Like books, television, and film, video games can be used as a platform to express ideas and explore unique subject matter. Because of their interactive nature, it’s possible to see and feel the world through someone else’s eyes and walk a mile in their shoes. Life Is Strange, for example, lets you experience life as an early twenty something struggling to understand a incredible and awesome power she’s been given. Virginia explored trauma from the point of view of an FBI agent recalling her first case involving the disappearance of a young boy. Shadow of the Colossus lets you finally understand what it’s like to fight giants and then get stabbed to unconsciousness by black, snaky tendril thingies. The point is, video games bring us closer to the thoughts and feelings of people in various stages of distress or discomfort. Game designer Scott Ethington uses the medium to tackle an important and difficult life event that, chances are, we’ve all experienced at least one. An event defined by feelings of pain, confusion, paranoia, loss, and psychological trauma. I’m speaking, or course, of ripping your pants. (Yeah, I know, this was a dumb, easily broadcasted joke but I thought it was funny, so it stays.)
At long last, Ripped Pants At Work shows that someone isn’t afraid to address an issue all of America - no, the world! - struggles with. As the newest hire for a prestigious, pants-minded corporation, you start the day bright-eyed and bushy-tailed after being led to your shiny new cubicle. Life is good and full of mirth until…
Your slacks rip and tear in the middle of the innocent act of picking up a pencil from off the floor. Faced with immediate termination if caught walking around in your tighty whities, you’ll have to avoid attention as you scour a small city looking for new clothes. As you can see, there isn’t much to this goofy little stealth game. But it’s bursting at the seams (heh, get it?) with personality. The Crossy Road-inspired block pixel visuals gives the game a lot of character as you rush to and from over to avoid the shocked gaze of sensitive citizens.
The saga begins with you controlling a randomly generated avatar who loses his slacks at work. You must then escape the office and find something to wear while drawing as little attention as possible. The map offers a few fun and diverse areas to explore, like coffee shops, a motel, a pants museum, and a department store. Some clothes are placed out in the open while others require a little more work as you hunt for secret passageways and other access routes to circumvent locked doors and other obstructions. Each location features fun visual gags that lend each area a little bit of extra character, like the timid ghosts who haunt the sewer underneath the city, or the obnoxious child ruining the exhibits in the museum. Because of personal modesty and indecency laws, you’ll have to make clever use of cover in your quest for a new outfit. If spotted within someone’s line of sight, a kind of “embarrassment” meter fills up the longer you stay in their view. If that meter fills completely, the game, and your employment, is over.
That said, there’s a bit of a risk/reward mechanic tied to spending enough time exposed to public scrutiny. If you get the meter, represented in the game as your blushing face, nearly to the top, the character gains a speed boost that is enough to break through certain roadblocks. Once new clothes have been acquired, your character must stand still for a few seconds while they dress themselves. It’s still possible to be caught unawares by folks patrolling the area, so it’s desirable to find a nice, out of the way spot. Successful re-pantsing ends the game and displays a screen that shows you what type of pants you found, and how long it took to acquire them. You then get sent back to the office with those pants only to rip them again and set off to find another pair.
Ripped Pants At Work is a fun and wonderfully inexpensive game that’s great for a group of friends to pass the controller around. The numerous puzzle pathways to each pair of pants are cleverly designed and offer a good challenge. The soundtrack is pitch perfect, as an acoustic guitar plays a jaunty and gentle tune that runs counter to the stress and terror typically associated of running across busy streets in your underwear. While this won’t command much of your attention for too long, as you could easily collect the entire of pantheon of legwear in as little as half an hour (or less if you challenge yourself), it's still a pretty fun distraction from boring computer work. Ripped Pants At Work takes an instantly relatable premise and fills it with personality, easy to understand mechanics, and silly visual humor.
Librarian by day, Darkstation review editor by night. I've been playing video games since the days of the Commodore 64 and I have no interest in stopping now that I've made it this far.