Zombies and ghouls? Check. Haunted mansion? Check. 80s retro side scrolling beat ‘em up vibe? Check. Monotonous repetition and mashing of the same button over and over? Check. Welcome to My Night Job, a game that invites you to do some extra hours overnight and raise some cash for…something or other. It’s a classic side-scrolling beat ’em up affair in the same vein as Double Dragon or Konami’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Look, we’re all for bringing back retro gameplay and styles but there’s a reason why games have discarded certain mechanics and systems, and although My Night Job rekindles some of that 80s flair, it’s got a lot to answer for in terms of gameplay and longevity.
When you start My Night Job you’ll be greeted with a brief cutscene outlining the reasons your default main character is accepting a job with some military organisation so that he can acquire lots of money and hit the big time. He’s then sent to a mansion overrun with ghouls and beasties from every 80s horror film you can think of, and asked to rescue all the inhabitants before the whole building collapses. That’s the game. No adventuring, no alternate environment, no real progression. Just get in the mansion, save some civilians and get the highest amount of dollar possible. Once you’ve died or the mansion has collapsed, do it again to get a higher score. If you’re thinking that sounds a bit one-dimensional and might get old fast you’d be right.
It’s not all bad. The art style and characterisation of the sprites you’ll come across is done with a passion and understanding of what made the 80s horror films (and games) something special. You’ll encounter gargoyles and zombie mechs, radiated ghouls and bloodthirsty canines. The civilians you’re sent in to rescue range from cheerleaders to nerds and everything in between. B-movie horror classics and characters are championed and many are moulded on famous likenesses from the Addams Family to Dracula.
Since the game is a side-scrolling beat ‘em up, let’s talk about the combat. Pressing the attack button will cause your character to start swinging his fists and kicking as he combos together some attacks,though the real damage dealers are the items and weapons you can pick up in the environment. They range in effectiveness and lifespan so using a fridge as a weapon will do some serious damage but you’ll only get 2 or 3 swings out of it before it crumbles into nothing. Being quick and effective at taking out the baddies is incredibly important in this game because a.) You’ll want to chain kills together to boost a multiplier that increases your score and b.) The quicker you take out the enemies the less likely they’ll bunch up and start stamping on the floor causing that part of the mansion to collapse.
What’s frustrating about the gameplay is that it forces you to constantly be on the move, and be constantly checking the (not particularly helpful) map that’s situated in the bottom right of the screen. For a game that requires speed and observation it’s incredibly frustrating that you can’t move and attack at the same time, that your character moves at an irritatingly slow pace to begin with, and that navigating around the mansion quickly is designed to be frustrating and confusing. What’s more, when you’re made aware that a part of the mansion is in danger of collapsing the game snaps away from your character (potentially mid-fight) to show you the danger and, if there are multiple floors in danger, get ready for the camera to snap to each of them. There are of course special power-ups and secrets throughout the mansion that allow you to rip through the enemies with more ease and (thankfully) move around quicker but the method of acquiring them is convoluted. It’s a shame because occasionally the combat and rescuing gameplay can gel into a somewhat enjoyable experience for a good few seconds…sometimes minutes.
The mansion itself is created with the same love and attention as the characters and enemies that inhabit it. Each room has its own theme and story, including some amusing animated scenarios playing out in the backgrounds. Although trying to find the secrets can be convoluted, they do add a sense of interest and at least some extra replay ability. You’ll find hints to secret power-ups and places to bring special followers that will unlock extra bonuses. There is almost a sense of puzzle gameplay when it comes to these instances, but unfortunately you’ll rarely have time to stop and stare at the scenery, or pause to consider what these environmental hints may mean.
Along with the main act of continuously trying to beat your best score in the mansion, and save as many civilians as possible, you’ll be able to post your scores on a local and online-based leaderboard. That’s as much multiplayer as you’re going to get in this title, which is a shame because the addition of co-op and or other multiplayer elements could have added an extra dimension to the gameplay.
My Night Job is occasionally fun but mostly frustrating. The game evokes feelings of nostalgia and humour, but what’s there is simply too repetitive and lacking in any real scope to keep the player’s attention for more than an hour or so. If you really do have a craving for 80s inspired side-scrolling beat ’em ups then perhaps this game is for you, but personally I’d rather work a night shift in McDonald's for the next 6 weeks than play through this every night.