cases they have been actually quite good. But despite their quaint retro visuals and efforts at stimulating warm nostalgic fuzzy feelings, they've all just fallen short of a certain mark. Perhaps this is a very personal thing, and something unique to me, but the whole aesthetic of My Night Job stoked some deep seated rose-tinted memories of my gaming days gone by. Maybe it’s just a sign that I’ve finally been worn down by the relentless onslaught of cutely animated 2D side-scrollers, but it won me over. Is it the perfect game? No. But sometimes there is a lot to be said for pure charm.
My Night Job is a comedy/horror/action side-scroller that in essence drops you empty handed into the midst of a monstrous horde inhabiting a classic spooky mansion. Your somewhat arcade-esque objective is then to prevent the pretty much inevitable destruction of the mansion and rescue 100 survivors. The mansion is made up of 4 rooms, and if said rooms are totaled, it’s game over, laddy. As you work your way through the mansion and its bloodthirsty occupants, you pass survivors who will then follow you to one of the few helipads around to be rescued. Rescuing more survivors earns you money, weapons and other powerups. These help to boost your chances, as the other weapons you can use are scattered about the levels, as well as usable environmental objects. The special bonuses you can receive are tied specifically to the six special survivors you can rescue. I won’t spoil any of the nods to other games/horror/movie franchises in here, but they are there and will probably prompt a laugh or two.
The bonuses you receive will definitely come in handy as this is not an easy game by any stretch of the imagination and its difficulty level certainly respects the older side-scrollers that inspired it. The arcade-y element of this game comes into play every time the difficulty gets too much and you meet your monstrous maker. At the end of each play-through you receive a score, which is added to the leaderboards. Beyond that there is nothing really, beyond achievements to take on with you to further play-throughs. The game is a little Rogue-like as well in that respect. When you die, you are dead. The only cherry to tempt you to continue is that pesky leaderboard, and for those with the itch to see their name at the top, it may be able to extend the playtime somewhat. The gameplay does not particularly change things up much though, beyond the special survivors randomly spawning in different locations in each play through. The controls are not difficult to get a grip on, but the difficulty level combined with the lack of replayability over a short-ish space of time, means the gameplay was not really enough to keep me around for long.
What kept me invested in this game for longer though was that peculiar charm I alluded to earlier. There have been plenty of games that have used a cartoonish retro pixelated style to invoke nostalgia, but none have had as much of an effect on me as this. The character design is perfectly quaint, with the majority of the survivors being such regular Joes that I couldn't help but feel begrudgingly attached to them and the situation they'd gotten themselves into. The animation style is endearing and reminiscent of old children’s books and games. From the monsters, of which there is a decent selection, to the special survivors, everything is rendered with a quaint charm. This includes the levels as well. The mansion is portrayed with loving detail that never feels the same from turn to turn. The colour palette is also vibrant and varied, and serves to draw your eye to the small details hidden all over the place. There are also nods and straight up tributes to various movie/videogame and horror movie characters scattered throughout My Night Job. These fall perfectly into place within the game’s overall aesthetic, and the humorous take it has on its genre. That humour is definitely a plus here, and the game’s opening sets the tone for the rest of your experience perfectly. The soundtrack also fits this theme, as it is simultaneously retro arcade and horror movie inspired. It fits the action on screen really well and doesn't distract from the gameplay or feel shoehorned in at all.
Great combination of sound and visuals
Ultimately it was the combination of sound and visuals that charmed me so quickly into having a certain soft spot for this game. Despite the short playtime and lack of content, there was enough decent gameplay and challenge in My Night Job to keep me playing long enough for the charm to not wear off immediately. If you are looking for a 2D side-scroller then there are better ones out there. But few manage to do it with quite as much nostalgic charm as this.
Fantastic visuals and sound, straight forward gameplay
Difficult, lack of replayability