It would not be an understatement to say that the game I was most excited about trying at PAX West earlier this month was, without a doubt, the first Squanchteno project. The appointment was scheduled back before my interview feature with the founders of Squanchtendo, Justin Roiland (Rick & Morty co-creator) and Tanya Watson (formerly Epic Games) had even published. They were unclear about what their first project was exactly, but I knew what was coming was sure to bring with it a lot of laughs.
Accounting, the first project from Squanchtendo in collaboration with Crows Crows Crows (Stanley Parable,) did not disappoint. The below trailer is expectedly full of foul language, so this is your NSFW warning.
As you can tell from the fake box art mockup in the YouTube trailer thumbnail above, the homages to Nintendo and video games in general are clear, even beyond the company name. When I arrived to my appointment with Roiland and Watson, they immediately dropped me into the demo while wrapping up the interview before me. Within minutes, I was doing my best (and failing) at containing the giggles and belly laughter.
In proper Roiland fashion, Accounting is absolutely full of a hilariously colorful cast of characters. “It’s basically a bunch of rooms that are puzzles, but it’s also a bunch of little comedic vignettes with characters,” said Roiland during an interview. “Sometimes they’re needy and distracting you and in some cases just yelling at you.”
My demo began in what appeared to be a relatively normal accounting office. There were filing cabinets and desks spread around, as well as a bland and boring white brick wall. Then the phone rings.
I pick up the phone — reaching out with my hand-tracked controller, similar to the gameplay mechanics in Owlchemy’s Job Simulator — and pull it up next to my ear. They did a great job of designing the sound so it actually emanates from the location of the phone well and the 3D spatial audio makes it sound like I’m holding an actual phone.
The voices on the other end of the phone are bickering and arguing throughout the conversation. One of them plays the relatively “calm and collected” accountant that speaks to me directly most of the time, while the other plays the loud and obnoxious colleague yelling in the background. It’s a comedic duo that both works well together and plays up the strength of Roiland’s ability to write interesting characters.
“This game, Accounting, was actually conceived at a game jam,” said Roiland. “What you played is expanded and much more polished, but it reminded me of making cartoons a few years ago just back at my apartment. Just the quick iteration. There’s a very improvisational tone to everything.”
Eventually, my phone guides have me searching around the small office space looking for a pair of VR goggles. During this moment, the smart attention to detail that was paid to the interaction design is on display. As I open drawers and move things around, the characters’ change their audio delivery to match what I’m doing, but it doesn’t sound like audio tracks are repeating themselves like you hear in a lot of games. Things flowed together in a very natural way.
Once I retrieve the goggles and place them on my head, I’m transported to a serene forest environment. Then, that’s when I meet the game’s resident asshole character. A small white blob man — which you can see in the featured image at the top of this preview — erupts from a hole in the tree in front of me to start yelling in my face:
“F*&% you! What are you doing here in my place? Get the f*&% outta here! This is my tree world! Who are you? Who the f*&% are you trying to be in my place!? What gives you the right to be in my place? How did you get here?”
Clearly, he’s upset, but I can’t do anything other than laugh. “That tree world guy really needs a therapist, I think,” laughs Roiland. “He’s just mad about everything. Everything you do, you’re just f*&%ing his world up.”
I’m not sure if that says something about the unique sense of humor of the folks at Squanchtendo, or my inability to care about blobby dough men. If my actions involving disemboweling a character later on in the demo are any indication, it’s likely the latter.
I don’t want to spoil what happens next, because the entirety of Accounting will only be about half an hour long when it releases (for free, mind you) so if I go into any more detail, it’d ruin what’s in store. However, I will say that each world or area of the game features hilarious, and often inappropriate, moments. The entire gameplay loop is predicated off of interacting with the environment, so you’ll spend your time poking and prodding things trying to figure out what to do next.
Some of the characters might even beg and plead for you to keep poking them. That’s all I’ve got to say about that.
“We want to be at the forefront of what’s being made now in VR so we can be at the forefront of what’s coming next, once we are fully untethered in wireless virtual worlds,” explained Roiland. “It’s early stages now, but everything already works just like we dreamed about when we were kids. It’s amazing.”
You luckily won’t have to wait long to play Accounting for yourself. The exact release date is a bit unclear, but it’s stated as being available “very soon” on Steam and it will be 100% free (or as they describe it, complimentary) when it launches. Check the official websites for more about Accounting, Squanchtendo, and Crows Crows Crows. The game is currently slated only for the HTC Vive.