I am not sure if things have changed much since the early 2000s, but I know when I commenced my first job the culture was a total shock. The actual tasks I was employed to do at the fast food restaurant were all pretty straightforward — take orders, operate the cash register, stuff fried chicken into boxes — but the boundary-pushing from my manager was something I had no idea how to handle as a 13-year-old. Staying for an extra 15 minutes unpaid to tidy up was common, along with the need to navigate terrible occupational health and safety standards, like evading towering stacks of two-liter drinks and expecting burns from the deep fryer basket. While few of the jobs I have worked since were as egregious as that first one, almost every place would ask for at least one task to be performed outside of my job description, and I wish I’d had the courage to say no. Say No! More is a comedic game tackling the serious issue of overextending yourself in the workplace. Starting with an intern who has their lunch stolen, the story spirals into an epic Dragon Ball Z-style showdown with the CEO of the company.
Say No! More is set in a universe where saying no to anything is taboo. Whether it is a friendly roommate asking you to pay their share of the rent, co-workers asking you to fetch them coffee, or a boss requesting unpaid overtime, the only acceptable answer is yes. This system gets disrupted by an intern who, on their first day, refuses to let a superior steal their lunch. The meal was made with love by their flaky but kind roommate, and seeing it snatched from their desk was the last straw.
Using the power of a motivational cassette tape, the intern learns the power of saying no. No more unclogging other people’s paper jams! No thanks to listening to someone’s standup routine! No way to working 100-hour weeks! The power of a negative attitude pushes the intern swiftly up the corporate ladder, encouraging other low-paid workers to say what they truly think. As the lunchbox changes hands from one powerful employee to another, the intern charges through all obstacles, restructuring the entire company in a single day.
The intern’s adventures through corporate hostility makes use of a simple control scheme, focusing more on laughs than puzzle mechanics. The intern automatically runs through colorful locales: the levels of the office, a sunny park during lunch break, the outer edges of the universe. Employees of the company block the player’s path, requesting small favors. The intern can reject the question with an abrupt “No!”, which blasts the questioner out of the way.
As the game progresses, the intern learns different ways to say no: a heated shout, a cold rejection, a lazy “nah.” They can express themselves in other ways too, like laughing, sarcastic clapping, or nodding thoughtfully. These different ways to react work better on some employees than others and can also unlock special dialogue options, but by and large how the player says no does not matter. The game has no fail state, and an opponent weak to a cold no will also fall to a lazy one eventually.
While there seems to be a bit of a missed opportunity in not leaning harder into the puzzle element of which rejection works best for which situation, the choice makes sense when looking at the pacing of the game. Say No! More is a tight two hours long, and the central joke could easily wear out its welcome if every opponent needed to be puzzled out. The blocky people flying away in shock from being rejected never fails to amuse, and the brisk pace means each scene brings something new.
The setting and graphical style are both evocative of the ‘90s, but the storytelling is thoroughly modern, using cinematic camera angles and tight dialogue to drive the story. Everything in the world is pushed to the extremes of ridiculousness — big flailing body language, the ability to say no as a superpower, the big aerial battles with the bosses — but the central message is actually quite serious and told well.
No one heads into the workplace intending to get taken advantage of, but by being a people pleaser you can often end up being swamped with work that is not even yours. At the same time, saying no is not the correct answer to every situation either — some people just need to be listened to, or maybe the part of your job that sucks is indeed part of your job.
The game also identifies that a lot of these unfair structures exist because it is the way things have always been done, rather than out of malice. Just because the CEO was treated horribly during her internship does not mean future interns need to suffer too. A better workplace takes effort at every level, and a dedication to better communication than what often occurs between workmates.
The strength of Say No! More‘s message is supported by the amazing visual and sound design. The people are blocky, like early polygonal graphics, but the textures are much smoother than what was possible in the Nintendo 64 era, giving the game a distinct, colorful look. Animations are exaggerated and hilarious — walking in particular is a fabulous flurry of activity. I liked that the blocky people were really diverse: A bunch of different skin tones are available, the protagonist is never given a gender, and clothing options are not locked to a particular body type. A wide range of accents make up the excellent voice work too, illustrating a varied workplace.
While an opponent can be blasted away almost immediately when encountered, I often waited for the last moment to hear as many of their lines as possible, as the acting really added to the playful atmosphere. The game also has some of the best subtitles I have seen in regards to size and clarity, comparable to what one would find on a film.
Talking about workplace rights is something that is hard to make fun and engaging, but Say No! More achieves it with ease. Aside from the educational element, the game is downright hilarious, taking a simple fight over a lunchbox to great lengths. Highly recommended for those who need a friendly reminder to look out for themselves.