Believe the Hype: Why “Among Us” Has Taken 2020 by Storm (Review)
Platforms played: Windows, Android
Playtime: approx. 8 hours
Copy: Steam digital gift (from a friend)
Price/Availability: $4.99 USD (PC), free with ads (iOS, Android) with optional $1.99 purchase to remove ads
Spoilers: none (N/A)
What’s All the Hubbub About?
If you’ve spent any time on the internet recently, you’ve more than likely seen these weird looking colored beans as the subject of memes and general online discussions (not Fall Guys, the other one). If you were as confused as I initially was, these discussions have come from the exploding popularity of a game from 2018: Among Us.
At its core, Among Us is a rather simplistic game in concept. Up to 10 players assemble together on a map and are set to do menial tasks around a work station until they’re all complete. There’s one wicked twist, though: 1 to 3 of the players are imposters, hellbent on killing innocent crew members.
As players go about their business, dead bodies can be spotted and reported, bringing up a meeting where a text window appears, and those who are both alive and dead are accounted for. What follows is a — typically — intense discussion where players provide alibies and information about where bodies were, check suspects off a list, and eventually vote for who they think committed the crime. If enough votes are passed against a certain player, they’re ejected from the map, and the game informs you whether or not you made the right choice (depending on the server settings).
Are We the Baddies?
Playing as a crew member is a rather simple affair: you run around whatever map you’re on, check off simple tasks to reach completion, and end the game. There’s a bit more to that as the game continues, but generally, tasks are your primary goal while playing as a “good guy.” What really throws a wrench into your play-style is acting as an imposter.
The role of an imposter is some of the most tense and hilarious times I’ve had while playing a multiplayer game in a while. As an imposter, your task is to kill everyone on board, while also staying hidden so you don’t get ejected from the ship.
When acting as an imposter, you have a few tricks up your sleeve other crew members don’t. The most useful of tools at the imposter’s disposal is any given map’s ventilation system (or map equivalent). While regular crew members can’t utilize the vent systems, imposters can hop in and travel large distances of the map with ease, yet they can’t get caught navigating the systems, or else they’ll be spotted and will be accused as an imposter. Most of the thrill that comes from the Among Us experience is trying to be the super sneaky killer, trying to hide your warpath of destruction from other players, so that you can successfully eliminate enough people to be crowned victor.
As expected, winning as an imposter is usually easier said than done. Games typically span around 10 players in total, with a majority of public servers (at the time of writing) hosting 1 to 2 imposters. Having 2 imposters acting at the same time does alleviate some of the stress from being an imposter, yet it’s still a rather difficult hurdle to surpass.
Acting as the sole imposter in a group of 10 is another story; your skills will be put to the test. With only one true suspect, and 9 other people running around a given map, serious strategy must be implemented on the fly if you’re to have any chance of success. If you’re lucky enough and pull a successful run as an imposter, there’s little else out there in the gaming world that feels so euphoric to achieve.
Life After Death
Unlike many other video games that permanently eject you from the match because you died (ex: Counter-Strike, Rainbow Six: Siege, or most battle royale games), the game doesn’t end when you die in Among Us. If you were killed by the imposter or were wrongfully identified as an imposter by fellow crewmates, you can stay in the match as a ghost. As a non-imposter ghost, you can still float around the station to complete the list of tasks you were doing before your untimely demise; contributing to a possible win by finishing all the tasks before the imposter kills enough people to win. If you were ejected from the match by being rightfully identified as an imposter (in a game with 2 to 3 imposters total), you can still remain as a ghost and cause a ruckus by forcing system overrides, crafting new tasks that need to be completed in a timely manner or else everyone dies.
Big Hands, Small Phone
Among Us might sound a bit complicated on the surface, but what really makes the game stand out amongst other games of its ilk is its general accessibility. My first couple rounds of Among Us had my head spinning a little bit (didn’t help I was the imposter on my very first round), yet after a match as both roles (imposter and crewmate), it became a lot easier to navigate.
When speaking about Among Us’ accessibility, it isn’t just the fact it’s available on any modern mobile device (and it’s free for those platforms), but also that needed interactions in the game are mapped as giant flashing buttons on the screen, which are tapped on while on a phone, or clicked on when playing on a computer. The only real accessibility issue that I could think of is trying to type on a mobile device in the in-game text chat. Among Us doesn’t support voice chat (honestly, that’s for the better), so you have to type out questions, answers, statements, and so forth in a specific text window.
On a computer, typing is obviously no issue since, well, you have a keyboard right in front of you. Trying to tap keys on a smaller screen at a somewhat fast pace, however, can potentially cause issues of grammatical/spelling errors, or missing the window to provide alibies. This means you may be suspected for being silent for too long. In my current time of playing, I haven’t seen this issue crop up myself, however, it is one I can easily see happening.
Even Grandma Can Get in With the Fun
An additional cherry on top of the already fantastic cake that is Among Us is that it’s rather family-friendly. For a game that’s entire premise is hunting down serial killers, the violence is always cartoony (never graphic), and there’s a text chat filter in place by default to censor any profanity. Even if you have the text chat filers off, you can’t pass any profanity as your character name.
For the sake of seeing what you could get away with concerning the name filters, I typed in a bunch of swear words and inappropriate slang (sometimes replacing letters with numbers and so forth), and I was able to get away with one or two — not particularly graphic/offensive — words (sorry, pen15 doesn’t work).
As is expected in multiplayer games, Among Us can harbor plenty of toxic people. In the several games I’ve played leading up to writing this review, I’ve had several games where people have said rather heinous things to other players and me. Of course, these issues are (mostly) mitigated with the in-game chat filter, but when someone’s calling you some sort of slur, it’s not hard to tell even when everything is censored via asterisks. With a game that’s as small as Among Us, I understand that there isn’t a whole lot of moderation that can be done concerning toxic players; the devs have done what they can to at least censor the bad apples through their integrated moderation systems.
Just Play The Dang Game!
With cross-play between mobile and PC versions of the game, generally simple controls, private servers so you can just play with a group of friends and family, and with the low to completely nonexistent price tag, Among Us is a game that you should really try out. If you’ve been missing your usual bouts of social interaction with your family and/or friends, Among Us is a great tool to have with you wherever you go so you can always keep in touch, and have a ton of fun while you’re at it. If you’ve been at least a little interested in the current gaming zeitgeist, Among Us is totally risk-free, and provides hours upon hours of fun with its strong, active community, and will more than likely stay that way for years to come.