STAFF REVIEW of Family Man (Xbox One)

Saturday, October 29, 2022.
by Brent Roberts

Family Man Box art Take the 80's video of Money for Nothing by Dire Straits with the serenity of Minecraft and Roblox and inject a heavy amount of dark humor and unending stress and twists and turns, and you get Family Man by Broken Bear Games and No More Robots. It's rare when an indie game with a small development force can create a game that can bring more enjoyment than those AAA blockbuster titles that cost hundreds of millions to develop, but this $19.99 release does just that. So, I'm going to go for a pack of smokes and tell you why this budget indie game should be on your radar. Don't worry, I will come back, I'll only be gone a moment. I promise.

Family Man begins its tale through a weird Twilight Zone style opening sequence. While some games are introducing you to vast areas and sweeping landscapes, Family Man starts out by sending you through years of your life, but contained in only minor interactive segments. Such moments would be when and where you meet your significant other, family Christmas, etc, and each one of these storied moments in your life plays a dark and direct connection to the rest of the game. Without spoiling too much, Family man is a game that prides itself on your ability to manage life itself. From doing illegal activities to pay off a debt to the mob, to flipping burgers and doing odd jobs around the house, time management is going to be your major challenge.

On one hand, you have your family who if you neglect and don't feed them, give them medicine, spend time with them, then they will leave you and your game is over. However, if you don't work and gather enough money, then the mob will kill you. How can you justify to your wife that you're not going to make it home to tuck your child into bed so you can go assassinate someone at night to pay the mob not to kill you?

This is the very balance that you will quickly come to terms with throughout the entire story. Now while that may seem like an easy task, you should note that you will be doing chores around the house, however there is a tradeoff. While time stops while you're in your house, it then advances upon completion of the chore to simulate time that had passed. Outside of your house though, time figuratively flies by. The clock ticks down very rapidly, almost to the tune of 1 minute = 1 second in the real world, so 1 hour = 1 minute.

Now your jobs outside of the house take time to complete, and don't forget, you may have the jobs done to pay the debt for the day, but you also have to feed your family, tuck your kid in, tell them a story and spend the night in with your spouse to keep them healthy, happy and fed. Based off this revelation it's 100% clear that the clock is quite literally your biggest threat.

Most of the time this game will be about trial and error. I lost count how many times my family left me because of some neglect or I opted to spend more time with the family at the cost of my life. Thankfully though, Family Man allows you to restart from the beginning of the day. If, however, you find yourself unable to manage your way out of your situation, then you may want to start over. This is probably one of the most repetitive functions you will do when you play.

To add to this replayability, Family Man boast multiple endings. Yes, while some AAA titles only have one story that is a premade path through the game, Family Man boasts four. Four endings that you can experience should you complete several criteria that are outcomes of various missions. Yes, morale will play a dynamic role on how your game unfolds for you and it's this combined with your choices in the missions that will determine what of the four endings you get to experience.

Family Man, despite its deep and robust moral gameplay, is relatively simplistic in design. The characters look like they were the spawn of the characters in the Dire Straits video Money for Nothing and practically every character in Roblox. All of this graphical joy comes with a very tranquil, almost Minecraft style of music that really is a stark contrast to the tension that you will naturally feel when you're trying to complete these missions in time, and then your phone rings and it's your baby girl asking when daddy is coming home to read a bedtime story. The contrast fits the narrative of the game as well, because if you're trying to race the clock, having these local characters take their sweet time talking to you can really bring about some unnecessary stress.

I have to admit that normally I pass on indie games because I feel that the entertainment experience to price point actually devalues the game when you have something that may not be as polished, interactive, or even enjoyable, but priced out of the market. We've all had that game where we've bought it and then kicked ourselves later for doing so. Family Man isn't that game, and in fact, I can say that it's this game itself that has made me take a more serious interest in indie titles. Priced at $19.99 USD, Family Man should definitely be on your radar if you're looking to enjoy an amazing gaming experience that is innovative and refreshing, yet incredibly challenging and stressful.

**Family Man was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 8.8 / 10
Gameplay: 9.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 8.8 / 10


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