Review: Debtzilla (Capital Gains Studio) – English

In a world full of scams, multi-level marketing, pyramid schemes and the big boss ‘Debtzilla’, some superheroes stand up to protect the poor citizens. Will you make sure that the citizens of Banana Republic do not succumb to the enormous debt?

In Debtzilla, players work together cooperatively to protect the citizens of Banana Republic from all kinds of money-grabbing. The players first choose an alter ego of a slightly anonymous well-known person, each with their own superpowers. To name a few examples: The Oracle (‘Wally Buffett’), Tweetman (‘Ronald Thumb’) and Iron Girl (‘Angie Merkling’).

Of course, Tweetman stands out in this list, as ‘Ronald Thumb’ does not seem the most obvious choice to fight debt because of his – allegedly – huge own debt burden. The creators of the game, Capital Gains Studio, have cleverly handled this by turning Tweetman into a kind of anti-hero who derives his powers by taking money from citizens. This element is very nicely done.

The ‘heroes’ first receive income (Working Phase), with which they can buy certain gadgets (Shopping Phase) to defeat the villains (Vigilante Phase) and then prepare for another tough day of crime fighting (Resolve Phase).

The concept of the game is good, the artwork is nicely done and the references to elements from the ‘real world’ are especially fantastic. There is plenty of fun to be had before the game even begins, just to pick up the pile of villains and look through it. To give you a taste, I had a good chuckle at the Demonic Telemarketer (‘A Nigerian prince needs your help…’), the Layman Brothers (‘Your money? It’s gone!’), Madame Bubble (‘Don’t worry, it will never burst’) and the Ponzitron (‘Join us and be rich’). Because the game world and the ‘real world’ are so intertwined through the elements used, the game contains a lot of potential.

For me, it remained largely at that potential. The gameplay (explanation) leaves something to be desired, because the game is very unclear on a number of points. I often had to consult the rules of the game, because I had the idea that I was not performing certain actions correctly. Unfortunately, the rules of the game did not always provide decisive clarity. Perhaps some points were lost in translation there? The lack of clarity also made the game a bit uncomfortable for me, but that would perhaps be different if I had played it with a more experienced player who could explain to me what was really meant. Maybe then the potential could be converted into a nice game for a drizzly Sunday afternoon, where you want to balance a bit between the ‘real world’ and the game world to protect the world from Ponzitron and Debtzilla.

That being said, the games by Capital Gains Studios do lend themselves very well as fun material to be used during (simple) economy classes to teach some economy basis in a playful way. Debtzilla is no different in that regard!