My first shot at world domination ended in failure. Well, not total failure, more like a B-plus. I did get close: 89 percent of the planet was under my thumb inside an hour, which I think is pretty good time. Looking back, I reckon my biggest mistake was merely bribing the president when I could've just bought my way into the office myself. You know what they say, if you want armageddon done right, do it yourself.
Megalomaniac, due out on Steam on April 26, is an unabashedly political game that smacks of infection simulators like Pandemic and Infectonator as much as it does good old-fashioned satire. You play as Rich Savage Jr., physical manifestation of unregulated markets and son of a wealthy media executive. At first blush, this is a game about making money, buying stocks, undercutting competitors and pacifying any who dare question the ethics of monopolising the very air we breathe. It seems straightforward enough: you have about 80 years to acquire 100 percent of all markets, and you lose if you die of old age.
But it’s also about mankind’s treatment of the environment, nepotism and sensationalism among the press, hive-minded consumerism, the Trump administration and the militarization of the police. Also you kill your dad and destroy the Earth. It’s silly and incredibly tedious, but also funny at times.
This is a text-heavy, menu-driven game, and not one for the weak-fingered. The core gameplay is this: click your character to cycle through manipulation techniques like sulk or whine until you match your father’s mood, thereby ensuring he gives you as much money as possible, and then spam-click your father as fast possible, earning a set amount per click. That’s honestly the main menu’s biggest attraction, but you can also indulge in persuasion techniques like arm twisting and blackmail. These play out as cursor-based minigames and yield greater returns. All the clicking lessens as your automatic daily revenue increases, but it’s a staple activity throughout.
I quickly cornered the market on accosting my father and navigated to the market menu, where I found an array of buyable stocks. My options were limited at first. Fisheries and slaughterhouses looked like big money, but I’d only managed to whine about $4 million out of my old man and their shares started at $22 million. So, I begrudgingly settled on the cheaper options of plastic surgery and magazines. Buying a chunk of magazines increased my influence, which in turn increased the amount of money I could pry out of my father.
After buying a bit of whatever I could afford, I had my hands in all kinds of cookie jars, from fashion and health to law and resources. It was only then that the cash high wore off and I actually started reading things. Megalomaniac gets better the slower you play it, which you’d never guess from its breakneck time cycle, in which a few minutes equates to several in-game years. The gameplay itself is simple as can be, a rudimentary vehicle for the game’s irreverent, parodic and critical messages.
Megalomaniac is the touch football of satire, never properly tackling any one issue but brushing against quite a few. There around 60 stock options in the game, and the goal with each seems to have been to briefly summarize a contentious topic as cynically as possible. Most of the time it works. Plenty of entries are worth a chuckle, and if you’re not careful you might even seriously ponder a few. Short, sour and to the point, these descriptions make up about half of the real game, the other half being how you respond to scandals.
When I threw heaps of money at AI development, for example, laborers started rioting. Something about robots stealing all their jobs, I don’t know. On one hand, I could have reformed policy and subsidized relief efforts. On the other hand, that would have cut into my profits, so instead I paid my press contact to run stories denouncing lazy citizens. That’ll teach the jobless gits. In my experience you can spin your way out of most scandals provided you’ve got the funds, often by relying on such classics as “Let’s get those terrorists!” and “The immigrants did it!”. Despite my best efforts, my popularity eventually started to drop, so I turned to what is perhaps the pinnacle of visual metaphor to restore it.
Megalomaniac is a text-based game with tedious mechanics and messy fonts. Suffice it to say, it’s not your standard kind of fun. It does offer a humorous take on dozens of today’s controversies, but I’d only recommend it if you genuinely care about and follow social and political issues. It can be obnoxious, but then so can politics, so in that sense I suppose it accomplished what it set out to do.