Dirty Land: Thrill of the Sale is more than a little inspired by classic '90s movie Glengarry Glen Ross. You're a low-level salesman in a shady real estate office, cold calling people who probably hate you to sell them land that likely isn't worth anything. And if you don't get your name chalked up on the sales leaderboard by the end of the month, you're fired. Hit the bricks, pal.
Honestly, I'm amazed it's taken this long for someone to turn this into a game. Dirty Land is being developed by Canadian indie team Naturally Intelligent, who is currently funding the game on Kickstarter. I got my hands on an early build, and while it's very barebones at the moment—more a proof of concept than anything else—I'm definitely intrigued by what I've played.
At the heart of Glengarry, and Dirty Land too, are the leads. These little squares of cardboard have names and phone numbers printed on them, of people who might, but probably won't, want to buy land from you. And because you're the new guy at the bottom of the food chain, you get the worst leads.
Leads also contain a snippet about the person you're trying to sell to. They might be a rich alcoholic, which means buying them a few drinks might net you a sale. They might be an easy sell, but also have no money, which isn't a great combination. Knowing who you're selling to is key to success. You don't want to blow your tiny budget on beers for someone who might not even sign the line that is dotted, but you gotta spend money to make it.
Similar to Papers, Please (which Dirty Land reminds me a lot of, incidentally), the game takes place across a number of days, and your time is limited. You can only do so much in a day, which might be calling up a lead and meeting them at a dive bar to try and schmooze them into buying a plot of land, or going home to keep your family happy. Occasionally your wife will call your desk and ask you to come home early.
You can drink coffee to help you work longer hours, but coffee is for closers. If you can't make a sale, you're forbidden from pouring yourself a cup. You might also get a co-worker offering to spot you $20 until the end of the month, but he'll want it back with interest, so you have to decide whether that's a good idea or not. Does he really have your best interests at heart?
There's a lot to juggle in Dirty Land. You have to manage your time, make sure your name stays on the leaderboard, chase leads, ply potential clients with booze and food, deal with your slimy co-workers, and try to earn enough money to keep the debt collectors at bay. If that sounds grim, well, it's supposed to be. It's a game about desperation and survival, just like the movie that inspired it, and I love that. It's relentlessly bleak and it revels in it.
The atmosphere is great too, reinforcing the desperate, melancholy feel of the game. The grimy locations, ugly characters, and downbeat, jazzy soundtrack are reminiscent of a very particular kind of '90s movie, which is an aesthetic I've never seen captured by a videogame before. As for the game itself, my demo wasn't deep enough to say for sure, but I think the developer might be onto something special here. I hope it hits its funding target.