Smooth Operators: Call Center Chaos manages to perfectly reflect what I always imagine trying to run an office building is like. While I have never had the chance to work in such a setting, I’d like to believe that they are the most stressful middle-class workplaces around. Heydeck Games clearly has some experience with these places, and captures the overall madness very well in their workplace simulator, which released earlier this year.
Smooth Operators is a bit of a different business simulator. Unlike some of the more famous titles in the genre, Smooth Operators’ gameplay focuses on trying to max out the efficiency of all of your workers. This is done through a combination of keeping workers happy and keeping them on task at all times. When a new game starts out, the player can only hire two types of workers and only build one type of office floor. Not that this matters, as the budget is going to be tight for a long while.
In my first attempt at building a booming business, I spent all of my starting budget to build four floors of office with an elevator to get to each floor. I lasted five days before running hundreds of dollars in debt. Turns out employees need a restroom, or else they will angrily drive home every time they need to use a toilet. This cut into my active employee worktime a ton, and if I had lasted any longer I guarantee they would have quit. My next run lasted quite a while longer as I began adapting to the needs of employees which are displayed whenever a frustration happens. This is the sort of excitement that makes me fall in love with this sort of game. After each failure I was determined to figure out what I did wrong, and attempt to become a mega-business again.
At midnight of each day in Smooth Operators, a summary of profits of the day are displayed reminding players to focus on different parts of operations, employee happiness and how efficient everything is running. Interestingly, the game never directly tells you how to improve efficiency. Eventually a whole load of options open up for employee types, but we are never given directions on how to use them well.
The visual style worked great for Smooth Operators. Each employee type wore different clothes and performed different actions to do their job. For example, the IT guy wore a t-shirt and shorts and would kick computers until they stopped smoking; while the managers wore more formal clothes than most workers and would wave their arms around while screaming at employees. A minor frustration with the visuals is there was no option to see how ALL employees were feeling. Instead I had to hover over each worker, one by one to see who needed a vacation or raise or to be allowed to quit. This wasn’t a major problem with the ability to affect the speed of the game, but it would have been a nice option to have.
Heydeck Games created an engaging game that captured the feel of a hilariously chaotic attempt at efficiency. Every time I ended up in debt, I found myself wanting another attempt at making the big bucks. While I never found myself running a multi-million dollar company, I did manage to keep my business afloat long enough to earn a few achievements.
Smooth Operators is part of a five game bundle currently being distributed on GamersGate.[review score="87" pros="Fun Trial and Error Challenge, Refined Visuals" cons="Mediocre Music, Not Much Guidance"]