The new casual videogame version of “The Office” is a dead-on adaptation of the NBC comedy, but probably not in the way the developers intended. Unoriginal and mind-numbingly repetitive, it approximates the feeling of being stuck in a soul sucking job at Dunder Mifflin. Fans won’t find even a hint of the dry humor that’s the show’s trademark and will want to avoid this “Diner Dash” rip-off like a trip to the Schrute family beet farm.
“The Office” is, understandably, never going to make for a normal videogame, so credit goes to NBC U for thinking outside the box a little and turning the rights over to “casual” game publisher and developer MumboJumbo to make an adaptation that can be downloaded from the Web or bought at any number of retail stores.
But that’s pretty much all the credit this game deserves. Rather than come up with a way to capture the show’s comedy, MumboJumbo instead jammed “The Office” into the uber-popular downloadable game “Diner Dash.” Only instead of delivering food to customers, Jim Halpert is delivering files and supplies to his fellow Dunder Mifflin employees.
Fans of “The Office” will immediately recognize how wrong-headed this is. While on the show, Jim spends most of his time undermining office productivity, in the game he's rewarded for working quickly and efficiently.
All of the characters show up in the game, some as competitors, one (Pam) as an ally, and others as cubicle dwellers demanding deliveries. They’re represented as giant bobble heads on tiny bodies. It works well enough for the bobble heads that actually look like characters from the show. But some, like Andy, Karen, and even Michael, barely resemble the actor they’re supposed to be.
In each of five eight-race levels, Jim competes against a co-workers like Dwight, Angela or Michael. Game’s one attempt to integrate comedy is that Jim can earn a “gag,” which he picks up from Pam to temporarily distract his competitor. Each of these is a direct rip-off of a joke from the show, like Kelly Kapur talking Ryan’s head off, Andy’s calculator encased in Jell-O, or Dwight handing out “Schrute bucks.”
While none of “The Office” actors recorded new dialogue, game uses lines from the show to enhance each gag. It’s a decent idea for a low budget title, especially since there’s so little effort to visually illustrate the jokes. But because there are only a few gags repeated over and over, it quickly becomes annoying when players hear actor Rainn Wilson’s voice discussing “Shrute bucks” for the 50th time.
Weirdly, each gag is punctuated with a laugh track, which may give players the feeling they have suddenly been transported from “The Office” into “Two and a Half Men.”