Melbourne developer Samurai Punk’s The American Dream was easily my highlight of PAX Aus 2016. The VR title sets out with the goal to have players perform every action in the game by way of shooting guns, except what you would normally do with a gun in a video game, which is shoot someone. It’s an intriguing concept, one that last year had me being fed soup as a child via the tip of a pistol, to working my job in a bagel factory shooting holes in all the dough – all to the instructions of a lovable, propaganda spouting stuffed dog named Buddy Washington.
This year though, the game was back with a whole new demo. It featured the same tutorial stage of being a new born baby with their first guns, calling to mother with a few warning shots through the nursery door. But rather than jump forward to an adult working in the bagel factory, instead I went to my character’s first teenage job of flipping burgers in a diner.
Of course, the only way to rotate those succulent patties on the hot plate is with a hefty dose of hot lead.
What began as a chuckle worthy scenario of absurdly shooting meat in order to cook it quickly became a stressful challenge, as more and more patties were needed to satisfy customers. Each patty had to be cooked evenly on both sides to be considered a “good” burger, and every completed one needed to be signalled by a shot to the “order up” button. Keeping on top of five or six burgers on the grill, as well as sending out finished ones, all while keeping your pistols loaded was certainly a difficult, but incredibly fun task.
The American Dream was originally slated for a mid 2017 release, which evidently has come and gone, so when I saw the game featured at this year’s PAX Aus I wanted to know how things had progressed in the 12 months since. Samurai Punk’s Justin Whitfort told me that the game required more development time because they were aiming to tell a more detailed narrative.
Beyond the progression through the various life stage challenges, a more sinister story is happening behind the scenes. Whitfort was vague on the details, but said that as the game goes on “things start to get more frantic, because perhaps this utopian world isn’t as perfect as it seems.”
This was certainly hinted at in my demo. As I left the diner I was told that while I had done a good job, my pimply co-worker had not, and I heard him being whipped as the doors closed behind me.
Whitfort was also able to shed some light on the other life events that would be featured in the game. Most interestingly, there’ll be a romance narrative where you can choose a partner and take them on dates. Same-sex relationships will also be a possibility, as Whitfort said players will be able to choose the gender of their character as well as their partner.
Dating activities with your partner can range from a night out to dinner to even attending the school prom. I asked Whitfort if the team are at all concerned about the latter scenario causing offence given the number of school shootings in the US, to which he said they are aware of the possibility but are confident their relaxed approach to the subject matter will keep their intentions clear.
“[The American Dream] is a world where guns aren’t dangerous,” he said. “And we find that because of our relaxing presentation, people come away from the game having enjoyed themselves, but acknowledging ‘this is completely fucked up, WHY am I enjoying this?'”
The American Dream is now expected to release early 2018 simultaneously on Playstation VR, Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.
And I, for one, cannot wait.