Editor’s Note: This piece originally ran on April 9, 2017, but seeing as how today is the most American day of the year, we figured it was a good time to repromote for those of you who may have missed it the first time around. Happy Fourth of July!
Imagine yourself as a baby, just coming into the world and trying to learn how to eat and call for your mother. Now, imagine that same scenario, only while holding twin pistols in your tiny, baby hands. If you can manage to imagine that, then you’ve got Samurai Punk’s satirical take on the gun crazed USA, The American Dream, on your mind.
The game, which is presented as an amusement park ride through a hall of history sort of exhibit, is a look into a different reality. It’s the 1950’s, and the country’s gun fever is at an all-time high. Instead of simply using guns for recreation, hunting, or self-defense, they’ve actually become a part of all aspects of every day life, because this is America after all, and why wouldn’t they? The satire is laid on pretty thick but works extremely well, with the museum you travel in adorned with large statues of bullets and guns while a Bioshock-esque voiceover describes how guns are one of the pillars of society.
Housed inside a cart that also looks like a bullet (to fit the motif, of course), you’re driven through the hall until you come to an abrupt stop (which actually gave me the feeling as if I was on the ride, albeit with some dizziness) at your first destination. During our first stop, we were put into the shoes of a newborn baby, showing off what being an infant in an alternate, gun crazed universe might be like. It’s probably just as you’d imagine, as the baby baby version of me had to shoot the door to get my mom’s attention and be served food from the end of a gun barrel (which you have to lean forward to eat, making for a surprisingly tense meal all things considered).
Pretty soon after, I had my first job, working at the local bagel factory for a terribly low wage (I was told it was period appropriate, which is honestly scary) . The job was fairly simple: shoot holes in the bagels, with the gun…of course. Despite the game not overly focusing on complex gameplay, it’s still fun to do basically everything in the game.
The game handles surprisingly well, with each shot feeling precise and the bullets landing exactly where I aimed. Reloading is nothing special (you tap a button on the cart you’re in), but the act of it drops the game into a pretty neat, Matrix-esque slow motion moment that allows you to load your clip in mid-air, like the true bagel shooting badass you’re becoming.
While the gameplay may not be anything special, it’s not something that Samurai Punk has chosen to focus on. Instead, The American Dream is more about the experience, and understanding the hidden parodies laid throughout the game. The colorful, almost cartoonish graphics and absolutely ridiculous scenarios the game puts you in work really well to draw you into the satirical world that Samurai Punk has built. In a time that’s found guns once again in the spotlight of conversation, The American Dream couldn’t have come out at a better time, and the game does a great job of just masking the dark vibe underneath the playful scenarios that you’re presweetened with.
As someone who was born in New York (a fairly liberal part of the world), I found the game to be a fairly smart and humorous take on gun culture in America, but that might not be the case for everyone. No doubt, people will not like this game and be offended by perceived negative takes on stereotypical views of America. However, for the developers, who are based in Australia, their goal was to speak on the worlds view of the U.S. from a foreign perspective.
Speaking to one of the developers, it was clear that one of the driving forces for the game was America and its fetishism with guns. While Australia may be a land that’s teeming with horrific wildlife, there’s not a huge history of gun violence there. With that in mind, they set forward to make a game that rides the line between intelligent and witty satire and simple mockery. If the demo build is any indicator, they’ve managed to do that beautifully.
The American Dream is releasing sometime in 2017, though all platforms have yet to be formally announced. The build I played at PAX East was on an Oculus Rift, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see HTC Vive and PSVR compatibility coming somewhere down the line.
Anthony Nash is a freelance contributor to UploadVR and he has never actually condoned a toddler using guns. Follow him on Twitter for more.