Review: The American Dream
An on-rails shooter mixed with dark humour that gets a bit samey.
Gun culture can be a sensitive issue in some countries, with America well known for its stance, while other such as the UK and Australia have all but outright banned them due to shooting atrocities. Taking a darkly satirical look at the US’ love of guns is The American Dream by indie studio Samurai Puck, a virtual reality (VR) title that aims some cutting wit whilst providing some bizarre shooting gallery gameplay.
Set in the 1950’s during a World Fair, The American Dream takes you on a ride created by gun manufacturers to show you how awesome their weapons are, and how they can be used for everyday tasks. Set across individual rooms, each level encompasses a period of time in the idyllic life of an American Patriot. Starting as a baby you progress through childhood, adolescence, getting your first job, marriage, having kids and so on.
Yet this is a videogame about guns, and as such every interaction in the experience requires you to shoot something or at least hit it with a pistol. There’s no need to worry about ammo as the chair/cart that you’re sat in has an infinite amount of ammo. Once your gun is dry just hit the button on the arm rest and a slow motion sequence begins, firing a clip into the air for you to catch with the gun. It’s a novel mechanic that’s fun to begin with, but at certain points in the title when things get a little more frantic it can be slightly haphazard, missing clips if you don’t get the gun just so.
From your fixed on-rails position you’re tasked by a talking dog to complete various challenges to move on. Given the nature of The American Dream things are taken to ludicrous proportions, which range from the weird to downright funny. Cooking burgers, well a quick shot will flip them, or how about changing baby’s diaper, yup that requires a bullet to sort. Going fishing? Nobody uses a fishing rod, it’s all about your trusty bolt action rifle. And it’s like that for most of the videogame, which is great at first yet after an hour or so the repetition does start to grate a little.
Naturally there’s a mixture of guns, but nowhere near as many as you’d expect. Pistols are the standard weapon of choice, with certain levels allowing you to swap them out for a shotgun – that spits fire when pumped enough times – or the rifle for those distance shots. Each area is tailored to these guns so there’s no swapping weapons, this is very much a fixed ride where choice is limited.
And it’s that limited choice that can make The American Dream seem constrained, almost to the point of frustration that you can’t do more. Because what it does do is fantastic at points, the interwoven narrative, the stellar voice acting of Michael Dobson, and the wonderful graphical style all point towards a VR title expertly put together by Samurai Punk.
There’s so much to like about The American Dream that it feels like nagging when pointing out its faults. Some of you will love its humour and points of view on guns, but many will notice there’s not a massive amount to do, with hidden stars on each stage the only real reason to give it another go. There’s no doubt that The American Dream’s commentary on American gun culture will rile some, particularly at this point in the political landscape, nevertheless as a VR experience it’s certain worth your consideration.