Editor's Note: This review was furnished using a review code the developers provided to one of our news aggregators we are on, whom passed it on to us.
Game Corp DX is a game-dev-themed casual management simulator in the "tycoon" sort of vein developed and published by Endless Loop Studios. This is one that, like Prison Architect, recently left the Steam Early Access program in a full release, but this is one I missed the first time around. Having a chance to look at it a little closely, that almost seems a little bit of a shame. It almost forms a bit of a contrast or counterpoint to Prison Architect, for while they both share a simplistic sort of art style, Prison Architect is a very deep and complex simulation, whereas Game Corp DX offers a highly-polished casual sort of game. If you're not a fan of casual games, this is where I might tune out if I were you, but otherwise, well, it's a pretty good game, will a good attention to detail that seems to be the benefit of that Early Access program to the developers, since it has definitely gotten a lot of polish. There were a couple of minor grievances, but that's just what they were: minor.
A Tight Casual Sim Design
There's an elegance in the design of Game Corp DX, in that you can pretty much immediately get into it with only about 20 minutes of tutorialisation, not because there aren't many mechanics - this isn't exactly Prison Architect's depth as I mentioned but neither is it a mobile game either - but because you only really need to grasp the basic points of the game design to get stuck in. Essentially, you have a game studio consisting of a bunch of workstations, vanity happiness-increasing plants and statues, and training stations, where you hire game developers to create game projects, and hopefully the right combination of experience, trained specialization, and feng-shui-ing your office plants will lead to the game being of good quality and doing well in the market place. When the game is completed, you get presented a handful of critic ratings that are basically a general gauge of how well-produced the game was.
The nuance lies in the details as you grow - for instance needing to worry about time wasted going to the planning table or the fridge for food, and the like, so it's essentially a game where the depth is in the optimisation. This especially comes out in the later game when you move to a bigger location and unlock a tool to remove negative traits from developers and, then even later on, add positive ones.
This is a very casual game
What's kind of hard to say too much here though, is that Game Corp DX is a very casual game. It's not a game that's going to offer much of a challenge if you at all follow the logic of its design - not a hard thing to do at all - but rather more kind of a time-waster, something thats light fun and entertaining but not very challenging. This mostly comes down to the fact that as long as you have at least one specialist on each of the four categories (coding, art, sound, writing) assigned to a spot on a team when you're developing, you're gauranteed an at least mediocre result you can get by on as long as you don't overspend on marketing afterwards. Marketing is something you select after the game is finished - either none, a small campaign, or a medium or large one, and they act basically as a force multiplier on your revenue based on quality. (In that way, Game Corp DX is arguably not very realistic since you can't just spend a truckload of cash on a bad game and still make bank as many a yearly franchise regularly does.)
Make no mistake, it's possible to lose if you're really bad at things, such as if you constantly overspend marketing on bad games early on before you can have a team large enough to cover all 4 categories, but you pretty much have to intentionally fuck up or pay no attention whatsoever to get that far in, and the game will warn you quite voiciferously before you get that far, so it really is the kind of thing you have to be intentionally trying to mess up to pull of.
Game length and longetivity is a bit of a concern
The biggest complaint one could have here, and a very legitimate one, is you're going to see most of what this game has to offer in a handful of hours, maybe a couple if you're not an impatient person as I am and fast forwarding through development stretches like your life depended on it. I basically 100%'d the game in the 3 hours of play I have in it, and that is definitely a game length many people might find exceedingly short.
For my part, I actually appreciated a game design where the replayability is in the mechanics and not in arbitrary padding out of the gameplay with faff. In short, this is a game that get's its replay time the very honest way - by simply just being fun to play. While it's more complex than your typical mobile game, this is very much the kind of game that I can see myself playing a lot on the bus off to my doctor's apointments or the like if I were to have it on mobile phone, so I hope the developers go in that direction in the future because I could see myself playing a lot of it.
One of the things I really liked about the game (though I can see others finding it cheesy) are the Easter Eggs hidden throughout the game in the form of famous big name developers whom occasionally show up to be hired or the occasional nods to other games and such in acheivements that you can get, though that'd probably feel a lot more special if those achievements were not listed on Steam's achievements lists so that there was much more of a discovery involved in them.
Nonetheless there's a great attention to polish and detail
The thing that tips this review from the sort of "neutral" review where I say it's very much for a niche audience and not generally recommended into the territory of something I'd more generally recommend, as I'm doing here, is just how much this game really is polished and tightened up. The graphics are clean, the interface does exactly what it needs to with no fuss or problems, and all of the information is easily available at a glance. The progression is sound if unchallenging, and there's basically everything you would want in a casual sim game here with not an inch wasted, all polished to a mirror shine. Short of doing the same thing in some sort of Sims-esque 3D or going deeper into the simulation (which would be a departure from its chosen genre) there is generally not much of a way I'd improve it. This is as polished as a casual sim's going to get, and as such, if you have a couple quid to venture on a handful of hours of some a fun if easy little game, I'd say it's a pretty sound investment.