Post Master | PC | Excalibur Productions
Postman Pat ran over his cat.
Blood and guts went flying,
Postman Pat was crying,
You never saw a cat as flat as that.
Let’s face it. Postman Pat was shit, wasn’t it? The boring, cock-nosed arse would tootle around Greendale in his stupid little van with his cat sat next to him – probably contravening all sorts of health and safety edicts from the Royal Mail – and get involved in everybody else’s business. Poor Farmer Lancaster couldn’t go five minutes without Pat asking to borrow a ladder, sheep or somesuch. It’s no wonder the program ended in controversy when Mrs. Goggins went on a kill crazy rampage and slaughtered every soul in the village.
Mind you, it was Pat’s annoying insistence on helping every stranded animal or tangled kite that made the program watchable. If it was just a bloke going around dropping off letters to people, it would have probably been kind of boring. You need drama to really get excited about the postal service – the kind of drama that is severely lacking in Excalibur Production’s latest opus, Post Master.
Nailing down exactly why I would suggest you not spend your hard-earned money on this ‘game’ is tricky, but that’s what we’re here for. If nothing else, we can all learn a little something about what we want from our video games.
Problem One – Such interface, very wow.
Turn on the game for the first time and it fails to inspire confidence from the get go. The menus look like something which no-one wanted to design, so they asked a passing colourblind tramp if he wouldn’t mind taking a look at some slides. Seriously fellas – that was the best you could do? Your front-end sets the tone for what we’re going to expect from the game, and it screams cheap and throwaway.
You get to choose a company name, logo and colour scheme for your fleet of delivery vehicles and then it’s off into the exciting world of delivering stuff. The game takes place on an isometric city map that looks like a cast-off from an early build of Sim City 4. It manages to be both spartan and cluttered at the same time through- some clever trickery, like showing every building in the city. But those buildings are completely meaningless beyond the post they generate – which is viewed on a second map. That second map is full of icons and no tool tips but it is, at least, functional once you’ve worked out what’s going on.
As an indie developed title, we can perhaps overlook the dated looking graphics and hideous interface, but a little more graphical pizzazz could have helped to elevate this title and make it more appealing to play.
Also, grey text on a white background? That made me want to claw my eyes out.
Problem Two – Bro, do you even sim?
Pick a site for your first Post Office, hire some staff, purchase vehicles, set routes etc. Sounds like you’re building up to some to some hardcore simulation action here, but after the initial build-up, it just stops dead. So you build your fleet, you expand your operations throughout the city but then what?
The cities you serve grow, but you don’t need to achieve total coverage of the cities so there’s no compunction to change up your operations. The game doesn’t give you anywhere near enough information to be able to successfully micromanage your business, as data on variable costs vs. income for the different staff ratios or fleet configurations is absent. All you can do is watch your money counter tick upwards and operate on the basis that bigger is better. If you’re in the market for a simulation game, subtlety and depth is where it’s at. Sadly the economics of this title simply aren’t fleshed out enough to be interesting.
You don’t have to be clever, or even have anything above a rudimentary understanding of the game mechanics in order to be successful. There’s no challenge here – and no challenge means no fun.
Problem Three – Why should I care?
The million dollar – or in this case £10 – question. Why should you buy this game, when there are so many other worthwhile ‘Tycoon’ style titles out there? I seriously can’t think of a single reason. Nothing about this game makes it fun to play. Even a throwaway facebook game knows how to give feedback to its player – to reward them for a job well done (or a farm well clicked at least). Where Post Master really fails to earn its corn, is its determination to not reward the player for playing. You don’t get a satisfying response from the game for doing anything, good or bad. I’m not talking about game winning actions here, but if I unlock a new vehicle, I want a satisfying ‘vroom’ noise. When I reach a currency milestone, I want a ‘ker-ching’ noise – these things might not sound important, but their absence leaves the game dulled and worse – ponderous.
I think, when all is said and done, that the worst crime this game commits is being boring. The developer’s decision to not allow you to really speed up time absolutely cripples the game. Yes, there are different speeds you can run at, but even the fastest is painfully slow. Frankly I think this is because there’s no end game to this – there’s nothing out there for you beyond the first few hours of play. Let you get too far ahead, and they run the risk of highlighting what a shallow experience Post Master offers.
With business games, the cut and thrust of finance and expanding your empire is the heart of the thing. You could make a decent game out of ‘Glue Factory Tycoon’ or ‘Empire of Carpets’ if you can make the acquisition of money and growing your reach exciting enough. Whether that be through struggling against an aggressive AI, or negotiating your way through the minutiae of financial options to find that slight tweak to get you ahead of the curve, it needs to be engaging and rewarding.
Post Master rewards you with nothing. I can only suggest you respond in kind.
Review by Karlos Morale
Post Master is out now on PC