Among Us has been quite the talking point of 2020, quietly launching on smart devices two years ago to little mainstream attention but now one of the most popular games currently out there. Whether that be down to the sudden interest from key influencers on Twitch or YouTube or simply the fact it’s the perfect sort of game for gathering friends together online during a time where seeing them in person isn’t exactly an option. We’re not here to dissect the origins of its popularity though, we’re interested in whether it’s any good and how its first attempt on console fares.
Among Us is essentially a social deduction game that sees you taking on the role of either a crewmate or imposter within a group of up to ten players. If you’ve played the likes of Werewolves or Mafia then you should get the idea here pretty quick. The goal for the crewmates is to move about the map (of which there are three in total) completing an assortment of tasks as they go.
If everyone does their job and completes their tasks then they all win. The imposters meanwhile will do their best to pick off crewmates one by one without drawing suspicion on themselves. Kill enough crewmates and the imposters win. Discovering a dead body will allow you the ability to call an emergency meeting where the remaining players who aren’t dead will then discuss who could have committed the awful act. Discussions over and everyone then votes on who they find most suspicious with the player scoring most votes getting kicked out of the map and booted into space or into a nasty pit of lava. The game then continues until a winning side is declared.
Among Us is interesting for me because a large part of its appeal doesn’t come from the gameplay itself – that is rather mundane in fact – but instead the multitude of exciting and infuriating situations it can present. As an imposter you always find yourself trying to walk the line between being loud and too quiet during discussions so as not to draw suspicion while playing as a crewmate brings with it its own host of dilemmas such as whether to buddy up and put your trust in someone or keep your distance and focus on your tasks.
Should you self-report a body you just mercilessly killed? Do you risk completing a task near another player or come back later? All questions going through your head as you do your best to fly under the radar or stay alive (depending on which side you’re playing). This is a game where the people you play with can have a huge impact on the fun you’ll have. Among Us welcomes those who see themselves as a modern-day Sherlock or a clever and cunning liar excited at the chance to mess with the heads of others. Essentially the louder the personalities, the more interesting and hilarious things become.
The tasks the crewmates will be completing are many but relatively simple having you do things like press a button to download a file, connect wires of matching colours or partake in a quick game of Simon Says. Without the snappiness of a mouse, completing these errands using a traditional controller definitely takes some getting used to and will no doubt affect your speed, however since each mini-game is never that demanding of the player, it rarely if ever presented a problem.
The game offers a good selection of settings, some minor and some major that help to keep things exciting and fresh. This can be tied to the conversation portion of the game including restricting the time players have to discuss or hiding who votes for whom as well gameplay affecting changes like increasing movement speed, the number of tasks or even the range of visibility both crewmates and imposters have. We found a formula that worked for the group but it’s good to know should we want to mix things up, there’s plenty of options we can continue to tweak.
While you are able to join games with the public, I wouldn’t recommend it for a number of reasons. With a large emphasis placed on the discussions you have with the crew; the text chat simply doesn’t measure up especially on the Switch as you try to type anything of use to your team within the time limit. Furthermore, this is a game best experienced with people you know. Texting something like ‘green sus’ to a complete stranger doesn’t have the same weight nor fun as pointing fingers and yelling profanities through voice chat as you get unfairly voted off by friends and family you thought you could trust. If you don’t have a group of friends and family to play this game with, it’s a real hard sell. Thankfully Among Us on Switch does offer crossplay meaning players with the PC or smartphone version can join in on the fun too.
Perhaps my biggest criticism with the game is the effort required to get a game going in the perfect conditions. Ideally, you want 10 players all using the same software to voice chat and all with a firm understanding of how the game works. Sure, Among Us is popular as all hell right now, but in the handful of groups I got together, a large majority had heard of the game but not actually looked into it for themselves. Trying to explain not only the rules of the game but also the fact they’d need to mute between discussion rounds and if they died was let’s say challenging. If only Among Us had in-game voice chat and better still would mute you automatically at the right time. That being said, even through all the clumsiness of setting up a game, not to mention the numerous times Switch players would need to reboot the game in order to get into a room successfully, everyone had a great time and were all eager to gather again for more.
Among Us is a brilliant multiplayer experience and one that’s sorely needed given the current climate. While I wouldn’t recommend playing this against randoms online, if you can gather nine friends and set up a voice chat, then you’re guaranteed one of the best gaming experiences of 2020.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch