Middle Manager of Justice re-review

Double Fine Productions’ Middle Manager of Justice was originally accidentally released onto the App Store back in September and subsequently pulled. In our review over on Inside Mobile Apps, we found the supposedly early, unfinished version of the game to be somewhat disappointing, noting that the gameplay felt “soulless” and that only the “endearing, well-animated visuals and witty writing [are] things that are worthy of note, and neither of those are enough to carry a satisfying game experience by themselves.”

Now, the free-to-play Middle Manager of Justice has finally been released on the App Store in the state it was always supposed to be in, so has it improved matters?

Middle Manager of Justice casts players in the role of the titular bureaucrat, who has been recruited to manage the local ragtag band of superheroes. Beginning with just a single hero to their name, the player must build up their roster of superheroes, train their forces, deal with crimes around the city and eventually take down a series of supervillains while attempting to make as much money as possible.

Each superhero has their own stats — attack power, health and intelligence. These attributes may be improved by training them on workout equipment that it’s possible to build in the player’s branch, but each hero only has a limited number of training sessions they may participate in per experience level. Once they have been fully trained, they must be leveled up through battle in the field before they are able to improve any further. Players must also manage their heroes’ health and morale levels — health may be restored by directing them to take a break, while morale may be improved by giving a managerial pep talk. All actions take varying amounts of real time to fulfil — early in the game, these actions take a matter of seconds, but if the player is impatient or confronted with a longer wait, they may use the game’s premium currency of Superium to “rush” activities and immediately complete them.

Tapping on a map button in the corner of the screen takes the player to an overview of the city, where crimes in progress are depicted by an icon with a countdown timer. Allowing the timer to expire does not have a particularly bad effect, but it does cause the happiness level of the affected district to drop. Happier districts provide larger amounts of income to the player at regular intervals, so it is in the player’s interest to try and stay on top of things as much as possible.

Targeting a crime allows the player to assign one of more of their heroes to it and then either watch it unfold or delegate it to happen in the background while other tasks are performed. In both cases, the player is given a percentile odds of success before committing, so they are able to determine whether or not they can safely delegate it or if they need to take a more hands-on approach. If the player chooses to watch the combat unfold, they may trigger the various heroes’ special abilities at will (cooldowns permitting) as well as use special managerial abilities that are unlocked as they gain experience alongside their heroes. These abilities range from a simple shout of encouragement, which increases the heroes’ attack power, to an exhortation to look at their problems from a different perspective, which flips their health bars around. The more the player plays, the more abilities they have on offer. This is a significant improvement from the rather dull hands-off combat of the early version released in September — while the battles still unfold mostly on autopilot, the player now has the opportunity to influence their outcome to a much greater degree, and the Delegate option allows for easy management of a large army of heroes at once.

Completing enough crime events in an area reveals the superpowered boss, who must be defeated in order to progress the game’s story. Player progression is also guided through a list of objectives in the corner of the screen, with rewards on offer when they are all completed. The player is never left without something to do, whether this is managing the welfare of their heroic team or trying to clean up a district as efficiently as possible.

It’s hard to pin down exactly what has been improved since the accidental early release of Middle Manager of Justice, but the game experience as a whole is now noticeably more satisfying than it once was. There are plenty of activities for the player to engage in, and as before the witty writing and excellent visuals make it an appealing experience. The overall pacing and balancing of the game seems to be much better, too — there is far less waiting around doing nothing than there once was, and progression seems to be a bit quicker. There are also plenty of items to buy with in-game currency, both soft and hard, and a decent collection of heroes to unlock over time.

Double Fine will need to ensure that Middle Manager of Justice receives regular updates over time if they wish to ensure it remains popular and profitable, however. Even now, only a short time after release, a large number of players on the Game Center leaderboards appear to have attained the maximum possible “Branch Rating,” suggesting that they have done everything the game has to offer right now. Several districts on the in-game map are marked as “coming soon” so there is the prospect of some additional content at least, but it remains to be seen whether this game will last in the long term. For now, however, it’s a significant improvement over its earlier version, and worth checking out if only for the trademark Double Fine wit.

Middle Manager of Justice is currently performing significantly better on iPad than iPhone, with a ranking of No. 22 in Top Free Apps and No. 10 in Top Free Games on the former as compared to No. 298 in Top Free Apps and No. 109 in Top Free Games on the latter. Follow its progress with AppData, our tracking service for mobile and social games and developers.

Play

A potent demonstration of what a difference a few extra months of development can make.

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