Developer: Samurai Punk
Publisher: Samurai Punk
Release Date: Out Now
Format(s): PlayStation VR (Reviewed), HTC Vive, Oculus Rift
I’ve got to do a lot of different things in virtual reality so far, but living out my life in a 1950s suburban America where you use guns to do EVERYTHING is certainly one of the most unique.
That’s the premise of The American Dream – the latest title from Screencheat-devs Samurai Punk that sees you working your way across a variety of everyday scenarios with nothing but a pair of guns to help solve all of your problems. With the canine host Buddy Washington by your side, you’ll grow up, get married, have children, and learn that every problem in life can be solved with a firearm…
So it seems as though The American Dream has either launched at the perfect or the worst possible time – the topic of gun control is rife throughout America, and the heavy message delivered in the game certainly offers a unique take on the subject. Gun control, gun safety, and the simple power of firearms in everyday life is at the forefront throughout, and whilst it might be easy to see The American Dream as a celebration of firearms, it’ll only take a few moments with the game to notice the satirical side of its approach.
The light-hearted take on such a serious issue was something I could enjoy, but since I live in a country where gun culture isn’t such a problem, maybe the message wouldn’t necessarily hit home as much for me. I could certainly see the context being something that some might not particularly appreciate right now, but I do think it’s handled in a light-hearted and self-acknowledging way – the team at Samurai Punk have definitely managed to find the right amount of humour to go along with the game’s underlying message.
I was pretty surprised at just how meaty The American Dream was, with around four hours worth of gameplay spread across over twenty levels. These levels are pretty varied in design, but they all typically follow the same approach of simply having the player shoot stuff.
It might be as simple as shooting a ball back to your Dad when playing a game of catch, shooting dirt from cars, taking care of birds who are trying to steal your nice hot pie, shooting patties to put together the perfect burger, or even shooting to make love… yup, it seems like guns can be used for everything. The sheer variety of the levels is great though, whilst the pacing and structure felt just right – you really are going through a traditional American life and embracing this new gun-focused twist on the everyday things you see in old movies and sitcoms. There’s even a dark side to the latter stages of the game that really changes the formula, but it certainly manages to remain entertaining throughout.
Everything in the game is on-rails, so there’s no awkward traversal or having to find your way across levels – everything is instead presented clearly in front of you. Your objectives are always made clear too, though there’s never any real challenge to them. It could possibly be argued that The American Dream is more of a narrative experience than an all-out shooter, though given that the game informed me that I’d shot well over a thousand bullets by the halfway point, it would be a bit of a stretch.
Whilst there’s no real challenge to the game though, there’s no denying that it’s satisfying throughout. The guns feel great to use, manually re-loading in slow motion looks cool, and the objectives themselves are well varied. You’re never really ever tested, but with the combination of the shooting mechanics being enjoyable and never knowing what you’ll have to do with a gun next, it’s hard not to be kept satisfied throughout.
Throughout all of the levels are an assortment of hidden stars that you need to shoot to collect, with forty-eight scattered across the game in all. Finding all of these will certainly give the player incentive to replay through some of the levels, and believe me, some are incredibly well hidden and will demand a keen eye from the player. I don’t typically find myself going out of the way to find all of the collectibles in a game, but given the short levels and the size of the environments in The American Dream, it actually proved to be an enjoyable little endeavour. It’s not the sort of game that really demands multiple playthroughs too, so they’re a good addition that give you, quite literally, ‘more bang for you buck’.
Whilst everything functioned well for the most part, I did stumble across a few issues with bugs whilst playing The American Dream. Sometimes levels wouldn’t progress, with them seemingly getting to a certain point and then not loading in a vital object or narrative monologue from Buddy. The only solution would be to restart the chapter, which isn’t the end of the world given their short length, but could prove to be a little frustrating nonetheless.
The sound levels could be off at times too, with everything being perfectly balanced in one scene but then seeing the music drowning out everything else in the next. Of course, you could fix this in the options menu, except the game wouldn’t let me – I’d adjust the volume sliders in the menu, but it’d change nothing in-game. This sort of thing is easily fixed by the developers so it may not be an issue the next time I play the game, but it was certainly noticeable during my playthrough.
At least the presentation of The American Dream was great though,with the game offering a perfectly re-created 1950s American setting that was charming throughout – the character cut-outs themselves are surprisingly full of personality too, despite being… well… flat. It was just one of those game worlds that’s a pleasure to be a part of, and whilst the game certainly has a hidden dark tone, the environments themselves were cheerful, colourful, and full to the brim with pleasantries.
The sound design also deserves a mention, with the work of the voice actors absolutely on point – Buddy Washington’s narration perfectly encapsulated the vibe of an American spokesman, whilst the humour and his jokes hit the mark too. With its mixture of dark satire and ‘dad jokes’, The American Dream will keep a smile on your face throughout anyway, but it’s further complemented by the splendid job the voice actors do.