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Rip Them Off – a game of questionable ethics

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Developer: Lozange Lab
Price: $4/£4
Size: 207.8 MB
Version: 1.0
Platform: iPhone & iPad

Rip Them Off

Rip Them Off is a game that’s big on presentational appeal, with a sharp Saul Bass art style and a wickedly cynical sense of humor. But that comes at the expense of clarity and, more crucially, fun.

While the game is all about maximizing the footfall on a series of high streets in order to extract as much capital as possible from dumb drone-like shoppers – a commentary that’s perhaps ill-timed given current retail industry struggles – Rip Them Off actually plays a lot like a classic tower defense game.

Certain shops cover multiple paths, making them more valuable

It’s just that rather than dropping weapon towers along a linear path to mow down waves of enemies, you’re here attempting to suck the shuffling throngs in, satisfy their retail therapy itch, and send them happily on their way.

There’s still an attritional edge to proceedings, however. Given increasingly harsh targets to meet, typically across several days (essentially phases of play), it’s imperative that you lay down the right number of stores to sate the thirst for goods. Dropping more than one store of a certain type – as represented by rudimentary shapes and symbols – is a big no-no, unless you upgrade and expand one of them.

The game has a cheeky, cynical sense of humor

The trouble is, we never really felt like we had a handle on what was going wrong with our approach, or what the difference was between a failed run and a successful one. In the best tower defense games, like Kingdom Rush, it’s typically simple to pinpoint the flaws in your approach and to identify where the bottlenecks are. But that’s not the case here.

Part of that is a simple lack of explanation. The obligatory interactive tutorial tells you precious little, and we found ourselves delving into the help files for any clue as to what we should be doing.

Each shape represents a different kind of shop

Even then, it proved tricky to get a bead on the varying attributes of different shops. Should we save up for a more expensive type of shop here, or would an upgrade be more appropriate? And what do all these numbers mean anyway? For a certain type of player, figuring out these obtuse intricacies will be part of the fun – but for others, it may try the patience.

Feeding into this is the super-stylized and abstract presentation, which looks striking, but fails to provide much in the way of useful feedback. It’s also quite frankly a little boring to sit back and watch, with none of the pyrotechnics or incidental detail of a typical tower game.

You can restart from each day or phase of play

The result is that we felt prompted to lean on the fast forward button quite heavily, which potentially stunted the process of spotting patterns and learning appropriate techniques.

Rip Them Off offers an agreeably fresh combination of casual puzzling and tower defense, with a bitingly cynical sense of humor. We love the idea. But like a Saturday afternoon on the high street, it can be a bit of a confounding slog.

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