Publisher: Valve Software
Developer: Valve Software
Release Date: 03/01/2022
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Whenever Valve releases a new in-house first-party game people pay attention. They are masters at storytelling and world-building. Aperture Desk Job is set in the world of Portal. You’d think this is a Steam Deck exclusive Portal game, but it’s not. This short 30-45 minute tech demo shows you the Steam Deck’s unique features.
Desk Job opens up with Cave Johnson giving a riveting motivational speech to his employees (J.K. Simmons retains his role) and the game pans down a factory level by level. You arrive at your desk with a new Wheatley-type character. He’s funny and got some laughs from me, but he isn’t as energetic. He’s a bit masochistic and Valve did a great job with his writing for the short time he’s on screen. Your desk has the exact layout as your Steam Deck and the short story unfolds with you as a toilet tester. Valve’s on-point humor hits here with the subtly they’re known for. You test a few toilets and then time goes by and you see some ridiculous number on the counter board.
You eventually turn the toilets into turrets which is pretty funny. Here you learn about the right stick’s touch sensor inside the Steam Deck for gyro controls. It’s calibrated pretty well, and I haven’t used good gyro controls before. It’s done right here. Without telling too much more of the story you take a ride back through the factory and you get a fun turret song at the end. The humor punches throughout and I had a good time. There are a lot of missed opportunities here like just a longer game or even some mini-games. It almost seems pointless for Valve to go through all this effort to create such a well-produced tech demo. I’m hoping this means more is coming along, but knowing Valve, it’s not.
The visuals are great and run well on the Steam Deck. 60FPS throughout with great textures and lighting effects. I don’t see the point of playing this on PC unless you just want to enjoy the writing and characters. In Valve’s defense, handhelds are subject to tech demos. Sony did it with the PSP and Vita, and Nintendo loved doing this with the DS and 3DS. Anyone who has played handhelds their whole life won’t feel so shocked or hate Valve for this. They just used such a beloved IP and didn’t go anywhere with it. It’s a painful tease as we all know there’s nothing else coming from it.
If you have a Steam Deck this is a no-brainer. It’s a fun 30-minute demo to play while you wait for other downloads or something. While the main character didn’t get enough time to fully mature like in other Valve IPs just the fact that they got laughs out of me in 30-minutes says a lot. Most games can’t get a smile over the course of hours.