My worker has been in a lousy mood lately, and I can’t blame them. I have been trying to suppress his intentions of being honest with the customers while taking away their free will. But I hope they understand that’s for the greater good of the company. We need our customers to provide us with data, cause our AI will never be sated. Hopefully, all will be in order when management will call me for my monthly Flat Eye review.
What seems to be an unassuming simulator of running a futuristic Eye Life(tm) station, hides much more than that beneath the surface. Despite being a gas station simulator, the gas will never be our focus (it is not even interactive), but it’s all about getting people to buy stuff and extracting their DNA in various methods. Or even, well, using their biological waste to make sausages to sell. Nothing can go to waste.
Flat Eye has a lot to say regarding our relationship with technology and our current world where many people would like to avoid having any contact with megacorporations, but, at this point, it’s doubtful they can even do it. As we will meet hackers, artists and all kinds of weirdos, they will inform us of their opinions on the company and what is happening in the outside world. While the desktop app provides us with an exclusive inside look into the company’s creators and their intentions, along with some chillingly accurate CEO-speak.
The gameplay is split between being a management simulator and a narrative. Each day, we have to guide our clerk in managing the shop, buying new features for our station and keeping up with the company’s requests. The more stars we gain for acting as they asked us to, the more new technology we’ll unlock thus attracting new premium customers. But there’s more, there will be an AI that will get in contact with us (interestingly, the only voice-acted character) and also ask us to complete objectives and comment, often snarkily, on our interactions with the premiums.
What initially might be only slightly disquieting features that our shop will have, like a mirror which tells people what to do with themselves, pretty soon will start including such unique tech as cloning booths and memory modification modules, so you can remove those pesky nasty events from the past. It is clear that the company does not exactly care about the future of humanity, so perhaps we will…? Or not?
A note aside, I have to make for how Flat Eye handles content warnings. At the start of the game, we get to choose if to get warned about specific topics (and the game does feature extreme content, despite its appearance) that we can select from a very detailed list. When said topic will appear in the narrative, we will be warned and we can then choose to skip it or continue as it is. Probably one of the most in-depth content warning management systems I have seen so far in a game, kudos to the team.
The balance between gameplay and narrative feels mostly right, as we will spend most of the time trying to keep up with customers and keeping up the mood of our clerk, while also waiting for new premium customers to arrive and see what they’ve been up to. In later days, unfortunately, the balance seems a bit too skewed towards trying to repair every feature in the station as they seem to break down continuously. Perhaps there is a way to avoid it, but I’d recommend not hiring a clerk who does not like repairing stuff cause they will be gone very soon. Granted, the fact that we are only managing a single small gas station might, in the long run, be a bit repetitive for players that were expecting to go on to bigger things. But the developers told me they are aware and are going to extend the scope in a future DLC, so hopefully, the balance can be also quickly fixed.
Graphically, Flat Eye does the job with simple, clean 3D graphics which also communicate instantly what we need to know since only premium customers have an actual identity and most others are just “shapes”. The ambient soundtrack is also pretty much perfect, it never gets repetitive and does accompany our discovery of the company. Flat Eye is not a game that wants to hold your hand while dumping tons of exposition on your face, instead it is a slow discovery of our ever more difficult relationship with technology and corporations.
The team, which has previously released Night Call, has accomplished a solid balance of management sim with narrative/interactive scenes with solid gameplay which also needs a touch of rebalancing to feel perfect. With a foreboding dystopian atmosphere, which feels very much present rather than futuristic, interesting narrative bits and respect for the player, Flat Eye is one of this year’s most challenging indie games. One that is not afraid to pull punches in a chilling narrative of tech horror.
Our Flat Eye review was created with a review key made available by the publisher, Raw Fury. Flat Eye is available on Steam.
Flat Eye: Flat Eye is a refreshing take on the old management sim genre with a dystopian tech horror narrative that feels both reassuringly distant, but also chillingly all too familiar. – Damiano Gerli