The Office Preview

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Dwight’s being weird. Michael’s his usual annoying self. And Ryan, well… that self-starting pretty boy intern just doesn’t know when to give up. As for us, we’re just happy favorite characters such as Jim, Pam, Andy and Kevin are also around to add comedy value in The Office, a soon-to-be-released interactive adaptation of NBC’s hit television series from publisher MumboJumbo. Taking the concept of standard time management games and turbo-charging it with a super-size dose of wit and personality, we’re confident it’s one title that even those who aren’t primetime viewers will enjoy tuning into.

The big twist here, besides the obvious presence of licensed personalities and settings such as paper company Dunder Mifflin’s offices (which change over time, adding decorations when Valentine’s Day and other occasions arrive)? The presence of a rival, or second on-screen character, who’ll compete against you to fill orders and score points. You see, the threat of downsizing is in the air, and birdbrain he is, regional manager Michael Scott’s decided to hold efficiency competitions ("eff-comps" for short, in case you speak corporate) to decide who gets the axe. Therefore you’ll basically compete in a series of ever-more-challenging scenarios starring everyone’s favorite disaffected workers to fill as many paper orders as possible before time runs out.

Happily, keeping the gig’s the least of your incentives for playing. Added bonuses such as collectible achievements (a bobble-head doll for beating Dwight, a World’s Best Boss mug for top performance) and extra goodies (think fun-filled mini-games, cameos by series stars, etc) should be what really keep you glued to the monitor.

So how does the game work? To make a long story short, each level, part of a larger stage grouping, takes place in the halls of Dunder Mifflin. A cadre of workers – some you’ll recognize, e.g. hidden personnel such as Creed and Oscar (who award various point or performance boosts when selected after being unlocked), some you won’t – inhabit desks located at various positions on-screen. Each, represented by a giant-headed caricature, will request varying items – folders of differing color, printouts, files and so forth – via a thought bubble that randomly appears above their cranium.

Your job is to pick up these items and deliver them speedily so your colleagues in scenic Scranton, PA can place proper paper orders, then collect finished missives and send them off to shipping. Doing so, happily, is as easy as clicking your left mouse button, with the ability to queue up several actions in sequence a huge help in this regard. Bear in mind though that you can always visit the recycle bin to dump off unwanted items or right-click to instantly stop in your tracks if situations change on the fly.

Of course, the same time you’re busy doing all this in hopes of collecting a certain dollar amount each day, so too is a rival (Dwight, Ryan, whoever) who’ll be directly competing to deliver the goods. From a practical standpoint, this means you’ll have to think fast and click faster to make drop-offs before opponents can do the same, and potentially score themselves an upset victory. And the deeper you dig into the title, the more interesting things get, with orders taking longer to process, fresh items beginning to appear (e.g. a coffee pot that bestows temporary speed boosts) and new pranks to pull. That’s right; in keeping with the show’s comedic roots, build up your prank-o-meter by outfoxing foes, and you can visit Pam’s desk to put one over on your opponent. Activate this power, and you’ll be in for a treat, especially if you’re an avid viewer, as Kelly comes out to annoy Ryan with her ceaseless banter or Pam stuffs Dwight’s pocket protector in the vending machine.

Bonus segments are also plentiful, with you periodically having to quickly collect various office supplies when top dog Jan appears (best guess: this one’s set around Season 3) or retrieve and deliver employee comments to a suggestion box post-haste. It’s a caveat which, predictably, just goes to underscore how much depth and detail has been placed into the title, giving it a fighting chance of rising to the top of the genre.

Will The Office live up to expectation? Who knows… though what we can say is this: All early signs point to a big thumbs up. Then again, if there’s one thing we’ve learned from the smash hit series, wherever Michael Scott’s involved, you always have can keep an eye out for an impending train wreck. Stay tuned for a full review shortly.