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waverider37: EDB sus
EDB: grrrr...

Among Us is a 2018 video game created and published by InnerSloth, which two years after its release became The Next Big ThingTM on the Internet. Four to ten players take on the role of nameless, faceless astronauts(?), controlled from a top-down perspective, who are part of a crew trying to get maintenance tasks done on a spaceship or space-based building. Problem is: among them are impostors - between one and three, depending on the server - whose job it is to blend in and kill most of their crewmates. Tools at their disposal include being able to jump into air ducts/tunnels and quick-travel around the map, turning off lights, causing catastrophic nuclear reactor meltdowns, and turning off the oxygen. "Innocent" crewmates can avert all these crises but must necessarily stop doing their own tasks to do so. Whenever dead crewmates' bodies are discovered, the team gets together and debates who they believe to be the impostor; there is an option to vote to eject one crewmate per meeting. The game ends whenever the crewmates complete all their tasks (crew victory), all impostors are ejected (crew victory), the number of innocent crewmates equals the number of impostors (impostor victory), or a crisis fails to be fixed in the requisite amount of time (impostor victory).

Before I get into the game itself, I do want to make note of how quickly this thing took off on the Internet, and that I'm surprised it hadn't already. Throughout the latter half of 2020 (annus horribilis for quite a lot of the world) the Internet took notice of this cute little game, mainly through prominent streamers and started to pick it up themselves - as a lot of countries were still in lockdown battling a virus, this was a good way for people to stay connected with one another. It's also highly possible to create public servers and play the game through an in-game text chat system, and this system in and of itself has taken on a life of its own. Memes surfaced very quickly in the latter half of 2020 - most of the ones I've seen relate to the phrase "<colour> sus" or crew members pushing the button to call an emergency meeting (i.e. without necessarily having any fellow crewmates die). I remember playing it a month or so before its popularity skyrocketed and wondering why the game wasn't as big as it could be. I got my wish not long afterwards.

Now, the game. It's very similar to already-existing board and card games, as well as video game mods, that are already out there and very well-established (Trouble In Terrorist Town is a good video-game example). Where it differs from other games is that it's standalone (most other video games aren't), it's cute and cartoony in its style1, it's simple to play, and it's fairly quick (a typical round can last about ten minutes, again depending on the server). It's also highly customisable - the player hosting the game can choose the number and type of tasks, number of impostors (although there is a hard limit based on the number of players), time allowed for debate, cooldown on sabotage and kill operations, and other similar features. The game currently boasts three maps, each with their own unique layouts and tasks that have, for the most part, been very well-designed - they tend to take the form of mini-games and block crewmates' vision to make their job just a little harder. I also appreciate how players are not truly out of the game if they are dead - dead crewmates return as ghosts, and can still complete their tasks or sabotage equipment.

Of course, there is a lot of space for cheating in a game like this. As usual for a hidden-information game, disclosure of information one has found out halfway through the game is not cricket. In this case, it's limited to ghosts saying out loud who killed them - watching someone kill/get killed or watching them do typically impostor things (like using vents) is fair game. As there is no voice chat and limited text chat, the scope for cheating is limited to people interacting IRL or through third-party communication channels. In that sense, the dev team have done pretty much all they can to avoid the inevitable - given the overall tone of the game, this kind of system works quite well in my opinion.

There's no plot to speak of, but I'm going to briefly touch on the maps. As of time of writeup there are three maps: The Skeld, a spaceship; Mira HQ, a sky-high headquarters-type building; and Polus, a planet with a research-based facility. All of them have enough scope for impostors and crewmates alike to complete their work. Currently the consensus among my friends is that Mira HQ tends to favour the impostors with its layout, but the other maps are fairly well-balanced; this balance can be remedied with the customisation options. In fact, the internet has readily-searchable settings for people to consider using.

I usually reserve this space for quick lines about the game that I haven't covered in the rest of the writeup, but... there's not much else to say about this game. Its scope is small but open, and the majority of the game is largely about interpersonal reactions and discussion. The only thing I'll make mention of is the cosmetic system - players can pick their spacesuit's colour, although they must pick one of twelve pre-set options and cannot double up. Aside from that, a full suite of hats and clothes are available to players (which players can double up on), and players have the option of purchasing "pets" that follow them around (including, but not limited to, the brain slug that is suspiciously similar to the one from Futurama); hats and clothing are all available, but pets must be bought with real currency. Aside from all that, there is only one downside to the game - with video games, particularly triple-A games, becoming more aware and inclusive of people with colour-blindness, this game does little to address that. The twelve pre-determined colours can be memorised and usernames do appear, but colour-blindness can still spoil the experience.

So here are my ratings!

  • Graphics: 9/10 They are cartoony and simplistic, but that's the intention of the game.
  • Sound: 9/10 There is one "song" and the sound effects are fairly minimalistic, but none of it is bad.
  • Playability: 9/10 There are options for both mouse+keyboard and mouse-only play, and both are largely easy to pick up. The rest of it is all personality.
  • Lastability: 8/10 It's easy to play a whole bunch of games in one sitting. It's also easy to get sick of it after a session that lasts more than a couple of hours.
  • Plot: null By design, there is no plot.
  • Overall: 35/40 = 8.75/10 A nifty little time-killer, but it ranks up there with Monopoly and Mario Party as "games that could put friendships in jeopardy".

waverider37 was ejected.

1 How cartoony, you say? The deaths, though accompanied by a creepy musical sting, are rather hilarious even despite some of them being Eldritch horror-type death scenes. The scenes range from backstabbing with a bread knife, to being punched from behind then shot, to being stabbed through the visor with a (literally) needle-sharp tongue. I have no idea what these creatures are.

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