Backlog Busters: ‘CorpoNation: The Sorting Process’ Is A Familiar Dystopian Narrative

Welcome back to Backlog Busters, a column dedicated to clearing our never-ending video game backlog. Today we’re crossing off CorpoNation: The Sorting Process, a dystopian narrative game that maybe hits a little too close to home.

Here’s what you need to know: You’re a Lab Technician for a corporately-owned state named the Ringo CorpoNation. Your job is to organise a mysterious collection of genetic samples and remain a model employee, in spite of the rebellious rogue workers that are trying to recruit you. 

Developed by: Canteen

Played on: Steam

Length: 6 hours

CorpoNation: The Sorting Process isn’t the first game to tell this kind of story, but that doesn’t make it any less impactful. The game essentially plays like a life management sim; if life took place in a messed up corporate-owned state where your entire existence is controlled by corporate overlords.

Its exaggerated take on the corporate world reminds me of Severance, down to the growing sense of claustrophobia and powerlessness as you learn more about this world. Each in-game day is a vicious cycle, split between your 9-to-5 and 5-to-9, featuring an overarching narrative that threatens to reveal the underlying conspiracy.

At your job, you’re tasked with sorting various genetic samples into Alpha, Beta, Delta, and Zeta categories. The catch is, each category has multiple identifiers from shapes and patterns, to numbers and descriptions; making an initially simple sorting game into a challenging memory game over time.

During your off-time, you can indulge in one of the many forms of entertainment prepared by your gracious corporate overlords. This includes fun things like state-approved gaming, chatting with your assigned cohort, and decorating your living pod with Ringo merchandise; and some not-so-fun things like completing surveys and paying your bills on time.

Despite its bright blue retro aesthetic and ironic corporate work-life humour, I found myself surprisingly immersed in this world. Its clear that the developers put a great deal of care into building a convincing ecosystem. I felt it first when I was punished for answering the state-assigned surveys in an “unsatisfactory way”, then I felt it again when I received emails reminding me to play my daily allotment of state-approved gaming to “reduce stress”.

As I progressed in the game, I began to feel increasingly overwhelmed as my job got harder, my daily salary decreased, and my bills got more expensive. It’s all part of the grand plan to strip the player of their free will, of course, and CorpoNation executes this with finesse.

But with a familiar setting comes the burden of comparison. CorpoNation averages at 6 to 7 hours per playthrough, which is a long time to be repeating the same gameplay over and over. Unlike similar titles like Papers, Please that layers on complexity as the game progresses, CorpoNation’s sorting game feels like its bombarding the player with things to memorise; most of which feel pointless because the rules change every round, and each round only lasts less than 5 minutes.

Thankfully the overarching storyline adds some much-needed flavour in the latter half, but there are still moments that feel poorly paced and like nothing significant was happening. Personally I think the game could have benefitted from a slightly shorter run time, lending a stronger impact to its genuinely compelling ending.

Verdict: Short, But Compelling Enough

CorpoNation: The Sorting Process is a fairly short experience that hits most of the right notes. It fleshes out its dystopian corporate world incredibly well, leading to an immersive and occasionally creepy experience, but stumbles its way to a compelling climax with poor pacing and needlessly complex gameplay. Still, I believe fans of dystopian narratives will still have a lot of fun with this one.

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