Tower defense games are a bit of a stigma to some. Unless you can stand out from the crowd, you’re doing what’s already been done before. But when a tower defense game breaks the boundaries of the norm, and tries something new—you can get something incredibly groundbreaking and innovative, or something that ends up being esoteric and doesn’t quite work. Unfortunately, for me, Rip Them Off was the latter.
Rip Them Off is a tower defense game with an unconventional approach. You are the newest member of a company’s sales team, and you are tasked with setting up retail shops for the waves of customers that move through any particular map. In this case, the shoppers are the “enemies” and the shops are the towers. But instead of defeating your enemies, you’re trying to get as much profit from each customer as possible. To do this, you have to set up a series of shops to create retail traps to ensure you’re draining these dopes of as much money as humanly possible.
To get you into this strange brand of tower defense, it has an art style that invokes the feeling of industry, and a quirky sense of humor to back it up. The writing is some of the best parts of Rip Them Off, but it’s all stuff we’ve seen before. Your employers don’t care about you, and are using you as a stepping stone to bring in more money. If you don’t meet their metrics, you’re tossed out. It’s a cruel business model, but without proper guidance, you’ll be lost in this world of retail. Unfortunately guidance is not forthcoming.
A strange design decision has most information about the systems behind Rip Them Off hidden in a text box. What’s worse, if you seek this information out, the game warns you of spoilers. I don’t consider knowing the basic mechanics of a game to be spoilers, but it seems as though Rip Them Off intended for you to learn the mechanics through trial and error. That would be fine, if there was enough information given to make the process fun, and not frustrating. Unfortunately, learning how to play Rip Them Off is not fun.
Rip Them Off gives you all of your stores (towers) at once. There is very little learning curve as you’re thrown in and meant to start making decisions. The only information you’re given is what the capacity is for each store, how much time customers take at that store, and how much money they spend. You want them in and out fast, while spending the most cash they can. You also want a variety of towers, because your shoppers don’t want to shop for the same items twice. But the money you make, even when I was earning bonus stars for each level, was so razor thin a profit, I had very little room for experimentation.
Each map of Rip Them Off feels like it has a right answer, and only one right answer. There might be variations in how you can win each one, but the truth is, it doesn’t give you enough room for experimentation. This is double damning if you consider how little information you are given about how the game works.
Rip Them Off does have redeeming qualities. The music and art are great—and as I mentioned before—both really go a long way in setting the mood for the whole endeavor. Each of the different maps is beautiful, and I would happily put any one of them as a print in my home. Unfortunately, it’s just not enough to lift up the rest of the game. The UI is akin to something you’d find in a mobile game, which to me isn’t damning, but the “mobile game” feeling may be offputting to others. I think it’s done very well here.
Overall, Rip Them Off wasn’t a game I found to be very fun. It has a great art style, and makes an attempt at innovation in an incredibly stale genre, but the clever design doesn’t translate into a game that I wanted to keep playing.
Rip Them Off releases September 24th
If you like the video game, tabletop, or other technology content that Third Coast Review has to offer, consider donating to our Patreon. We are the only publication in Chicago that regularly reviews video games, and we cover lots of local Chicago-based events and more. If you want to contribute to our coverage of Chicago’s video game scene (and more) please consider becoming a patron. Your support enables us to continue to provide this type of content and more. Patreon.com/3CR
You can also catch us streaming games we’re reviewing and staff favorites at twitch.tv/bokor