by Stuart Urback
On paper, Good Job! should not be fun. A game about completing menial labor around a corporate office: plugging in wi-fi outlets, cleaning up spills, arranging furniture is not the stuff that streams are made of. In fact, it’s easy to imagine a pandemic-free world where Good Job! is relegated to the bin of indies with interesting ideas but not much longevity. But this game was perfect for a moment when lockdowns became the norm and the sense of normality slipped away. It’s a perfect fit of comfortable puzzles, awkward hilarity, wrapped up in an undercurrent of “rage against the system” that matched my emotional state at the time. As a result, it managed to become one of the few games I would complete in 2020.
Good Job! was designed by Paladin Studios and published in Spring 2020 by Nintendo exclusively for the Nintendo Switch. It is (roughly speaking) an isometric puzzle game where the player completes 4 or 5 puzzles per level, with 9 levels in total. Each level is a floor on a small skyscraper and the player is almost literally “climbing the corporate ladder”. It’s a game where the puzzles, theme, and humor combine into a package worth more than the sum of each part.
While Good Job! is ostensibly a simple game about mundane tasks, the fun lies in the chaos it allows you to play with. For example, in some scenarios you will need to position moveable Wi-Fi into the right spaces so that everyone in a room has access. This is constrained by the number of carts, the location of the plugs that you will have to plug in, and the location of the workers. But you can solve this puzzle any number of different ways. For example, you could simply position the carts in the exact locations so that they would reach people, only to realize that the electric cords don’t quite reach. You could then see the Wi-Fi repeaters nearby, reposition them neatly, and complete the task- easy-peasy.
But, instead of noticing the repeaters, you might continue tugging at the cord, hoping, like one does when one tries to install electronic equipment, that physical reality will bend to your will. As you vainly pull them to their limits, you might casually hit the A-button to drop the cord, rather than walk it back to the socket. Instead of dropping to the ground, or gracefully retracting into the socket, the now taut cord will flail around the room, shattering potted plants, knocking over water coolers, and potentially even destroying some walls.
You might decide that this is unacceptable, and restart the level. Or, instead, upon seeing just how flexible the game world is to possibilities, you might go down a different path. You experiment, realizing you can push your coworkers around in chairs, instead of bringing the Wi-Fi to them, you bring them to the Wi-Fi. Your goal is efficiency, so you push them in chairs and then fling the rolling chairs to the correct section of the room where you’ve set up the router.
Ok so I didn't quite get all 30, but I got close.
This captures the brilliance of Good Job!. Succeed or fail, the game rewards and encourages you to think about clever ways to solve problems and lets you indulge in the chaos we all sometimes feel like creating when we’re hemmed in by arcane rules and restrictions. In doing so, it gives players a sense of control over an environment where they rarely feel empowered, a corporate office. When I was sitting in my house, for the 16th hour of the day because I was unable to go into work, the release I felt from that game was immeasurable. It was so freeing.
The game evokes feelings of the banality of an office with its water coolers, fake potted plants, plain art and utilitarian equipment, and then lets you tear it apart. It also allows for whimsy with fun uniforms that you can collect along the way. And at the end of each level it gives you the highest score of one of three categories (per Destructoid), the quickest completion time, the fewest items broken, or the total cost of items broken (less cost is better).
While in the strictest sense Good Job! is a puzzle game, I wouldn’t recommend it to fans of the genre, or recommend people who hate puzzles to stay away from it. For most the levels, there aren’t “puzzles” to unlock or deeper understandings about the system/world to tap into. Instead of teaching you specific concepts, the game gives you a basic goal and then a lot of space to accomplish it however your heart desires. It’s that constrained freedom that spoke to me. The task was narrow enough for my brain to have something specific to latch onto, but the possibility space was so wide that I could let go and try whatever random thought popped into my head.
And here's me destroying a meditation center.
The game effectively uses physical comedy. From the flailing electric cords, to the gelatinous cube that wobbles and knocks over items as you drag it through a science lab, to the vacuum that quickly picks up speed until it’s dragging you around the office until you let go. Good Job! seems to understand what it’s aiming for and rewards you in those moments. Most of the humor comes from the fact that doing that thing is awkward. Sofas have to be pulled through tiny doorways; a giant pink cubic blob has to be dragged across a lab; weird pink goo has to be pressure washed off the floor.
There was this one moment moving a couch through an office that felt too real. I had successfully dragged the couch to the correct room, but because the angle wasn’t quite right, the couch didn’t simply slide into the room. It got stuck. Rather than stopping to consider my options I tried to wiggle, squirm, and bump my controller to get my character to magically slide the couch into the room. It was reminiscent of all the times in my life, in the non-digital world, I had encountered this exact situation (moving in, moving out, getting new furniture). But rather than give up or pause to reconsider the situation, my next thought my was “What if I just break the wall?”. The game managed to capture the desperate frustration of the moment, but also to let me escape into a fantasy land where causing wanton destruction was in fact a very valid way to complete my desired objective.
The game is also quite generous, and there are few moments where I found myself unsure of what to do next, or confused about where a missing piece might be. There aren’t hidden unlocks or secret tunnels to find, just a series of brightly colored markers to complete, with some modest logic in between. And, if you find yourself in a position where your character is physically stuck, there’s a helpful “reset player” option in the menu, which will reset your location to the start of the level, but won’t erase any of your progress. In addition, there’s no penalty from falling from great heights. It’s a small thing, but it suggests the developers knew what mattered most to the game, and that specific physical reality was (correctly) not a part of it.
If you own a Nintendo Switch, the answer is: “Right now!”. The game is so comfortable and comforting, even as you cause wanton destruction of an office building. The game has enough content to keep you entertained, but not so much content that you’re bored before the end.
If you’ve completed this game and are looking for the next adventure, there are two games that jump to mind. One is the aforementioned Untitled Goose Game which is equally cheeky, but with more of a stealth bent. If co-operative puzzle solving is more your speed Human Fall Flat is a great time either online or couch co-op, with similar hi-jinks and physical humor.
The opinions in this post are expressly the views of the author and do not reflect the views of their employer(s) or any entities that they might otherwise be affiliated.
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