These days there are very valid fears surrounding massive corporations, the power that they wield and how much of the world they already control. Their influence is often terrifying, especially when you begin to research how only a few corporations own the vast majority of the media we consume. The point is, Spinnortality plays on problems in an entertaining strategy game about making money, pushing around governments and directing Earth toward the future you want. Oh, and you can build a giant laser on the moon.
The general gist is easy to understand; a mysterious and shady board of very rich people have appointed you the new head of a corporation with the express goal of eventually researching technology that will make the board and yourself immortal. To do that you’ll need to amass a fortune by launching fancy new products across the world, and in order to do that you might have to nudge a few laws here or there.
So, I subtly named my company Evil. Co and began my journey to the very tippity top of the corporation tower, a journey that would involve toppling countries, designer organs and building a colony on the moon. Pretty average Saturday, then.
First, let’s tackle the basics of how to get everything running. To unlock new products members of your workforce need to be assigned to them in the tech tree. Then, once you have something worth selling, you click on a country, pick it from the list and voila, it launches on the next turn, hopefully earning you lots of cash in the process.
Okay, so it’s not actually quite as straightforward as that. Each product you successfully research has a bunch of marketing angles you can unlock, essentially advertising campaigns that will appeal to customers in different ways. To unlock more angles you need to assign workers to the product who’ll use their creativity stat to hopefully come up with an awesome new way to market your questionable tat. When you decide to launch your product you’ll hover over your available angles and pick whichever one matches up with the country’s cultural sliders. Some might lean more toward tradition, material wealth, security or xenophobia, for example. The better matched the more money you’ll make. However, by default unlocked marketing angles don’t indicate their optimal points on those sliders, so you either have to guess or spend a Class Connection to unlock that information.
Things become a bit trickier as progress through the tech tree is made. The more lucrative products you can launch, such as hormone clouds to affect workers and simu-friends, might require some tweaking of laws. If Europe currently has high oversight regarding genetic manipulation, for example, then you can’t launch your brand-new bit of genetic tech. To get around this you can purchase favour with the current ruling party which lets persuade a few folk and thus give a chance that on each turn that the law will be changed. This backdoor fiddling with politics really helps sell the idea that you’re a massive company who is sneakily infiltrating governments and altering the world to better fit your own agenda.
By sinking money into buying media shares in countries you can also shift the cultural sliders around, potentially letting you earn more cash by pushing an entire nation toward convenience or multiculturalism or something else.
These three things – launching products, changing laws and adjusting culture – are what you’ll mostly be doing in the game. At first, they can be quite exciting but the process quickly can become a chore as micromanagement and a lack of strategy struggle to keep things fun. each turn consists of clicking on every country to check if things are still making money or maybe need to be relaunched, or if laws need to be tweaked. There’s little thought involved in doing this, no real need to consider strategies. It’s busywork. Sticking it on the hardest difficulty can help as money won’t be quite as easy to amass, but even then you don’t need to strategise very hard.
But there are hosts of other systems we need to chat about that weave through the three core gameplay mechanics. Firstly, you constantly need to consider what the mysterious board of shady rich folk want from you. They’ll make constant demands and failure to meet them will result in your…uh, removal as head of the company. Meet their expectations and you’ll be given points that can be spent to unlock agendas, which are long-term concepts that eventually lead to victory. You can focus on military to open up more aggressive options, or expand the education system. Yet another agenda results in countries relying on you for financial aid, which naturally lets your corporation influence events more. Later on you can challenge the board a little, refusing to transfer a member to a new body, for example, which losses you approval but earns you some extra agenda points.
Then there’s the constant stream of little (or sometimes fairly big) events that pop up in your Email inbox. A lot of the messages you get are simply updates on laws that have been changed or perhaps a warning message from the board saying that they are losing confidence in your nefarious plans. However, many of the Emails you get offer up choices, some of which are fairly simple and others much more interesting. One potential storyline leads to you opening up an opportunity to develop rockets so that you can build on the moon. Other story lines including dating people who might struggle to reconcile your dubious business strategies with their own views, or the rise of terrifying smart A.I.
In some ways, then, it plays more like a text adventure. Aside from potential changes in sliders or numbers you’ll never really visibly see the impact that any of your choices during these storylines make. Still, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed seeking out each little storyline and seeing what could happen. It’s even possible to end the game early during one moment by deciding to simply step down as the CEO of the company. Sorry Evil. Co, a pretty lady asked me not to be a jerk any more.
And speaking of not being a jerk, I appreciated how Spinnortality does provide some options to be less morally…er, dickish. You’re still running a multi-billion company and will end up using some questionable tactics, but you can also help support countries, spend money to improve conditions for your own workers or support new laws for genetically engineered people.
Most of the end-game is built around dealing with these events that pop up, but that’s all there is to it. By this stage you’ll have researched everything which makes your workforce entirely redundant, so you may as well sack the lot to save extra cash. Speaking of money, you’ll be raking it in so buying influence to change laws is a breeze. What you end up doing is clicking “next turn” over and over, waiting for the next event to pop up. A little more meat needed to be added to this final stage of the game.
It’s weird because when written down Spinnortality can sound quite complicated with lots of potential options and tactics. Yet, when you actually sit down at your chair and become the shady CEO of a giant company it’s all surprisingly straightforward stuff. All the individual systems offer little in the way of strategising and even when put together there’s still not much to consider. In truth, Spinnortality feels like it might have been a much better tablet or phone game.
But we do need to consider that this entire game is the effort of a single developer and that it’s on sale for around £10 on Steam.
And anyway, simple or not I did have a lot of fun with Spinnortality. Even thought it doesn’t have the production values of bigger games there’s something pretty awesome about launching an espionage mission to bring a country to its knees before reforming said nation into a corpornation.
If you like your strategy games deep and complex then Spinnornation is probably not for you. But if you want something more simple and relaxing to while away a few hours then there’s a lot to like here.
2.5 out of 5