While searching online for information on brands who claim to be ethical vs brands who actually follow up on their promises, I ended up on Primark’s homepage.
Let’s end that discussion there. But while I was there, I saw an article called “Primark Legends” which I initially believed to be some kind of employee of the month staff profile kind of thing. The conclusion I came to was that Primark had decided to bridge the gap between customer and employee by putting a little weekly column up about a random staff member. In my head, this would remind customers that the person serving them was actually a human being. A person with thoughts and feelings, who had no control over stock or policy. It would also, from a marketing perspective, make the brand less faceless. A clever move given the recent push to support local or family businesses over corporations.
Instead, I was pretty stunned to discover that Primark Legends is actually an app game. To be fair, I have been asking for a Primark Sim for years…..
Primark Legends allows you an insight into the daily life of a Primark retail assistant. You’re tasked with keeping the displays clean, helping customers find stock, replenishing the stock, and pretty much anything else you can think of. Completing tasks quickly gains you a higher rank on the legend meter. Being slow, or letting too many customers leave without helping them drops your legend meter. Rapidly.
I’ve got a number of moral issues with this game, which I tried to explain succinctly in this YouTube video, but I’ll go into the game itself a bit more here. And the moral issues, probably.
Graphically, the game is bright and quirky while out of gameplay. The colours are vivid and cartoony, which is a huge contrast to them in gameplay. Taking up the whole screen, your game is grey and very angular. This might be deliberate so you can find your objectives easier because they are coloured – but they’re not colourful. The odd greyscale surroundings combined with the muted objectives sounds like it could work in theory. In practise, it makes the game look unfinished, or like textures haven’t loaded. It’s also very hard to distinguish things in this style, making it difficult to know where to direct customers to. The displays stand out from the floor, but not from each other.
I don’t know what I’m looking at though
That’s not the only thing making it difficult, though. The controls aren’t great. I’ll admit, the first time I played it I totally ignored the intro, so I went in clueless. Your thumb and screen work together as a joystick; placing your thumb down sets a neutral point, and your character moves in whichever direction you push from that. It does work, but if you’re like me and your thumbs are a little on the larger side, you’re going to cover up objectives. Occasionally, the controls fudge up a bit, and you get stuck on a piece of the environment – the doors into the stockroom were my biggest threat. This wouldn’t be such a big issue if time wasn’t so precious in the game.
The game relies on you completing tasks and moving on to your next one at a rapid pace. While your legend meter takes a while to build up, it can drop in the blink of an eye. It can drop mid task, and seeing as tasks are completed by pressing and holding, it can get a bit annoying. When your meter goes down enough, that’s game over. It keeps the edge on the game, and builds what little tension you can expect from a retail sim game, but it’s probably a bit too brutal for a game with so many other issues.
I realise this review has also been a bit too brutal for a game, and to give the game some credit, it’s quite addictive. It’s so oddly hard that you do end up wanting to better yourself. For a few minutes anyway.
I can’t bring myself to be nice about this game, for one main reason. I don’t understand why it was made.
It isn’t enjoyable enough to just exist. If it was supposed to be fun, it isn’t. It’s frustrating both in gameplay, and in design. There are too many things to focus on, the points system doesn’t make sense, and I personally can’t control the game easily because I have fat thumbs. That last one is on me, I can’t play Among Us for the same reason.
So, is Primark Legends a marketing tool?
I can’t see how it is, because the products in the shop are too generic. The game suggests you’ll be helping customers put together outfits – so I believed maybe the game would show you real life products; influencing you to pop to your local Primark and buy it. Easy enough to update as new products come in, and there could be some element of dress-up game outfit creation in this. But no, the products in game are plain, and not really big enough to even be identified. That’s not a criticism as such, because that was clearly a deliberate design choice. It just means that it isn’t a tool for selling products to the player.
So, what else could it be if it isn’t fun, or influential? My final though was maybe it was empathy exercise. Maybe the reason the game exists is to make players realise what sits on the shoulders of the minimum wage Primark shop floor assistant. We all know people in Primark work hard anyway (the shop doesn’t re-arrange itself every day so I can’t find the jumper I liked when I popped in yesterday by magic) so maybe the game was built to show just how difficult a day in the life is. So next time a Karen kicks off in store because the jacket she wants isn’t out in her size, she realises that that’s life and not the fault of the hard-working staff member.
But if that’s the reason the game is made, maybe Primark should just make work conditions better for their staff then? Sure, there’s little they can do against the Karens, but there’s a lot the can do in terms of easing staff workloads, providing a more stable work environment and making their staff feel valued that don’t involve a weird app game. And the baddie of the game is manager, not the customer. The manager who pops up from the corner and barks out orders at seemingly random times but isn’t anywhere on the shop floor to help is the villain of the piece.
Head to the stock room please.
In conclusion, the game itself is unremarkable. The reason it exists is unknown, to the point where it is pointless. Or at least, it was when I played it a few months ago. Perhaps now there’s a national leader board and the winner wins a voucher each month? That would give the game more purpose, and explain the ruthlessness of it a bit more.
But I’m not downloading it again to check. As bad as that is from a research prospective, I don’t want to boost the numbers for this game. I’ve downloaded it twice. That’s twice too many.