Satire is a wonderful way to mix comedy with criticisms of the real world. When done correctly, it sends a message while being enjoyable at the same time. It’s certainly a careful balance. The American Dream from Samurai Punk is a new PlayStation VR shooter that focuses on our modern obsession with guns in a very satirical way.
Set in the 1950s world’s fair, you are taken on a ride that shows you a world where guns are used to solve everyday problems. Is it a fun and relevant ride, or does this shooter miss the mark?
The Glorious World of Guns
When I first saw the promotional art for The American Dream, I was immediately hooked. The classic 1950s all-American family grilling in the backyard was a perfect canvas. The fact that all of them, including the little daughter in a pink dress, had a gun, just drove home the game’s exaggerated look at gun culture.
When you dive into the game, you are set in a cart that takes you through the various areas of this exhibit at the world’s fair. You start life as a young child and slowly work your way through various scenarios in your life. From playing catch with your father to proposing to your loved one, the game finds a lot of different ways to show how guns can improve(?) our lives.
Throughout all of this, a robotic dog named Buddy guides you through each segment, offering hilarious commentary and the occasional jab against communism or other relevant topics from the era. His narration can sometimes be a distraction when you’re trying to focus on an objective, but otherwise, I thought he was a hilarious addition to the game’s world.
Now, one thing on everyone’s minds is whether this game handles satire well or if the overall message is muddled. On that front, I would say it’s a mixed bag. I don’t particularly like or care for political undertones in my games as I like to treat them as forms of escapism from the real world, so I treated The American Dream as one big hilarious joke about guns.
That being said, the game doesn’t necessarily offer any views on gun control or the nature of these weapons, beyond exalting them as the solution to all of the world’s problems. For me, this was fine. I realize there’s nothing too in-depth about washing cars with a machine gun, but that didn’t stop me from having a good time.
The American Dream should be treated as a running joke, more so that a traditional satire. If you’re looking for a complex commentary on guns, this won’t fit the bill, but if you like the concept of a world where we use guns to solve everything, it’s a pretty funny joke overall.
Guns, Guns, and More Guns
The American Dream is played in PlayStation VR with two Move controllers. You’ll use a variety of guns, ranging from pistols to rifles, to machine guns. Reloading is incredibly fun. You’ll have unlimited ammunition that you can deploy by pressing switches on the side of the cart you’re riding in.
When you press a switch, the clip ejects into the air and you must use your gun to slide it in before it falls. This always happens in slow motion, so it’s really satisfying to see the clip fly into the air and then slam it into your gun like an action hero.
Each of the stages has a unique twist on the gameplay. While the entire game is only a few hours long, I felt like there was a lot of different mechanics included that kept things fresh throughout. There’s the aforementioned car wash sequence, but you could just as easily find yourself making baby food by shooting fruits into a giant food processor.
Some of the minigames felt better than others, due to control issues. For example, the two-handed weapons allow you to place your hand on the front to stabilize the gun and aim more accurately. This is awesome in theory, but in practice, the PlayStation Camera would often lose track when I had the controls in front of each other.
The same issue occurred when I sought to use my sniper scope. When I lifted the controllers up towards the VR headset, tracking would make it impossible to aim. These seem like hardware issues more than anything, so I didn’t blame the game too much.
The same effect could be done holding the gun with one hand, but it was far less accurate when using something like, say, a machine gun. Beyond taking a ride through the game’s world, you can also find and shoot collectible targets hidden in each area.
The game tracks your score in terms of dollars and cents, but the currency doesn’t really do anything. Even if you don’t have enough for specific guns, the game will just put you into the negatives without much fanfare.
So, while there’s not a ton of replay value, the variety of tasks and the general hilarity of the story make this a really fun game to show off in VR, especially if your friends have a good sense of humor.
A Stylish and Well-Realized World
The American Dream dives deep into its 1950s aesthetic, and it looks great in VR as a result. All of the people you encounter are wooden cutouts, but the way they’re animated gives them more life than you would expect. The patriotic colors and detailed exhibits are all fun and detailed.
Little touches, like being able to shoot objects around you and make a mess of the environment, are a lot of fun. The voice acting from Buddy himself is great, especially when he steps out of character to make a snide remark.
I had a lot of fun with The American Dream. As someone who doesn’t necessarily need a lot of political messaging in my games, I didn’t mind the surface-level satire at all. In fact, I thought it was pretty hilarious! For me, a game should be fun first and foremost.
I am pleased to report that The American Dream is a lot of fun. PlayStation VR owners looking for a fun experience and a good laugh should take a look.
Final Score: 8.0/10
Article by - Bradley Ramsey
Insert date - 5/7/18
A copy of The American Dream was provided to PS4 Experts for review purposes