Re(?)Considered: WTF: Work Time Fun
This bizarre PSP gem makes boredom interesting
A better man than I could almost certainly write a fairly academic little essay about WTF: Work Time Fun's portrayal of paid employment. Unfortunately, no such man exists, so we're going to have to stick with this. WTF is essentially a mini-game collection, but with a few major differences to the likes of Wario Ware - for one thing, none of the games in WTF are especially enjoyable. This represents a major downside to the game, obviously, because when you sit down to play a video game on a video games system (in this case, the PSP), you want to have a good time. And yet, the monotony of WTF suits its core themes so successfully that it would be difficult to imagine it achieving what it does while also being... y'know... good.
You're tasked with taking jobs, which amounts to picking one of four available mini-games from a menu. Playing these mini-games earns you trifling sums of money - you'd be lucky to earn $3.00, even with a strong performance. The money you earn can only be spent on "Gacha" style vending machines, costing $1, $5, $10 and $50 apiece. If you're lucky, the randomly-generated prize that drops will be a new mini-game to play (to earn more money), but less fortunately you'll find yourself unlocking trinkets - seashells, etc, that are absolutely useless.
The games themselves are very much a mixed bag. Covering all sorts of genres and styles, there's an overriding theme of "banality". One game - called Caddy's Quest - has you journey square-by-square across an enormous golf course, looking for balls and other randomly discarded items. This is a relatively low risk way to earn money as you can't really fail, but it's not really efficient and rarely surprising. One game, Shroom Xing, is effectively a low-rent adaptation of the Atari 2600 classic Freeway, but slower paced and - again - not a smart way to earn. Most interestingly, there's a game involving a ballpoint pen production line in which you you inspect Biros, flipping and/or placing the pen cap on them before submitting the finish product for two cents at a time. There's a counter at the bottom of the screen showing how many pens you've capped in this session. There's room on the counter for enough pen-capping to last for the entire remaining duration of human existence, but you'll find it's not the highest paying of jobs. That said, it's so simple that sometimes it's the easiest way to grind up that last few bucks for the Gacha vending machine you want to check out. So you'll find yourself balancing mini-games that are actually somewhat enjoyable - for example, the exceptionally dubious Hand Bell Delight, pictured below - with the ones that actually earn you a crust.
WTF is an extremely unusual little PSP curio, and one of the most interesting games in its (fiercely underrated) library; imagine Nintendo's Wario Ware, but instead of fast-paced fun it's full of intentionally slow, arduous, repetitive tedium. Work Time can never truly be Fun, but it can certainly be ruddy, bloody interesting.