NBC's The Office Challenge

One day, nobody will work in an office. Everybody will work from home, transmitting data by email, holding meetings in Second Life, never leaving the house, mating with unseen partners via couriered specimen cups, monitoring offspring with webcams, fattening, softening, dying of thromboses, and squandering their children's inheritance of holiday pay on unauthorised absences as their corpses are eaten by ants.

Which is still better than having to iron clothes and commute. As Ricky Gervais and Steve Merchant so astutely observed, the office environment is a Petri dish of festering resentment and demoralising drudgery, but a great source of material for television and, potentially, video games.

Although we were unimpressed with IG Fun's previous attempt to make office work fun, this latest attempt is a far more convincing stab at the mini-game genre. For a start, while fancy labels don't generally impress us, it's pleasing to note that The Office Challenge is a licence of the American television series based on Gervais and Merchant's idea.

The Office Challenge is clearly going straight for the jugular of the casual audience, comprising as it does a set of quick-fire mini-games that bear a resemblance to GBA classic WarioWare in the same way that Clark Kent resembles Superman: the disguise that distinguishes them from each other is fairly pitiful, but nevertheless Clark has a corny appeal of his own.

The whole game takes the form of mini-games distributed amongst five staff members: Kevin, Dwight, Jim, Michael, and Pam. You begin with Kevin, rapidly working through a set of tasks that includes picking your nose, pouring coffee, and eating a salsa wrap.

Like WarioWare, The Office Challenge is as fast as a speeding bullet. Each mini-game is introduced with a single word title, such as 'Hit', and a diagram showing you which buttons on your keypad you'll need to use. Once the game starts you often have to think impossibly quickly, timing a jump, say, or ducking under an obstacle within a second of being thrust into the situation.

Other mini-games are less demanding, like Catch, in which you have to catch a photocopy, or Reflect, in which you have to direct a beam of light into the eyes of a colleague, and while the time limit is slim throughout the game, some of the simpler tasks are a little too simple.

For the most part, you'll find yourself cruising through the easier games repeatedly for the sake of one or two extremely tricky ones, rather than struggling equally with all of them.

With a vaguely concerted effort you'll get through every one of the 35 or so mini-games in an hour, unlocking a Survival mode in which a single failure costs you the game. This is a neat feature, adding a replay value, but you're likely to experience the same problem all over again of having to sleepwalk through several levels only to get repeatedly floored by one.

Given the fairly limited range, it's slightly galling to find that the levels repeat themselves. Filling cups from a coffee pot with '2', '4', '6', and '8', for instance, is functionally identical to hitting bobbleheads that pop up through holes in the table.

Nevertheless, for the most part the mini-games are imaginative, and they do the source material some justice. The Office Challenge is at its best when the character of the television programme comes through, when you mischievously cut someone's telephone cord mid-conversation or lift a placard that reads 'I HATE DWIGHT'. In short, it's best when it's funny, which it often is.

While The Office Challenge is a reasonable distance from perfect, it makes good use of its source material, both acknowledged and unacknowledged. It's a slim but playable riff on WarioWare, and a decent conversion that captures both the likeness and the off-beat humour of the NBC show.

If the flaws had been ironed out, however, we'd have been comparing it to the BBC one, instead of its poorer relation.

NBC's The Office Challenge

NBC's The Office Challenge is a fair stab at the party-game genre that only suffers from a slight paucity of levels and an uneven difficulty curve. For fans of the show, though, the humour is well-reproduced
Rob Hearn
Rob Hearn
Having obtained a distinguished education, Rob became Steel Media's managing editor, now he's no longer here though, following a departure in late December 2015.