This is the eighty-sixth entry in the Scratching That Itch series, wherein I randomly select and write about one of the 1741 games and game-related things included in the Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality. The Bundle raised $8,149,829.66 split evenly between the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and Community Bail Fund, but don’t worry if you missed it. There are plenty of ways you can help support the vital cause of racial justice; try here for a start. Lastly, as always, you may click on images to view larger versions.

Ready or not, here’s another random selection from the Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality. It’s Ripped Pants At Work, by Scott Ethington. Its tagline in the bundle reads:

A frantic stealth game about searching for new pants

In life, does the search for new pants ever truly end?

In Ripped Pants At Work, players take control of a procedurally generated employee on their first day at a new job. Upon entering their cubicle, however, they notice a pencil on the floor, bend over to pick it up, and… oh no! They’ve ripped their pants! And this isn’t just a small rip, it’s big enough that the entire pair of pants explodes into pieces all over the cubicle. At this point, I will clarify for anyone who might be reading this from the UK that “pants” is used in the American sense, referring to what you would call “trousers”. Left in their underwear, the employee must venture out into the city to search for a new pair of pants. But they must not be seen! Get spotted without pants, and an embarrassment meter will rapidly start to fill. If it fills all the way, the employee will be fired for indecency. Players then assume control of a new employee, who quickly finds themself in the same situation.

It should be clear that Ripped Pants At Work is a comedic game. Characters are presented in a blocky, voxel-like style that, combined with the top-down viewpoint, reminded me of The Real Texas or its semi-sequel, Cellpop Goes Out At Night. The animation of the employees ripping their pants is hilarious, with perfect comedic timing. One amusing detail is that, if an employee is fired, the replacement employee arrives at the cubicle to find the remains of their predecessor’s pants still strewn everywhere. After enough failed attempts, there will be a comical amount of pants-based detritus covering the floor. Yet, each new employee simply cannot resist trying to pick up that dastardly pencil.

Controlling the game itself is simple: all that’s needed are directional keys (WASD or arrow keys) or a gamepad analog stick to move around. There’s no “interact” key or the like, everything is done by moving. To avoid being seen, players must break line of sight with passerby, get behind desks or tables (since only their lower half must be hidden) or hide in bushes or other hiding spots. There are no sight cones or other visual aids to help players determine when they’ll be seen, but it’s usually easy to tell which way other people are facing, and the top-down view gives slightly longer sightlines than other characters possess. If someone sees the unfortunate employee, a question mark will appear above their head along with a telltale sound effect. Get out of sight again quickly, and the suspicious individual will return to their normal routine, but stay in view and another sound effect signifies that our pants-less protagonist has been fully identified, and the embarrassment meter will appear. This can fill very quickly, especially if multiple people can see one’s unlucky underwear, but get into hiding and everyone will forget about it and get on with their day. I found myself failing early and often as I started out, which can feel punishing since it means going all the way back to the beginning. But I soon got the hang of hiding, and was able to explore more freely.

The city itself is small but completely open, with players free to head wherever they wish. In practice, this tends to mean certain buildings with their own challenges and pairs of pants to find. One might wander into the Traveling Pants Motel, and figure out how to move through the small rooms without alarming any guests on the way to a pair of pants left lying on a bed. Or maybe an employee will instead visit the History of Pants exhibit at the museum for a particularly daring pants heist. This society is rather obsessed with pants, as seen by the conversation text that occasionally appears over people’s heads. “Your work is only as good as your pants”, one might mutter, while another muses on how much they love their walking pants. It’s a city in which those who have pants lord over those who do not. At one point I fell into the sewers, where I found a bunch of ghosts who still judged me for my lack of pants. We truly live in a cruel world.

Manage to find a pair of pants, and holding still will let the employee don them (make sure no one’s watching!) and emerge triumphant. This will end the run, but the next run will star the same employee since they’ve managed to keep their job. They stride back into the office, confidently displaying their hard-won pants and nodding to the receptionist. But when they return to their cubicle… no, you fool! Don’t try to pick up the pencil again! Alas, the cycle begins anew.

There are fifteen pairs of pants to find around the city, although I only managed to snag eleven of them. The others must be well hidden indeed, because I explored everything as well as I could. Those searching for an extra challenge can try to snag multiple pairs of pants on the same run. Once an employee has grabbed a pair of pants, they won’t put them on until they stop for a moment, so players who keep moving can head elsewhere to snag more pants. Doing so lets employees put on several pairs of pants at once at the end, but there’s no reason to do so except to challenge oneself. I did find two pairs of pants in a single run at one point, but couldn’t be bothered to go through again trying to get everything in one go.

I had fun with Ripped Pants At Work. There are a lot of little details I love, like how employees bounce nervously when standing still, acutely aware that they aren’t wearing any pants. I like how the jaunty music fades to a faint hum while hidden, but returns to full volume as soon as an employee moves out into the open again. And the way the embarrassment meter gives employees an extra burst of speed as they frantically try to get into cover. There were sections that I couldn’t figure out at first, only realizing what the hints meant much later, but others may not face such difficulties and will suffer fewer frustrating restarts as a result. Besides, it’s easy to head elsewhere instead, in search of different pants.

This one is definitely worth checking out, if you’re in the mood for a quick and funny stealth game. Finding a few pairs of pants is easily accomplished in less than an hour, but it may take a little longer to uncover everything in the game. Individual runs take very little time, making this a great game to pick up for short sessions. If you missed it in the bundle, Ripped Pants At Work is sold for a minimum price of $2.99, including versions for Windows and Mac.

That’s 86 down, and only 1655 to go!