What first caught my eye with Baroque Decay’s Yuppie Psycho was its billing as a “First Job Survival Horror.” Having completed the game, I can say that this sums up the game’s humorous and original take on the genre. Personality-driven games are always something I’m on the lookout for and Yuppie Psycho delivers this in strides. Its core strength is its story. Brian Pasternack, a meek victim of a dystopian class classification system, comes from the suburbs to the capital after he’s given the opportunity of a lifetime: A cushy job at the prestigious Sintracorp and an upgrade to the top of the class ladder. Nerves turn to terror as it is revealed that monsters, death and danger lurk around every corner and, in fact, Brian’s real job is to kill the Witch that’s controlling the company.
Yuppie Psycho has a lot to say about class hierarchies, obsessive workplace meritocracy and the ways the rich use and abuse the poor, using the Witch and her magic as a metaphor for each. While I could criticize the game for being on-the-nose with these themes, the game carries enough self-awareness and humor to make it part of its appeal. It’s a biting satire of the pressures to succeed in large corporations and it uses horror and comedy to convey this. One such example is the legion of disillusioned employees that have become mindless drones in suits, happy to walk over their dead co-workers to complete their fruitless tasks. Office spaces become horror mazes and, just when you think the game has become formulaic, it switches it up and presents you with something new. The game uses its story and genre to craft a fresh and creative setting.
But how does this coincide with gameplay? I’m a fan of how survival horror is implemented into Yuppie Psycho as it allows for a lot of challenge and strategy.
Using a printer with a specific type of paper is the only way you can save your progress as there’s no autosave. This isn’t just a gimmick or running joke as your always thinking when the best time to save is. Furthermore, these papers can be used for other things as well, meaning you’ll need good judgment when deciding how to use them. One drawback to this is that I never ran out of paper nor was I ever in short supply. I found that the abundance of paper at my disposal did diminish the tension somewhat. In typical survival horror fashion, food, serving as health, is scattered throughout the building and you can combine certain items together to get more use out of them. Thankfully, this was in short supply and I was cautioned not to use it all up at once.
Brian Pasternack isn’t a fighter and you can’t simply shoot your enemies. In fact, what I love is that the game has no weapons at all! Instead, it demands that you use what you have learned and what you’ve picked up to overcome obstacles and opponents in clever ways. Nothing’s ever straight forward and you must rely on your intuition. I found that this was utilized in the boss fights as well. One level teaches you stealth, for instance, so this is what you must use to dodge the boss. Unfortunately, I did find when playing (in boss fights especially) that I’d get caught on bits of the environment, resulting in a frustrating death. In addition to this, the AI on the second boss fight was prone to trap me in the corner and meandered around quite a lot.
The game forces you to pay attention and I found myself remembering small details that came in handy later. This even works in a social sense as listening to what people say or speaking to them again with new information is instrumental to progress. It helps that the dialogue is fun, witty and sometimes cryptic or tense, with characters that are all bizarre and likable. While the game starts off holding your hand, it eventually relinquishes its grip and allows you to explore and connect the dots for yourself. Naturally, the puzzles get harder to solve as the game progresses, adding to the challenge.
Despite this, the game still manages to present information and story to you in a compelling and organic way. I found that I was unable to close my laptop, I was determined to push on. Despite this, even in the later stages, a lot of the puzzles were too easy to solve and I wish there were less obvious solutions to them. On the other hand, others were very tricky and the solutions made sense, meaning I kicked myself for not getting them sooner. Alternate endings allow for some replayability but I found that the decisions needed to determine these endings mainly occurred in the final act. However, if you rush through on your first playthrough you may discover more on your second as the game offers collectibles in the form of live-action VHS horror shorts.
Live action segments are a radical departure from the game’s 8-bit art style, which uses minimalism in its character and environment design. The characters stand out from the ocean of identical, nameless suited drones and you catch on quick as to what you can and cannot interact with. Things are easy to make out and 8-bit never detracts from the experience. Segments and characters that require more complex animations and designs are given just that. Monster designs are very creepy and macabre. The game doesn’t just put teeth on a stapler and call it a day, it blends the mundane with the surreal and ghoulish. My favorite design is the Dot Matrix, which I won’t spoil here. The game also takes inspiration from Anime, meaning that characters are expressive and energetic in some areas.
Darkness is also used to great effect. An eerie tone is created and you never know what’s going to pop out at you. What adds to this is the sound. The game has serviceable, maybe even lackluster, music but it knows when to go silent and let the ambient sound create tension. The sound of your footsteps, horror stings and monster moans all help to build a sense of dread that rarely ever ceases.
Yuppie Psycho works well within its discipline to deliver a unique survival horror experience that never lets up on creativity and scares. In way of story, it uses its genre and setting to convey its themes and horror effectively. Two moments in particular stand out to me as they filled me with such anxiety. I can’t say the game’s perfect but I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed myself from beginning to end. Baroque Decay has created an unnerving and mysterious horror title that remains criminally underrated. I hope more people are willing to give this game a chance as I found it to be a real gem.