They Came From A Communist Planet review | Red scare

Bread, freedom, and flying saucers in the anti-capitalist adventure, They Came From A Communist Planet. Here’s our review…


 

You wake up in a small flat. Gaze out the windows, and you’ll see a grey city whose architecture portrays an oppressive brutalism. Interacting with everyday items in the flat will trigger animations, used to add details to the atmosphere established by all the concrete outside: joblessness, unpaid bills, hopelessness.

Then, a bright light shines through the window. Aliens are here and, as the game’s title suggests, they’ve come from a communist planet.

From here until its end about 45 minutes later, the game takes the form of a riot simulator. Streets blocked by cops or water-cannon-spraying armoured vehicles can be opened up as you unlock new abilities. You start off kicking at barricades, graduate to lobbing bricks and bottles, then get the ability to spark up Molotovs.

Bit by bit, you reclaim the streets and, by extension, begin the task of liberating yourself and your fellow citizens from capitalism, buoyed on by anti-capitalist messages beamed from the aliens that watch above.

The problem is that doing so isn’t as fun as it should be. A health bar above police defences diminishes as you hit them, causing them to disperse when it’s empty.

Even when the frustrating projectile arc didn’t have me throwing bricks far too short, the repetitive act of walking back and forth to get bricks to lob at the police lines feels more like busywork than an act of revolutionary rage.

This isn’t the only area where the game’s appealing ideas fall short in execution. Fellow citizens will join you in rioting, but the game doesn’t quite manage to create the sense that you’re working together.

This is frustrating, because developer Colestia is capable of this; its previous game, A Bewitching Revolution, also features citizens helping you during an uprising, but it manages to build a sense of collectivity and community in doing so – along with a sense of dynamism as more and more people join your cause – that’s lacking here.

There are positives, though. The opening is a highlight, but what works there isn’t developed further. What is maintained is an unflinching and well-considered anti-capitalist perspective that‘s rare in video games.

Indeed, the whole point of the alien ‘intervention’ isn’t to give us access to some otherworldly technology; rather, they offer something that’s difficult for us to find in a world dominated by capital: an external perspective. This ability to shift our view on our political system is, I think, the most valuable thing about this developer’s games.

But Colestia has already developed these ideas to greater effect elsewhere. You should check out their work, but They Came From A Communist Planet isn’t the best place to start.

Highlight

The didactic anti-capitalist messages you receive from the aliens are concise, well-observed, and politically hopeful, focusing on the ability we have to create change. The game smartly insists on ideas as the dynamic behind political action, rather than an alien laser gun.

Verdict: 60%

A game with good ideas better-realised in the developer’s previous work.

Genre: Adventure
Format: PC (tested)
Developer: Colestia
Publisher: Colestia
Price: £3.99
Release: Out now

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