Video games with minimal gameplay that try to imitate television put a lot of weight on their writing. This has led to hit-and-miss attempts from even the most notable of developers as Telltale Games’ uneven resume filled with Game of the Year contenders and skippable titles will attest to. Unfortunately, the game We Are OFK, which is under the guise of a biopic for a virtual band, has laughably bad writing, annoying characters, and little to say that hasn’t been said much more eloquently elsewhere.
The biggest problem is that none of the characters are likable or have any aspects that are interesting enough to be worth exploring. They’re self-obsessed, well-off people complaining about their solid jobs where they get to sit around on a bean bag and spend hours on their phones instead of working. Each one is the obnoxious type of person that goes out of their way to hit the shift key every time they text so autocorrect doesn’t capitalize the first word of their sentence because typing in all lowercase is an “aesthetic.” They’re the type to take digs at EDM and the Chainsmokers because they’re too insecure just to enjoy music that is fun and upbeat. In short, they’re miserable, a perfect amalgamation of the unbearable L.A. culture that it mistakenly thinks people will find relatable.
There are a few interesting themes at play such as people and yourself changing over time and pursuing passion projects versus a standard career. However, there’s no real tact in exploring them or anything new to be said. For example, 1948’s The Red Shoes is a far better examination of the personal sacrifices one makes for art, while thousands of shows, films, books, and games have inspected friendships in a more meaningful way. There is an interesting exploration to be had of awful people that are enabled by their equally awful friends, but this clearly wasn’t trying to take the Seinfeld route of nobody learning or bettering themselves over time and ultimately paying for being awful, yet highly entertaining, people.
One of its few intriguing elements that are far more unique is its look at toxic game development culture and crunch. However, even this is poorly done as characters are rarely shown as working hard — they’re decidedly slackers — and a writer complaining that it will take a whole weekend to write 3,000 words from a detailed draft is laughable in its exaggeration. There are valid points to be made; one should leave a job if it is having a negative effect on their mental health and the bro culture within game dev has been well documented. Yet there’s nothing worthwhile said within the game and it all seems put in as a plug for the real-life Games and Online Harassment Hotline, which repeatedly gets brought up and is even used during the story. Like the rest of the game, there are a lot of good intentions on display that don’t result in an interesting or impactful story because of its flawed execution.
Beyond occasionally influencing dialogue or choosing what unbearable lines to text to your friends, there is no actual input in We Are OFK. It’s a totally passive experience beyond the occasional minigame, the bulk of which are music videos. These are meant to be big highlight moments, especially since this is supposed to be the launching point of a band. However, these come up short in every area: the actual music lacks any unique artistry and isn’t catchy, the songwriting falls apart under the briefest of scrutiny, and the gameplay is overly simplistic with the segments feeling like a terrible WarioWare microgame that would never make it to a real game or a boring walking simulator. There’s also no fail state, so players gain little from actually interacting with these segments beyond a few overly simple trophies or achievements. It’s far from the successful blend of music and gameplay that Sayonara Wild Hearts pulled off where the music enhanced the gameplay and vice versa.
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There are no subtitles during the interactive music video portions, which is a rather strange oversight. Maybe it was on purpose so that people wouldn’t read the dreadful lyrics like, “Sorry for the follow, unfollow. I’ll be on my best behavior by tomorrow.” Regardless, it’s a clear accessibility oversight, which is made all the more blatant considering the game arbitrary letterboxed aspect ratio and has clear space for lyrics to appear.
Not every aspect is downright terrible, though. The game actually has an appealing and stylized look to it and the artists deserve credit for creating such a colorful and unique-looking game. However, there’s little to enjoy about the sights when you’re mostly staring at a phone screen and going over inane texting conversations about boba tea and dating apps. Carter, one of the band members, is also a rare highlight as they stay out of the drama and spend their free time creating a cool virtual cat mascot for the band that is reminiscent of Radiohead’s Modified Bear. That being said, even the cooler aspects are dragged down into the abyss and can’t elevate an uneven story.
We Are OK takes constant shots at game development while trying to replicate being a television show and making subpar music; it’s a piece of art that is insecure being within its own medium that also manages to be a multifaceted failure. With poor writing, plot threads that wind up going nowhere, mediocre music, and a fictional band’s backstory that isn’t worth caring about, there’s no reason to hit play on this record.
As ComingSoon’s review policy explains, a score of 2 equates to “Awful.” Almost irredeemable, it is likely a waste of time for almost everyone involved.