Price: $1.99 (Currently on sale for $0.99)
Version Reviewed: 1
App Reviewed on: iPhone 5
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It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that the high-stakes world of trading stocks and commodities can be stressful. So when a game decides to tackle the same subject matter, it becomes more a question of how it is possible to do so without driving the player crazy. The Firm has the simple answer in the form of repetitive, pixel-art infused gameplay, much in the same vein as the popular PC game, Papers, Please. But is this enough to take the money management world by storm, or will it just drive folks closer to the precipice of frustration?
Who knew that working on Wall Street was just a series of swipes? The core mechanics in The Firm are as simple as flinging stocks either left or right, depending upon whether the player is buying or selling a commodity. While in “buy” mode, the goal is to buy stocks that values are rapidly descending, in hopes that they will eventually rise and rake in the big bucks. The alternate theory applies to “sell” mode, where the idea is to sell while the price is high and hold onto the lower valued stocks.
Though this sounds fairly simple in concept, it doesn’t take long for this stressful grind to reach a fever pitch. All it takes is a couple of incorrect swipes, or missing one of the round’s highlighted stocks, to put the player in a very precarious situation. When the goal is to pour over as many transactions as possible in a short span of time, it doesn’t take long to end up behind the eight ball. Fortunately there are power-ups that can influence the flow of information in several ways. If used effectively, these items can help stave off the inevitable - at least temporarily.
Unfortunately every round ends the same way: with the player’s untimely demise. That’s right, upon losing, it is alluded to (though never shown) that the player jumps out of the window of the high-rise, to be shown as a crumpled heap on the pavement below. Talk about things turning dark in a hurry. Symbolic of the meat grinder that is Wall Street, he lands next to a line of folks that winds out the door, each one waiting for their shot to take his place. And so the cycle starts all over again.
This is where The Firm’s repetitive mechanics could be either a victory or a struggle, depending upon the perspective of the audience. The gameplay rarely varies from what is shown round to round. The only constant is the pavement greeting the player at the end of their run.
As fun as it can be to try and conquer the chaotic world of stock trading, the outcome is always the same: failure. It seems that this may be a purposeful symbolism, but it's still a rather bitter pill to swallow round after round. Some may find this an amusing jaunt temporarily, but the overall lack of variety doesn’t really offer much replay beyond an initial few rounds. Unless you are a glutton for pixel art and self-punishment, this may be a portfolio worth passing on.