Night of the Consumers takes no time lulling players in. They enter the world as just another supermarket worker, beginning their shift for the day and tossing their personal belongings in a locker. Ominously, a fellow employee bursts through the double doors just as you are about to leave and vomits, the work having taken its toll. They warn you of the hungry customers outside and, with an anxious hand, you push the doors open and enter a nightmare.
The latest game from developer germfood offers the similar retro aesthetics of their other titles. The visuals are gloriously old-fashioned and suit the simple gameplay. Essentially, once players start their shift they must stock 10 shelves before the timer runs out and the shift ends and the store closes. Sounds simple enough, right? It would be, but then there are those pesky titular consumers. What results has been making the rounds on the usual Let’s Play horror channels, Markiplier among them.
Once the store opens, the consumers spawn in and run, walk, jumping jack, or ride their electric scooters around and will stop you to demand that you show them where a specific item or aisle is. Sometimes you get lucky and it’s one or two aisles over, but often the consumer demands something on the other side of the store. You have three tries to take them to the right area, and as you stock more shelves, you have less time to take care of the request. One of the prompts from a mother consumer is that she lost her baby, and finding and returning it in time as the game goes on grows to be near-impossible.
As you dash around the store, mind in a frenzy, it gets harder to remember where each aisle is and where the remaining boxes may be. The only respite is offered in any of the employees-only areas which the consumers cannot enter, though they too are scattered and lock up once a customer has asked you for something. Upon successfully restocking ten shelves, the player is praised by a rather creepy manager. If they fail, the lights go out and that manager bee-lines it toward them, resulting in a firing on the spot – in classic jump-scare fashion.
The art style adds to the creep factor in what could definitely be considered a horror game. The strange sound design and overall anxiety one feels while playing complement this, but once players get in the zone of quickly stocking shelves and then ducking into the employees-only areas to hide for a few seconds, it’s a blast despite the steep challenge. It controls well too, even when clicking and dragging to move things from boxes to the shelves.
Indie horror games have always excelled at offering unique, bite-sized experiences that can be completed in a couple of hours. Night of the Consumers is among their ranks, with a fresh premise and style that emphasizes just how awful working retail can be. It’s brief, challenging, and fun, with a great personality to boot. For the low price of $1.93, curious players can spend quarantine reminiscing on the world before social-distancing, wherein as many retail employees know, no one is ever afraid to get in your face.
Colton is a computer science student at SUNY Fredonia who hails from Buffalo, NY and would much rather be writing articles, scripts, and poems than code. Find him stressing in your nearest coffee shop. A few of his favorite games are Half Life/Half Life 2, Resident Evil 4 and Super Mario 64.