Some like to think of the corporate office as a well oiled machine; everyone shows up on time, work gets piled up in the morning and done by mid afternoon, nobody checks their personal email at work, and so forth. As if. To those of us who has ever spent time in a modern day office – with the TV in a spare room, the white board in QA delegated to doodling purposes, and technical support that arrives by skateboard – we know all too well that it’s just organized chaos. Sometimes not even very organized, at that.

It was only a matter of time before someone took that idea and made it into a game. In Miss Management, you’d get to manage a bunch of slackers who either sleeps on the couch, make bad-smelling things in the microwave, uses the bathroom 10 times a day, spent all their time at the water cooler chatting up girls, and/or all of the above. While you make sure everyone stay happy, you also have to make sure work gets done. Sounds like fun, eh? As strange as it may sound, it is. Miss Management tied the storyline and tasks so well together, it feels like you’re doing much more than getting tasks done.

In most time management games you have customers (a whole lot of them) and servers. Usually you have to use your servers, which are tireless drones or machines, to serve your customers, who runs out of patience. In Miss Management, your employees are both. That’s what makes this game interesting; in order to finish tasks, you need to keep your employees’ stress levels from overflowing and stomping out. As they serve you by finishing tasks, you serve them – by giving them time-outs at the smoking area, serving them donuts and coffee, or letting them nap on the couch. All the while you have to watch your own stress level – if an employee burns out, they can return for anther day. If you burn out, however, you’d be stuck restarting the day, losing a day-count in the process.

To throw more complication into the mix, each employee find different things stress-relieving while others find others doing the same stressful. For example, a few employees may find someone napping on the couch while they work like dogs to be downright annoying; others find smoking to be both hazardous to your health as well as the $800 haircut. So it’s a constant balancing act – if someone finds pretty much everything annoying, it’s a good idea to not have someone turning on the AC, playing the radio, and someone else chatting at the water-cooler at the same time.

What makes Miss Management different is also its well-written story that is woven right into the tasks you are given. Instead of the general goal of “make this much money” that most time management game sets, Miss Management demands different goals for each employee in each episode, as well as secondary goals if you want to get a three star rating. The result is a game that never gets stale from the very first episode to the last. As you get closer to the end of the game, you will get to know every single one of the characters, know what they like and dislike, their strengths and weaknesses, their ups, their downs. It’s like playing through a soap opera in Office Space.

The graphics in Miss Management is very stylish and cartoonish, reminiscent of Chibi characters in anime – huge expressive heads with small bodies. The animation is wonderfully done – each character have their own angry/sad/frustrated/stressed out states, and each have their animation while interacting with in-game objects. The music is catchy and the sound effects blends right in. The tune in the radio makes me want to smash things, however. I guess it has that effect on some of the characters as well.

Miss Management is not without its little flaws. The hotspots don’t seem to be very responsive; sometimes I would click on an employee to get him out of a stressful situation and my clicks would miss a few times before I finally select him instead of his desk, and that would be enough time to send him over the edge. The click-click system also doesn’t seem as intuitive as the click-drag system in this case, especially for moving employees. A better system maybe to click-drag employees (ghosting all but the outlines while you drag) and click-click for your character and the files.

Another little quirk I didn’t quite like is that Denise can only carry one thing at a time. She carries one thing in one hand, and then uses the other arm for … posing. Not very productive, are we? It’d also be nice to have the missions save mid-mission so I can play one day and come back later – as a mom, it’s hard to get 10 minutes all to yourself at a time!

All in all, I had fun playing Miss Management. It’s a full-length casual game with 30 missions that would take at least 10 minutes each. Definitely a must for time management game fans, and even for us who enjoys a bit of drama once in a while.

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