Review: Startup Panic
By: L. Sahara McGirt (DarthSagaSwag)
Developer: Algo Rocks
Available on: PC (Steam, GOG), Android, iOS
Reviewed on: PC
Have you ever imagined yourself as an entrepreneur with your own startup? Have you ever wondered if you would do well or fail but don't want to get into the entrepreneur hustle in real life because of the risk? Startup Panic might be the right substitute for you.
I play many business simulation games, especially anything with "tycoon" in the title. Whether it's on my Android or PC, I enjoy them for passing the time. Surprisingly, Startup Panic was a business simulation game that did not manage to catch my attention on the Google Play store due to low reviews for how it plays on mobile. However, when I saw that it was coming to PC, I was a little more interested in seeing whether it plays well and is compelling enough to keep playing once begun.
Startup Panic starts players out as a desk jockey at a big corporation. The main character quits after an announcement of crunch to go into business themselves. Thus begins the journey towards making their startup the best in the game. Whether or not they get there depends on players' maneuvers to ensure their success or whether players bungle it entirely.
Startup Panic is not like the typical business simulation in that I did a tutorial and was left to my devices of trying to grow my business exponentially. This game comes with plenty of story, with different competing startups appearing as the business grows, each of whom trips up progress and makes the game more and more difficult. There are also events, including an annoying ghost of failed entrepreneurs past, that makes progression in the game tricky. (No, literally, there is a ghost, and she makes a lot of annoying demands.)
Competitors in Startup Panic should not be taken lightly as they undercut profits immediately and drastically. These competitors range from a typical corporate bro to a business mogul who throws money at everything and a past friend who puts tech over people. They're rather compelling characters in that their appearances made me want to destroy and topple their businesses with the superiority of my app? Website? I wasn't exactly sure what I was developing as the game went, but it seemed to do with technology and the internet.
What my startup developed was not the only mystery to me as I played Startup Panic. What is the endgame? Is my final goal to ultimately become like the big soulless corporation like the Big Company my character started in? Startup Panic never really answers that, but there is an endgame in that players may choose to retire at any point after a decade or more in the business hustle. What's interesting about this aspect is the ending players can choose depend on the achievements made throughout their startup's lifetime.
Many of the business/tycoon simulation games I have played in the past are pretty easy to get the hang of; Startup Panic is not. I failed four startups before I got the hang of the game, and even then, I'm not entirely sure I quite figured out the whole of it. The aspects of running a successful startup required a lot of guessing on my part, and perhaps that is true to life as not everyone that decides to be an entrepreneur seems to know what they're doing.
Growing my startup was a mixture of elements. Picking which employees to complete tasks from tech development to contracts and marketing depended on choosing the most balanced team. Work is scored by aesthetic, usability, and technology, and employees have these three skills + marketing. It's not exactly clear how scores were determined on each development/completed contract, but once I got a good guess on how things worked, I managed to succeed more often than not.
Employees are quickly demotivated by how much work they're putting in, and demotivated employees could cause a job to fail. The major lesson in Startup Panic seemed to be that employees should have as many vacations as possible to keep up their motivation and job performance. Which I am not entirely against, but it created an endless cycle of development + contract + vacation, rinse and repeat over and over again. Yet somehow, I found the game compelling enough to keep playing until I reached a point where my startup was making a satisfying amount of money.
Perhaps the end goal depends entirely on myself and what I am satisfied with? Either way, Startup Panic, as it turns out, plays well on the PC. Some other points that work in its favor are that it is not overdone and is fairly simple in gameplay once I got the hang of it. The bright, colorful aesthetics belie the game's difficulty, and the soundtrack, while worthy of hotel lobbies and elevators, was nothing intrusive on the experience of it.
Startup Panic has been available on Android and iOS since 2020 but is currently 10% off on Steam and GOG for $13.49. If you're a fan of business simulation games, it's worth a playthrough.
Thanks to tinyBuild for providing a code for the purposes of this review.