Survival horror is an old and storied genre, marked by the combination of tension-raising resource scarcity and a spooky-scary atmosphere. It’s also not to my tastes. So, when Yuppie Psycho was set in front of me, I didn’t know what I was getting into. That proved to be a good thing, as the game gleefully led my naive hand into a nest of horrors.
Yuppie Psycho is a survival horror adventure game with an office-working aesthetic and fairly tight resource management. You take control of Brian Pasternack, a young man coming in for his interview (and prompt first day) for his intimidating first job – which let me empathize with him quite well, given my horror naivete. He ends up employed to hunt a witch that lurks within the company’s walls, rotting it away from the inside. This is quick to spiral into a whirlwind tour of mystery, weird coworkers, and very poor working conditions.
The monsters and traps that haunt this new workplace can hurt you, but you normally can’t hurt them back. On a first playthrough, this means frequent scavenging for the health and saving items you’ll need while making mistakes and falling prey to new hazards. It’s made to feel a lot more stressful than it actually is, and persistent explorers should be fine for the whole game, but, uh… don’t get hit too much.
Oh yes, “saving items”. We’re goin’ classic Resident Evil tonight, and you better believe you have to literally burn some to win!
As I mentioned, you’re rewarded handsomely for exploring. The game’s puzzle-solving uses a mixture of old school adventure game logic and Silent Hill brain teasers, and while this ensures that they’re interesting for the whole game, they can get very obtuse. Now, you won’t need to worry about nonsensical item combinations or anything frustrating like that, but there’s a good chance you’ll need to pull up a guide on your first playthrough.
I use the term “first playthrough” in earnest here, as there’s a lot of secrets and collectibles spread throughout the game, and it’s doubtful that you’ll find them all on your first go. Ranging from goofy little short films by the real group Videoclub Misterio to several helpful items that make completing the endgame easier, there’s a lot to find. The handy save-loading system, accessible right from the pause screen, allows you to go back to locked-off areas with ease. As this is a puzzle-centric horror-adventure, once you know what to do, it doesn’t take very long to get back to any given point in the game.
The writing is very well-done, and the story captured my imagination. Not too sure about the logic behind the symbolic association assigned to Brian, but I appreciate the subtle hinting at wider setting details. Play it yourself to find the specifics, I wouldn’t want to spoil the experience.
The visuals and sound design here are top-notch. The sprite work is well-done on the characters, environments, and even UI, showcasing the game’s blend of western and eastern influences. The sound is exactly what it needs to be at any given moment, and fades in more pleasant music when talking to a friendly character. The tiny snippets of voice acting are a nice touch too. There are also some extra artistic elements made by external sources (like the Videoclub’s tapes), that are interesting and enhance the game’s world.
Getting into the nitty-gritty, there are a few minor issues. Longer character speeches have forward and backward scrolling, but it’s rather odd why it isn’t available for all text. There are some minor visual glitches and a teensy bit of pathing trouble for enemies in complex areas, but nothing game-breaking. In fact, the final glitch I encountered enhanced my experience a bit with a harmless jumpscare. Don’t worry about those, by the way. This game usually knows better and prefers to just maintain a creepy atmosphere while teasing danger.
On major gameplay flaws, aside from some puzzles being frustratingly obtuse, there’s the seeming pointlessness of the glowsticks (they’re invalidated by your basic flashlight), the lack of tension regarding your battery count (which isn’t REALLY a complaint, if I’m being honest), and… the boss fights. I accept that horror games have a long history of obfuscation and somewhat dodgy design that enhances their experience, but these approached the realm of annoyance, and a later one, despite seeming to be the most straightforward, led to me bleeding my entire stock of health items just to get through it. I’ll concede that I could have done better, but how else do you deal with a massive, mobile, invisible hitbox that kills you in seconds? The final boss encounter is also basically nonexistent, but the ending, especially if you finished with high completion, makes up for it.
It was a rocky start, but I grew to love the world of survival horror Yuppie Psycho introduced me to. That doesn’t mean I’ll be pursuing the genre, but I don’t feel as tepid about starting, say, a run of Resident Evil. It’s not a long game once you know how to navigate it, and players have found evidence that there may be a bit more coming in the future, so I’m interested in going back at some point to find what I missed. Yuppie oozes with passion and charm, and I’m interested to see what else the developers have in store for the future. If you enjoy your time with it, try checking out the free game Mouth Sweet, as it sports a similar corporate horror premise with a wildly different direction.