Spinnortality is a game that knows what it is good at, it’s currently available on Steam. It finds its own strengths and amplifies them for the rest of the experience. It’s by no means perfect, but what it does well it does a lot of. The game doesn’t dwell on what is poorly done. It’s a simulation game that puts you in control of a sprawling tech company. Armed with an interface and a greyscale image of a globe, you have to research some Black Mirror technologies and successfully market them to the population. The aim is to build a Google-Facebook level horrific tech company, with the eventual goal of growing new bodies to transfer consciousness into. Along the way, you’ll have to wreak havoc on the world.
It’s a little high-concept. The developers have taken a growing fear and given you control overtaking it as far as it can go. The game puts you in the bad guy’s shoes. (Unless you believe that Jeff Bezos has a god given right to use his wealth for eternal life and youth, then you play as a hero!) The satire in the writing is sharp but also not too detached from reality. The descriptions of technology you unlock and their marketing angles start off funny, then a few glances at the news later they become quite depressing. Spinnortality manages to keep its dystopian world grounded through the progression system, this builds a cohesive narrative in every single playthrough.
Spinning The Wheels
Spinnortality’s core gameplay is divided into a few sections. Each is essentially a loop that you permanently repeat. First is hiring workers. The options begin with interns or regular employees. However, you eventually get access to AI or genetically modified workers. You have to keep these people happy. Interns are the most likely to walk out. Normal workers will go on strike. However, if your genetically modified monster-workers walk out to form a picket line, they will be met with scorn and retreat back to work. These employees are assigned to either research a new tech, or find new marketing strategies for an existing one. This basic cycle is repeated for the entire duration of the game.
Other quests keep you busy in-between. The board that oversees you will give a seemingly random instruction every time you complete the last one. These can occasionally get irritating. For example, the board might command you to destabilise a country that you’ve been guiding back to stability. This doesn’t exactly break the immersion, there’s plenty of examples of this kind of completely irrational behaviour in real life.
You also have a rival company to contend with, this leads to an assortment of random events. This is the core gameplay. In doing these tasks you unlock other options to help manage your increasing workload, like espionage and a tree of requirements to progress towards victory.
Spinnortality doesn’t look the flashiest. The visual style is pleasant but generic, it suits the tone of the game. The sound design is also serviceable. There are a few different difficulty options, but the core strategy of gameplay never really changes. It’s a simulation game that looks like a strategy game, but it’s quite shallow in this respect. However, that isn’t really important. Challenging gameplay isn’t the focus.
1%ers with Obligations
Spinnortality’s gameplay is essentially balancing your obligations to various groups. Despite the various business groups that are paying your wages, you also need to keep the unwashed masses buying your products if you’re going to live forever. Since their finical wellbeing isn’t directly tied to your actions, the public is a bit harder to manage. They can become upset over something as simple as selling mechanical body parts and shaming anyone who refuses to upgrade.
Democracy is hard work. To make life a little easier, you can take control of the media. This gives you the power to mould government and populations into something more agreeable. These populations are considerably harder to please than the board or your workers, but that’s really where the fun lies. You need to find a marketing angle that appeals to each demographic of each country. These angles for each of your tech products will need altering as the public’s mood changes, or relaunching when the world tires of your invention.
Spinnortality does a good job of keeping interaction with every group or invention entertaining. The mood of the population is just a little metre that ticks up or down. However, through the marketing angles and creatively written ‘news’ notifications, it becomes a unique story of a world beset by vampire capitalism and tech run amok. Each game provides a different telling of how the world slipped into dystopia. Are you running some Steam-Punk company? Is this a depressing future born of late-stage Capitalism? It’s up to you, play however you like.
Spinnortality is Economical but Effective
Spinnortality could really be simplified to three bars that represent happiness from each group. Instead, it intertwines these strands to make every development feel like a continuation of the story your building. To say these groups are just icons and stock messages, they really feel alive. It’s sharp writing combined with an ingenious approach to doing more with less that makes the game come alive.
The mechanics can become a little tedious but there are some quality of life features that help with this. You have to deploy a new tech or re-market an old one in every world region, on every turn. You probably want to be working towards taking over each regions media and government each turn too. Conveniently, you can organise the techs by which one makes the least money. This seriously speeds up the process of switching between countries and clicking on a tech each time. The interface is streamlined to prevent the monotonous tasks becoming annoying. It might not solve the problem of repetitive gameplay, but it makes it less important. Spinnortality’s self-aware approach to its own flaws makes it much more enjoyable.
You’ll know pretty quickly if this game appeals to you or not. Fans of strategy games will likely find it rewarding, as will anyone will a certain sense of humour. But it’s also not for everyone, if your prone to tech-induced existential fits of dread, then it might be best to skip this. Spinnortality is great at being a certain type of game, but it’s pretty poor in some other areas. That’s definitely a good thing, excelling at one thing is better than being well-rounded but bland.
Spinnortality is a satisfying simulator, it is elevated by its witty satirical writing and ever-present black humour. It uses a limitation amount of interaction with the player to craft unique stories, it creates a different narrative every time you play. While the gameplay can be repetitive, it has a lot around to keep you interested. This allows Spinnortality to overcome its limitations. It’s a perfect example of taking an angle that works and making it all-encompassing.
- Great Writing
- Random Events Form a Coherent and Compelling Narrative
- Sharp Satire
- Addictive Gameplay
- Occasionally Tedious Tasks
- Repetitive Gameplay Cycles