When I think of business-related games, management simulators such as RollerCoaster Tycoon tend to come to mind. But developer Lozange Lab has come up with an interesting twist on the idea with Rip Them Off, which I’m honestly surprised I haven’t seen before. The game bills itself as a hybrid tower defense / puzzle title, a description which I feel fits incredibly well. Originally launching last year on mobile devices, Rip Them Off is now available on Nintendo Switch and is definitely worth a look.
As an agent of The Board, a mysterious organization that works tirelessly to deprave citizens of their money, your goal is to develop businesses on the map in such a way as to hit a specified revenue over a period of days. Customers — or as the game refers to them, “Dupes” — travel in specified paths and will stop at every store they encounter, provided there is enough room in the store. Once they leave, you’ll earn money based on the type and level of the store. You can then think of stores attacking Dupes for their money, much like towers in tower defense titles attack enemies’ health.
The puzzle and strategy aspects of Rip Them Off come in when you begin to account for store variety and traffic flow. There are a total of nine types of stores you can choose to build, each with a set capacity, cycle time, and revenue per Dupe. I found the menus detailing these statistics a little clunky, but it didn’t hinder my experience too much. You need to make sure that the stores you build can handle the crowds, as you’re losing money otherwise.
In addition, while Dupes will buy from all nine store types, they won’t buy from a store they’ve already visited, unless there’s a difference in level. For example, having two level 1 triangle stores in a row means Dupes will pass by the second store, whereas having a level 1 triangle followed by a level 2 triangle is perfectly okay. Resource management also plays a big part in Rip Them Off. With the money your stores earn, you can buy new stores, upgrade existing ones, or replace existing stores with a new type of store. Thankfully, your goals are based on cumulative revenue, so there’s no reason to just sit on your cash stash.
Early on, things are fairly simple. The game’s tutorial does a great job of walking you through the process of building stores, even going so far as to suggest different stores for different traffic flows. Things quickly start getting more difficult, however, as you eventually have to deal with multiple streams of traffic entering the same stores, which can really throw off your carefully laid plans if you aren’t prepared. By the end, it gets downright tough, though Rip Them Off takes steps to mitigate any potential frustration that may stem from this.
First, there’s a hint system within the instructions that will show you, to an extent, which stores to build where and in what order. Secondly, if you ever fail your goal, or if you just want to reset, you have the ability to reset to any particular day you’ve already played, allowing you the freedom to experiment with different layouts without too much penalty.
As if this weren’t enough, partway through the game, you’ll unlock the “Map of the Moment.” This throws extra wrinkles into the mix, including different traffic patterns, and new mechanics get added that can introduce new strategic elements. I would’ve liked to have seen this idea expanded a bit further, but as it stands, it helps provide a little replayability to the game. My bigger issue is that some of these new mechanics aren’t really explained by the time you unlock them, leaving me with no idea how they work. It’s possible some of these mechanics come into play late in the campaign, but I’ve not gotten there if they are.
Rip Them Off also oozes style. The game features minimalist graphics, yet it makes great use of its visuals to convey important information. Traffic origins are color-coded based on their spawn speed. Stores are identified by different shapes that change from black to white when that slot is filled by a Dupe. You are then able to tell at a glance if your stores are constantly full or never reaching capacity, which can be helpful in future decision-making. Rip Them Off also features a nice jazzy soundtrack, which really sets the ’50s vibe. Couple these aspects with the game’s satirical writing, and you get quite the charming experience.
Overall, Rip Them Off is a pretty unique take on the tower defense genre. While there aren’t a ton of maps, there’s plenty of room to revisit them to try to improve your scores. Further, the later maps are incredibly difficult, so you’ll probably be playing them for a while. Thankfully, the game accounts for these factors and provides an effective way to tinker with your setups. If you want a game that’s easy to pick up, yet hard to master, Rip Them Off is well worth your time.
A review code was provided by the publisher.