Salary man is a term for a tireless office worker in Japanese businesses who sacrifices most of his life to the company, for whom he often works 60 to 80 hours a week. It's not for nothing that death by overworking has its own word in the Japanese language - Karoshi - and now the PSVR title Salary Man Escape lets players become a faceless worker, who appears as a black silhouette with a red tie. This is not a game about pencil-pushing here though, as you're instead tasked with escaping your mundane life to get to sweet freedom.
It's a puzzle game, so you can move red parts of the level to get your desperate worker out of there, controlled either via a DualShock or PS Move controller. The latter is more fun as you can sweep around the level more naturally, moving the red items with each hand, but while using a DualShock it might as well not be in VR at all since this element doesn't add anything much.
The game is fun in any case, which is due in no small part to the charming surroundings. Each of the 60 levels has a small introduction in text form that satirically expresses the turbo-capitalist worldview of the poor employee's boss and on top of that, you also have the amusing soundtrack too. The disco-funk songs also take living conditions of the office workers for a ride using Japanese and English bits of text, complimenting the action nicely with its own very unique sense of humour.
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The six episodes continuously offer new elements, as there are different types of blocks as well as very unique mechanics, so the brain remains challenged throughout, even if the difficulty sometimes fluctuates, occasionally forcing us to rely on a bit of luck. Highly precise timing is also important, although every now and then there are small bugs where your character gets stuck.
Once you've figured out how to solve a level though you can start again from scratch. Some puzzles also have checkpoints in the form of coffee cups, and in many levels a golden coin is waiting to be collected off the beaten path, if you're a completionist or masochist. If you hadn't guessed, this is where the real meaty challenges lie, and to make matters worse, these coins can be used to unlock even more levels. There's no escape for the completionist... no doubt a relative of the salary man.
All in all, Salary Man Escape is a fine game for puzzle fans, and if there's also a certain interest in Japanese office culture and you're currently overworked, it makes the experience even rounder. Interested beginners could, for example, have a look at the TV series Hiru no Sento Zake or Line Offline Salaryman, but even without background knowledge, it's a pleasant experience. Sure, the presentation isn't all that it could've been, but it's bursting at the seams with personality, and that's way more important in our opinion.
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7 / 10
Varied puzzles, A lot of levels, Funny references to Japanese office culture, Music fits exceedingly well.
Deliberately simple presentation without wow factor, Occasional bugs.