Election season is upon us, and while they might not be appreciated by everyone, there’s certainly no shortage of mobile apps to help celebrate the occasion.
The political apps available on iOS and Android run the gamut from serious news hubs to satirical games. It’s the latter we’ll be focusing on in this feature, as interactive games are often aimed at getting people interested in the political process. While the actual political content of these titles is highly variable, at their core all the title have the same two goals — to remind users that an election campaign is happening and to encourage their players to get up and vote.
Vote!!! The Game (Chair, iOS)
Vote is an Unreal Engine-powered fighting game from the makers of Infinity Blade. It’s a free download that casts players in the role of either Obama or Romney, and is, at its core, the same basic game as Infinity Blade. Players progress through a series of “debates” between the two candidates, represented by them slugging it out using items ranging from a microphone to a copy of the Constitution. Players earn coins through combat (or acquire them via in-app purchase), and these can be spent on better items and equipment.
The game includes an online facility where the performance of Obama and Romney players are compared to provide a measure of “support” on the game’s title screen — winning a bout counts as one “vote” for a particular candidate.
Vote is great fun, particularly for fans of Infinity Blade, and is a highly polished title with impressive graphics and sound. Judging by the number of “votes” on the title screen at the time of writing, it’s a popular one, too — thanks at least in part to the fact that it is free to download.
Race for the White House 2012 (Lunagames, iOS/Android)
Race for the White House 2012 (known as Election Game 2012 in its App Store listing) is available in both free and paid versions. It’s a strategy game in which players take on the role of either Obama or Romney in an attempt to secure as much support in states across the U.S. as possible. This is achieved by travelling to states, spending money on campaigns, appearing on talk shows and holding speeches. The game incorporates a trivia element when the player’s candidate appears on talk shows, with the host grilling them about American history and sports, with correct answers netting them additional support in the region.
Players also have the opportunity to make use of a covert operative and a detective to perform special actions such as digging up dirt on their opponent or sabotaging their campaign. This costs money, however, so players must ensure they have plenty of volunteers working for them to help provide the income for their campaign.
Race for the White House is a complex game that does not give a great deal of help to the player. While this will please fans of light strategy games looking for a satirical political game to play on their phones, it will likely put curious newcomers off somewhat. Still, with a free version available, players can try it out with no risk.
Comedy Central’s Indecision Game (2K Play, iOS/Android)
Indecision Game combines a “quiz show” theme with some Risk-style strategy. Players must answer political-themed questions against the clock to earn voters, and must then place these on their “campaign trail” in an attempt to take various states. The game is designed for asynchronous multiplayer, so it’s possible for players to engage in several political battles at the same time.
The game is extremely slickly-presented, with clear, crisp graphics and sound, customizable player avatars that are packed with personality and excellent, dramatic background music. The actual political content is good, too, with the game’s questions covering a wide variety of topics relating to the candidates and their campaigns.
The game is a free-to-play app that monetizes through the in-app purchase of “greenbacks,” a currency which may be used to “cheat” at various questions, and also to acquire various boosters in the “campaign trail” element of the game. This gives the game a slight “pay to win” feel at times, though it is entirely possible for players to earn greenbacks at a slower rate through normal play.
Obama vs Romney (gamecentercompany, iOS)
Obama vs. Romney is an unabashed clone of Triple Town with a political bent. Players receive various political symbols and must place them on a grid one at a time. Placing three of the same item next to each other causes them to “level up” into a new item. “Troll Face” characters wander around the board when placed, similar to Triple Town’s bears, and must be trapped in order to remove them. The player must score as many points as possible before there are no more available moves.
The game is a free-to-play app but, like Triple Town, carries a move limit. This may be removed via in-app purchase, and this also removes in-game advertising. Players may also buy the coins they earn through play, and these can be used to immediately purchase a specific item to place on the play area — though the prices for these are so exorbitant that they practically require in-app purchases to afford.
While the game is a complete clone of Triple Town, Obama vs Romney is a fun little game in its own right. While its political content is questionable beyond satirical depictions of Republicans and Democrats as various animals, the game also includes an unexplained facility to upload a picture from the phone’s camera role as a “candidate for the Rage party.” It’s not entirely clear what this actually does, though the ability to share this picture on Facebook and Twitter serves as an amusing means of personalized viral promotion.
Angry Elections (Mobvie, Android)
Angry Elections is, as the name suggests, an Angry Birds clone with a political twist. Like Rovio’s classic, the game is a physics-based puzzler where players must “slingshot” an object (in this case, the head of their chosen presidential candidate) at an arrangement of opponents who are usually balanced atop various rather precarious obstacles. Defeating all the opponents allows the player to proceed to the next level.
Like Obama vs Romney, the game is pretty much a clone of an existing title — though at least in the app’s description, Mobvie are up-front about its inspiration. The game is a fun title in its own right — though a sticking point for some players may be the relative lack of levels — particularly as it is a paid app.
However, Angry Elections is perhaps most noteworthy for the fact that Apple rejected its inclusion on the App Store on the grounds that it is “defamatory, offensive, mean-spirited or likely to place the targeted individual or group in harm’s way” and that it contained “false, fraudulent or misleading representations.” Kevin Moore, developer of the game, was “disappointed that Apple has taken such a harsh stance on what we and most people that have played the game find funny, entertaining and certainly a witty use of political satire.”