Before we begin I’d like to state that we almost emptied our cartridges of gun-based puns over on our giveaway here so they’ll be at a minimum in the review. Do feel free to fire away with any questions, though.
Washing the car. Family cookouts. Tender first moments of romance. All improved with the addition of American firepower (I know for sure I’ve had a few romantic encounters that would have been better for everyone involved if I had a shotgun).
The American Dream is a tongue-in-cheek comedy rollercoaster, catapulting you through the trials and tribulations of American life and arming you with everything you need to succeed. Namely a pair of trusty handguns which become your primary way to navigate the challenges before you, implemented in countlessly ingenious ways throughout. As you blast your way through childhood, first jobs, school dances and sex (I don’t want to go into explicit detail about that last one, but I was giggling like a schoolboy with an underwear catalogue) you receive valuable lessons in responsible gun use – making baby food, making babies, defending your immaculate garden from weeds and evil communist birds. It’s a shooting gallery of absurdity and mischievious commentary, slowly ramping up the pace until a high-octane rampage through a barbershop delivering tactical haircuts and taking down threats to America. The game slips into an even more surreal setting after that, with the performance scored minigames taking a backseat to some delightfully over the top spectacle.
It takes the concept of an on-rails shooter, gets it blind drunk, and sets it free. You’re carted through a massive 1950’s World Fair exhibit, accosted by hordes of heat-packing props, which shows you an industrialist future where all of life’s problems are solved by shooting at them. This is mostly made up of shooting galleries where you hit targets and juggle objectives in average everyday situations – highlights include the school dance and carwash segments – and while you can chase high performance and hidden achievements for doing particularly well, there’s no real failure as such. The incentives are there to do more than just hammer everything with blindfire, but if you just want to enjoy the ride, it doesn’t punish you. It’s also the most comfortable experience I’ve had so far with the Oculus, lending itself naturally to seated play, and without a moment of motion sickness. The American Dream is literally a ride through someone’s fantastic sense of humour, cheeky commentary with some gut-busting game references riding shotgun. I’ll never forget hearing the phrase “pro strats” come from the voice of a 50’s newscaster in relation to the tactical reload.
There are a few niggles with controls from time to time – the rifle especially seems to have a few issues when reloading if the mechanism isn’t pulled all the way back, but for the most part, gunplay is a simple joy. Reloading is done in slow motion, fresh cartridges soaring through the air, loaded into your handguns in flight. The submachine gun feels especially badass – swiping the ammo out of the air and slotting it in mid-bullet time is something I found myself doing unnecessarily often. As all the situations you’re faced with are solved by shooting, it’s easy to get a bit trigger-happy and outpace the narrator, who will then end up commenting on something you did two minutes ago, and once or twice this seemed to cause the game to hang while it caught up. The last shoot out feels a little messy but not significantly enough to impact the experience as a whole. The star of the game is definitely its humour, all delivered by the perfectly 1950’s narrator and trusty dog, Buddy. It’s never preachy but constantly clever, using exaggeration and statistics to highlight the silly bits of gun laws whilst conversely making you have a ton of fun using them. I’m not going to think too much about that but at one tense moment I definitely unloaded full clips of ammunition into my loving wife’s face inadvertently which tells me that I for one should not have the right to bear arms.
Gun control is a hot topic in America. A quick browse through the YouTube comments section (never a reliable source) reveals a few gems, and I’m sure Samurai Punk knew that their satirical hot take on America’s guns would attract a divisive audience. Some people think it’s glorifying guns, some people think The American Dream is, and I quote, “indie SJW bullshit”. Both of those types of people miss the mark – like the people that get angry about Alec Baldwin’s merciless Trump impersonation on SNL. It’s a ribbing, sure, but getting angry about it kind of proves its point. Play the damn game before you decide what the message is – you just might laugh at yourself along the way. The message – if there even is one – is not definitively left or right, it just seems to be saying “hey, this is a bit f**cking silly, isn’t it?”. The release is well timed – America is in the midst of gun drama talks, but to me at least it seems that it’s not looking to convert anybody, instead looking to laugh at them. Australia is one of the funniest countries on the planet (just look at the caliber of comedy they produce) and given their world famous gun control laws I’d say they’re in a better place than anyone to commentate.
What The American Dream delivers is something unlike anything I’ve seen so far in my time with VR. Mechanically tight, witty, and relentlessly unique. It doesn’t take itself seriously and benefits from it, taking swipes at American culture caricatures and forging ahead until it all builds to the grand finale. It’s fantastic satire, and a fresh use of the medium. I’d love to see more Samurai Punk flavour VR fun, maybe next time they could have a stab at Brexit negotiations or pretty much any political event in the UK over the last couple of decades, which have all been laced with an equal amount of dark absurdity. This is the strongest of starts for their VR trips, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.
As mentioned above we have a Steam key to give away for The American Dream – head over to the post for details and a load of gun-based puns. We’re sorry.
- Using VR to deliver satire is an absolute stroke of genius.
- Technically tight with only a few small issues that don’t hamper the mad experience as a whole.
- Diverse segments which implement guns in a bunch of different ways.
- Easily the funniest game on VR so far.