Spinnortality Review: A Lovingly Bleak Cyberpunk Megacorp Management Sim
Each simulator tends to come with a particular ideology or perspective baked into its design. Spinnortality, styled to suggest media spin + immortality, is an exemplary example that assumes brutally cynical and darkly oppressive corporate cyberpunk futurism.
Engaging Systems of Control
Thematically, think of Spinnortality as Monopoly for 2019 but with social commentary that doesn’t rely on the game being intentionally torturous to play.
Instead of a hypercapitalist race for hotels and railroads, we have a transhuman rush for immortality. There isn’t much focus on broader science-fiction elements like intergalactic war, giant death robots, space travel, pink-haired hackers, and the like. Instead, Spinnortality is tightly focused on the bleak but shiny transhumanist megacorp side of cyberpunk.
Spinnortality is firmly, lovingly rooted in the niche genre of 'turn-based global cyberpunk corporation simulator.'
As CEO, you allocate corporate resources, make compromising decisions, and strategically ensure the future of your Board of Directors.
The end result is a strategy sim that, given the context of its budget, dev team, and narrow narrative scope, still manages to rival the depth and engagement, if not the breadth of, experience found in games like the original XCOM, Civ, and Europa Universalis.
The Auteur Developer
Firmly, lovingly rooted in the niche genre of “turn-based global cyberpunk corporation simulator," Spinnortality is a Unity-built, one-dev project by James Patton.
As the name suggests, you spin your way to immortality in various literal, but usually sinister, ways. Similar to dynasty, business, or civilization management sims, your corporation, corrupt and inefficient as it may be, is your legacy that must endure the proverbial test of time.
Victory conditions include developing rigid imperialism, rampant consumerism, or a new world order. The Humane victory, alternatively, takes a thematic left, feeling almost out of place given the economic impacts of your otherwise amoral decisions.
Spinnortality's writing fits together well, from the decision and newspaper popups to the menus and tutorials. While I’d love for Spinnortality to feature so much more than one dev can do, I greatly prefer the way Patton unified his gameplay, strategy, aesthetics, and writing into a singular vision of a specific future.
While not everyone has Kojima-level star power, the success of “solo” developers like Lucas Pope (Papers, Please), Eric Barone (Stardew Valley), Dean Dodrill (Elysian Tail), and Jonathan Blow (Braid), just to name a few, shows that auteur games can be a major force in today’s market.
Money is Power, Inc.
While there are indeed flaws in Spinnortality, most are minor issues with the UI as well as some contextual vagueness in certain menus. But it is minimal, and the tutorial popups sufficiently lay out your objectives, and where and how most strategy comes into play.
In reality, my biggest disappointment is simply that one dev can’t do it all. Spinnortality has a quality at its core that, with additions such as more dialogue and voices, bold cutscenes, deeper research trees, more diverse victories, and greater complexity, would easily be on par with many AAA titles.
Within these constraints, the care given to and passion exuding from Spinnortality are much easier to see, giving both strategy sim and cyberpunk fans plenty to love.
The random chance that influences certain events, and the shifting priorities amongst countries, creates dynamic gameplay by giving you influence over different political parties and companies to challenge your strategic approach. Balancing your workforce across research and development efforts gives players flexibility to adapt to new challenges and changes.
Overall, replayability is hampered by these same constraints. The strategic events outside of your control are the biggest hurdle at first, but the engaging atmosphere and (most of the) ambient soundtrack keep the learning process exciting.
- Satisfying turn-based strategic management sim
- Compelling corporate cyberpunk worldbuilding and aesthetics
- High-value content and replayability for genre fans
- Lacks bells and whistles, due to solo dev
- Some randomness can feel unfair/arbitrary
There’s a fair amount of nuance and complexity the further you delve, with just enough replayability to match, exponentially so for big cyberpunk fans.
What Spinnortality lacks in a broader depth, it makes up for in exploring (or drilling down) its themes and ideologies.