Who runs the world?

Title: Spinnortality
Platform: PC (reviewed)
Developer: James Patton
Publisher: James Patton
Price: £10/$10
Release date: Out now
TL;DR: It itches away at your sensibilities until you’re a corporate fatcat  willing to win at any cost
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It’s a strange place this modern world of ours; a place where good intentions are all too often the wrapping paper of some malicious scheme. That idea might sound a tad pessimistic, but, if you’ve played James Patton’s management sim Spinnortality, I’m sure you’d agree with such a cynical sentiment. Because while the game might look like just another build-your-own-business deal, what you’ll be doing is weaponising social media, greasing the wheels on the international stage, and privatising countries, all in the hopes of saving your own bacon.

The premise of the game is pretty simple if not a little out there, with the board of your chosen business tasking you with discovering the secrets of immortality. This is, essentially, the main aim of the game; everything you do from the start is geared, whether it feels like it or not, to achieve this goal. And sometimes it might feel that you’re losing your way in achieving this goal; for instance when you begin the game by sinking almost a year and a half of your in-game time into developing products that help people with posting on social media channels, finding like-minded people on the internet or burying opinions that they don’t want to see. When you see the effect these initiatives have though, that’s when you begin to see why you’ve spent that time funding these ideas.

Spinnortality feels like a game that’s forever in the midst of a domino fall. Pushing projects like the Echo-Chamber, which isolates the opinions you see into those that align with your personal opinions, eventually works to promote xenophobia in some countries, which leads to an onus on security, which you then use to push products like the Stay Safe service to maximise the revenue it generates in a conservative country. Similarly, you’ll work to capitalise on countries that promote the idea of collectivism and multiculturalism, introducing schemes which focus on sharing information of all kinds before selling it on to the government for a quick buck.

That’s your run-of-the-mill dirty work in the game, creating products or services and identifying the best countries to launch them in, with the aim to maximise your profits with each launch. Luckily, each product description gives you clues as to what tastes it caters to and if you’re still struggling, you can perform focus tests to help identify those traits. It’s a nifty system, one that makes every product feel like one half of a puzzle before you try to work out where best to launch it.

Of course, it’s quite an evil puzzle, one that has far-reaching consequences for some countires, even going so far as to play a part in shifting the social landscape of a nation into chaos. Luckily for you, the savvy business tycoon, such instability is a perfect breeding ground for you to worm your way into a the ear of rebels, while political parties in the midst of an election can be funded by your company for political favour or targeted for smear campaigns and, dare I say it, fake news.

The crux to this part of the game — inserting yourself into the political landscape of as many countries as possible — is so you can then use what political favour you have to impact the laws of a country. Some nations in the game are privatised with the ability to change laws on genetics or taxation resting with the majority shareholder. The more conventional nations that are ruled by political parties require a softer touch, as you slowly etch away at the moral fiber of said nation until it’s an empty husk that you quietly control to better suit your needs, which stretch from lowering taxation policies so you keep more cash, to easing up regulations on genetic research, allowing you to push on with projects like designer organs or brain transfers – projects that directly link in to that overarching goal of immortality.

Of course, you won’t be doing all this underhanded work from the shadows in isolation. You’ll have as many or as few employees as you think necessary to help you along the way, taking the route of taking onboard interns, regular employees, a selection of gifted employees, and a series of AI workers. These faceless drones are there to put the hours into devising the projects that you’re sinking money into, with the number of workers assigned to each project shortening the amount of time it takes for a scheme to be ready to launch.

Along with this workforce, you’ll have to take into account how well you treat them, with decisions to cover the office in advertisements or forcing workers to queue for the products you sell serving to generate more money, but sacrificing worker happiness. Along with that, employees will naturally succumb to corruption, giving things away to friends and family for free or selling on information to competitors, which you’ll need to keep as low as you can through internal investigations. It’s perhaps the most conventional aspect of the game and on that’s well devised, keeping you on your toes as you contend with pesky workers’ rights emails and beating away the unwarranted corruption and laziness of your workers.

The wonderful thing about Spinnortality is the illusion of disjointedness it delivers. You can spend several in-game years developing social media while that goal of immortality remains on the to-do pile, and you’d be forgiven for thinking that you’re ploughing resources into dead-end ventures. The same goes for so much of the game until you stand back and look at the big picture, it’s when you begin to see how all these strings tie to one another that the game shows just how well executed its ideas are. Spinnortality is a game that treads the line between the wacky and the worrisome in an absolutely fascinating way, feeling more like a social experiment than a game after a few hours. If you’re a fan of the Democracy series, then the shadowy business practices that Spinnortality offers is something that’s sure to grab your attention.

The Good:

  • Brilliant execution of a familliar sim setup underscored by a wholly original subject matter
  • The gameplay, while fairly deep, is quite intuitive, meaning you’ll learn a lot simply by exploring the game
  • There’s so many different avenues to explore that a second or third playthrough is almost essential

The Bad:

  • The initial tutorial throws a lot of information at you initially and might serve to hinder rather than help some players

Family Focus

Spinnortality doesn’t have an age rating at this point. Though considering the shady goings-on you’ll be getting up to, it’s either an interesting lesson on business ethics and the relationship between government and corporations or an over-stimulating sim that’ll throw too much at your child at once.

Disclaimer: This review is based on a copy of the game provided by PR for the purpose of this review.