You’re an executive. You fight werewolves. It’s brilliant.
Developer: Riverman Media
Publisher: Riverman Media
Released: July 2, 2015
The Executive starts with a balding tubby office worker beating up a vending machine with a phone as a sharply dressed CEO watches and sips his coffee. The angry, phone-wielding worker turns into a werewolf, because of course he does, and the titular executive proceeds to fight it using martial arts. That’s the premise, that’s the story, that’s all you need to know.
Werewolves happened, so punching commences.
Blending a “runner” game foundation with simple fighting mechanics, The Executive is most simply described as a bizarre cross between Canabalt and Infinity Blade. Our smooth corporate overseer automatically dashes from encounter to encounter, while the player swipes the screen in time with prompts – and obeying directional arrow cues – to perform stunts. These running segments are fast and intense, requiring quick fingers and a little bit of foresight to navigate.
Breaking up these stunt-laden dashes are tap-fueled battles against the slavering werewolf horde. At its most basic, combat consists of tapping the top and bottom of the enemy’s character model to perform high and low attacks, while tapping the CEO’s upper and lower body to block. It’s a game of observing and countering patterns, as you defend against the monsters’ swings and punch back at wherever they’re not blocking.
Naturally, things get more complex as the adventure progresses and the executive climbs the corporate ladder. Enemies start using power attacks that cannot be blocked, only countered by swiping from the CEO to his opponent. Spells are unlocked, granting players a shield to protect against magical attacks, healing powers, armor piercing strikes and damage reflection. The bestiary swiftly unveils more aggressive, tougher werebeasts with increasingly confusing attack patterns. What starts simple becomes a remarkably challenging game.
It’s a mercy that each individual level is relatively short, as the sheer amount of frantic action crammed into a stage can be exhausting. As your own attacks become more complicated, offering unlockable fire strikes and silver spike thrusts, it becomes more and more tricky to remember what the most effective tactics are against each individual beast. There’s a LOT of beasts to take down, too, each with their own resistances and weaknesses.
From fencing frogs to firefighting cows, werewolves protected by swarms of bats and incorporeal lycan spirits, it’s amazing just how much variety has been squeezed out of such a self-explanatory game. Every monster has its own twist and fighting style, the stunts become more intricate, and the player’s own abilities continue to expand. Riverman Media has gone all-out to provide a deep and fascinating little run-fighter.
Money is earned at the end of each fight, with one’s performance impacting exactly how good the payout is. Taking less damage, varying attacks, and refusing to rely on magical powers all contribute to a superior ranking. You’ll want those rankings, too, as using the cash to boost the CEO’s damage output, defenses, and magical prowess is essential once levels progress and the competition becomes stiffer.
As well as simply purchasing upgrades, players can also invest in their company, hiring employees and facilities for the Silverstrike Mining Company. Each investment raises the amount of money you can earn in-game for performing certain tasks – The Miner, for example, awards bonus dollars every time you block an attack, while the Geologist raises the payout for completing a level quickly.
What’s more, each investment also raises the amount of money you earn passively, meaning you can start raking up the bucks without even playing the game. Similar to Cookie Clicker, but without the mindless clicking, you’ll get to watch your funds accrue at increasingly rapid paces as you continue to put funds back into the company. It’s ridiculously gratifying to watch your bankroll increase, and the only requirement to keep that spice flowing is to log in at least once every three days. The money will pile up until then, and it’s tempting to let the acquisition of financial power become a game in and of itself.
It’s a good thing, too, because the CEO’s personal upgrades get expensive very quickly. It requires a wise balancing of corporate investment and personal expenditure to earn enough cash while keeping the CEO strong enough to defeat his werewolf aggressors, though you may sell your purchases back at a convenient 1:1 price ratio.
With all this money talk, it would be an oversight not to mention The Executive‘s most attractive feature – there are no microtransactions to be seen. For a low one-time cost, the entire game is available. No bullshit premium currencies, no insidious paywalls. It’s sad that such a thing should even be worthy of praise, but that’s the world we live in now. The Executive is ripe to be exploited with freemium mechanics, but temptation has been resisted and the result is a game that feels so much more rewarding.
It’s hard not to utterly adore this game. It’s very silly and equally hard to put down, nailing that “one more go” factor while providing enough depth to ensure it’s more than just a novelty game.
There are some annoyances that creep in, mostly due to the fact that the interface can become a little confused. Once you unlock magic attacks that require swiping from certain body parts to given targets, it’s easy to perform moves you didn’t mean to, as the swiping isn’t always precise. Certain enemy combinations can make the later levels really annoying too, especially when the CEO is being assaulted from either side and one is expected to focus on both monsters at once.
Any grievances are minor, however. The Executive is a mobile game done right. It uses the limitations and opportunities of touchscreen controls almost perfectly, it’s easy to get into but increasingly challenging, and its genius in-game economy keeps one coming back for more. It also sports a fantastic catchy soundtrack, a beautiful art style, and some incredible monster designs. What should be a one-note joke game is, instead, a riotous adventure in kicking ass and sliding down walls, as werewolves in riot gear, giant man-rhinos, and three-headed serpentine supermodels conspire to destroy a mining company.
Because videogames, people.