They Came From A Communist Planet
Brandon’s Review: This game can be examined in two connected, yet altogether different components. My bifurcation: a walking simulator introduction and the developer’s imagination of a riot within a built up (urban) area. I will not discuss the story as I want you to play this game yourself. And frankly, I can say despite being a Republican politician I can tell you that the feeling of hopelessness in the hiring process is quite real—I enjoy capitalism, and I support capitalism. But, the hiring process is completely broken. Algorithms have too much say in hiring process—human resources managers need to be more human in hiring. The opening walking simulator really gives the player a feeling of hopelessness as food and utilities are depleted. Life is going downhill. And thus, we enter the second segment.
This is a simulated riot. The police or internal troops (they’re not identified) are in full riot gear. We can see a riot shield wall that depicts a cordon. We can see armored cars that resemble Lenco BearCats, and they have water cannons. The communist aliens aid you by providing instructions on how to be a better rioter. They teach you how to make Molotovs and they also give you a gas mask as the riot control personnel are using CS (tear) gas. You unlock more by destruction of property. After all this is a riot.
My number one qualm/critique with the game is the riot control personnel only respond to the riot passively. Yes, they use water cannons, yes they use tear gas, but they never attempt to quash the riot via pepperball, rubber bullets, and never once do the phalanx of riot shield equipped personnel advance on the rioters to quash the riot. Regardless, the game is quite interesting!
“It is easier to imagine an end to the world than an end to capitalism.” – Jameson or Zizek, but often ascribed to Mark Fisher
In Mark Fisher’s Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative?, the above quote hangs heavy. Indeed, I could quote most of the text from that book in this review, and it would feel painfully relevant. For now, I’ll just recommend the book heartily if the themes of this game speak to you and share the definition of capitalist realism: “the widespread sense that not only is capitalism the only viable political and economic system, but also that it is now impossible even to imagine a coherent alternative to it.”
What imaginable alternative is there to late-stage capitalism? Well, in Colestia’s They Came from a Communist Planet, this question is answered by the titular “they” – a species of insectoid aliens that have come to foment revolution in a nameless city. The Story Mode of the game begins with the protagonist wandering around their apartment as bills, plates, and rejection letters pile up. A hugely memorable musical swell accompanies a red light beam piercing through their window as they lay awake sleepless. They are taken up into a UFO and given comforting, yet revolutionary, advice about why things are the way they are and how this isn’t the only way to live.
From here, gameplay moves into a (somewhat subdued) riot simulator. There is some excitement as repeated abductions invest you with more skills and gear (e.g., Molotov cocktail throwing, a gas mask). There is no way to be killed in the riots, but, as this is a “socialist parable” rather than a traditional video game, this is just as well. The point is not to be action-packed – It’s to tell a story, and this is something that They Came from a Communist Planet does very well. As you explore the city, you also come across cans of spray paint – If you collect them all, you’re granted access to another game area. Time did not permit me to pursue this side quest on my playthrough for this review, but I’m entranced enough with the game that I intend to go back and explore every nook and cranny when I’m able.
An alien invasion is absolutely an end to the world (as we know it) and, in this case, an end to capitalism. I’m grateful for developers who are making brief, thought-provoking games like this one.
They Came from a Communist Planet is available for $4.99 on itch.io and Steam.