When reading studies discussing human evolution, a common theme that occurs is the human need for social and societal acceptance. For thousands of years working together has been a societal norm. Co-operation has been championed as a virtue and consistently responding positively to the requests of others – doing things for other people – has been seen as the “right” thing to do. Unfortunately, whilst most of the time this led to a net positive for all, this has also led to a culture of saying “yes” to pretty much anything both in our personal and professional lives. Whether through fear of losing your livelihood or genuine kindness and affection for our fellow man, too often it feels impossible to say no, even when doing so can sometimes be better for our health.
As a response to this, Say NO! More encourages the player to be kinder to themselves and foster more positive relationships with others. Those who know me understand I’m a raving trade unionist, so getting the chance to give it a go was a dream for me. So, let’s see if Say NO! More successfully expresses its message that sometimes saying yes is the wrong thing to do.
Created by Studio Fizbin – the same minds behind the brilliant The Inner World – SNM is marketed as the world’s first NO! -Playing game, and I can’t argue with this description. You’re placed in the role of an intern at a non-descript company on their very first day and must navigate the toxic work culture you encounter. In a very black and white way, SNM sets this world up as a place where the word No has been practically outlawed, but in reality what’s meant by this is that airing your disagreement, distaste, objection or any form of negativity is seen as an unthinkable crime. You get to build your own character for a nice variety of assets, and I quickly found something to fit me – a purple mohawk. The intern begins their day receiving a home-made lunch from their live-in best friend, who immediately is shown as a likeable moocher, before they set off.
The initial workday is slow to play through, as it plays out mostly like a cut-scene giving you no agency, but this really sets up the toxic work culture the game wants to discuss. Things seem nice to begin with, but it soon become apparent that management at the company regularly take advantage of their workers and the no-objection laws, leading to your beloved lunch (and swanky lunchbox) being taken by your boss. Finding a long-hidden tape-player with a motivational tape on objecting in it, the player quickly learns how to say No! before setting off on a rampage to reclaim their lunch. Saying anything else about the plot would be spoilerific, but what ensues is a string of events which slowly empower the intern and comment on “agreement” culture, using the very black and white setting as a harsher metaphor for our own, more nuanced world.
The whole concept of the game is incredibly interesting, and really, I’m stuck as to what to say about it. I love it and how it tackles these ideas, but part of the experience is seeing the plot unfold. The whole thing is about 1 ½ to 2 hours long and throws a variety of crazy situations at you which only escalate as you ascend the corporate ladder. Whilst at times the power of saying No! does feel a little overblown, I like the simple purity of the message and how this is played with in the final act. I also enjoy the sheer sense of surrealness they’ve imbued into the game, combining naturalistic scenarios with lunacy to build an over-the-top but fun parody of reality.
Unfortunately, the gameplay is the weakest element of the package. For the most part the game plays with a single button – the No! button – and your aim is to literally say no to people. Whilst you can perform charged No! attacks, build up confidence using what I can only describe as taunts and switch the tone of your No!, it never really felt like I HAD to do these things and more like they were simply options. The only exception to this was boss fights, but even then there were only a couple of instances where a specific No! was required. I would have liked to have seen more complexity, but it’s clear that the developer was trying to make a societal and narrative point rather than build compelling gameplay.
Visually SNM has a unique style which is both effective and simplistic. Areas between set-pieces felt repetitive at times but were also always colourful and vibrant. It could be argued that in avoiding a naturalistic style the developers allowed themselves to play with the surreal aspects a little more, but at times I did feel like a little more effort could have been put into the presentation. I felt the same about the sound design, as although the individual elements worked well as a collective nothing really stood out as being extraordinary. The only big positive I have to say for the presentation is that most of the voice acting is perfect for the style they were going for; big, vibrant and tonally fitting.
All in all, I enjoyed my time with Say No! More and loved the central philosophy behind the narrative. The key message of being kinder to yourself and others by “saying no more” was one which resonated with me and was well executed. Whilst the gameplay itself is somewhat lacklustre, I can’t help but love the package as a whole as the devs clearly had a vision and ran with it. If you’re up for a relatively short but poignant indie experience, I’d say Say No! More is worth a look, even if I personally feel that the current price tag of £13.49 is a little high for the amount of content included.
Developers: Studio Fizbin, Lux Games
Publishers: Thunderful, and Lux Games
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, and PC
This Review is based on the Nintendo Switch version of the game and can be purchased here for £13.49RRP
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