It’s been around a year since we discussed Dead End Job in any real depth. As it turns out, the ghost-busting roguelike has moved along in leaps and bounds during that time.
Dead End Job, for those unaware, follows the bumbling Hector Plasm — a low-level paranormal pest-control worker at Ghoul-B-Gone. When all the other workers are out on jobs, it comes down to Hector, who seems to be historically somewhere between company embarrassment and liability. Things are different now, though. Hector has twenty days to save the soul of his former mentor, and that’s best done by getting promotions and clearing out the offices of ghouls that haunt the place.
The main reason I wanted to revisit Dead End Job was due to the changes to its control system. Gone was the ~100° firing arc, replaced instead with 360° aiming — meaning you no longer get caught in corners, unable to fire at approaching enemies, due to the map layout. With the previous build of the game, my biggest issue was the way shooting worked; it hindered the player from being able to get to enemies and made the rooms more tedious to clear out. The game has also received a lot of visual polish since I last saw it back in early 2017 at that year’s EGX Rezzed.
Enemies have been tweaked quite substantially. The early build I played had different-coloured versions of medium slimes alongside the smaller, purple, explosive enemies. The newer version features new artwork for the enemies, making their attack patterns easier to tell apart and their differences easier to see. Along with minor enemies making more sense, the mid-boss-styled enemies are brought in with introduction screens — which do a great job of highlighting new challenges.
Another big change is the game’s room layout. Last year I described them as crowded, and (almost) blamed them for the difficulty of the game. The firing arc combined with the objects blocking vertical or horizontal shots made combat tough.
Of course, as I mentioned earlier, the firing angles have been changed, which completely changes the way you navigate rooms. As a result, rooms are now actually busier — but not in a way that makes it feel more challenging. More filing cabinets, fax machines and computers fill the small rooms, giving you awkward paths to weave around instead of the openness these large rooms could have had.
These objects serve as blockades for ghosts, however, as most will attempt to move around objects. Bumbling is out, kiting is in, and it feels great. Destroying these various office items can also sometimes drop money, giving you a higher score.
The build I played through at Insomnia 62 also showed off the newly implemented map screen. I’m always a sucker for a good level select, and while it certainly wasn’t ground-breaking, the fact that the optional objectives were accessible, the difficulty visible and the game’s 90s-cartoon style consistent, was especially pleasing.
Dead End Job is looking to become an extremely memorable game. The signature Ant Workshop humour — each level and enemy’s name is a pun, each job title ludicrous and each perk/skill description entertaining — and wonderful art and concept has already started coming together well, with plenty of development time ahead.
There’s currently only a vague 2019 release date pencilled in for Dead End Job, with confirmed releases planned for PC and Mac, although plenty of room for more depending on the game’s reception. Those interested in being kept up to date on the game can subscribe to its newsletter, or follow the developer on Twitter, @AntWorkshop.