As someone who reviews smartphones, I've always got plenty of mobile games downloaded with which to test out devices. In fact, on my current handset I've got about two pages worth of the things. But recently I've found there's only one I want to play, and I can't stop playing it – and it's Among Us.
Yes, I could be playing PUBG Mobile, or Call of Duty Mobile, or Fortnite, or one of the other games I play repeatedly on my phone like Rome: Total War, XCOM: Enemy Within, Gwent, Polytopia, or Crazy Taxi – I could go on – but instead I'm glued to Among Us.
You've probably heard about Among Us by now, given the amount of people discussing it (and sharing memes) on social media. It's not a new game, having released in June 2018, but it's seen a huge surge in popularity recently. According to Google Trends, it saw 50 times more Google searches at the beginning of October as it did the beginning of August.
The game is available on computers as well as smartphones and tablets, the main difference between the two versions being that you have to pay for the PC version while the mobile port shows you ads between games.
If you've got a smartphone or tablet that can run Among Us (which you probably do, it's not very demanding), it should probably be the next app you download, because it's great fun whether you're playing alone or in a group.
What is Among Us?
In Among Us, you play as a crewmate on a spaceship, running between rooms in a map to complete small tasks, with up to ten players all doing such. Some of the players, between one and three, are 'Impostors', whose job is to stealthily kill all the crewmates without the others cottoning on to their identity.
Every time a dead body is discovered, or a crewmember calls an emergency meeting, the surviving players can vote on who they think the Impostor is – and the person with the most votes gets ejected from the airlock. The aim of the game is to jettison the Impostor, or to complete all their tasks – while the Impostor attempts to wipe out the crew.
The game is a great exhibition of deception and caution – you're never sure if that individual working at the same station is just another crewmember, or an Impostor pretending to work until you two are alone, so they can pounce. Likewisem as an Impostor you're always wary of how best to act innocent and fit in 'among us', and to pass the suspicion onto other players so they get voted out instead of you.
Sure, it's not the first example of a party game like this, where one player is trying to hide their duplicity to the group, but such games tend to be played in person, whereas Among Us is a digital game that can be played with strangers as well as friends.
The perfect party game
Games of Among Us can be tense, confusing, and even funny if you're an Impostor watching a team tear itself apart without ever placing suspicion on you. If you can't get out and about because your country is teetering on the edge of lockdown, it might be a perfect way for you to keep up communication. Well, to an extent.
You can only converse with other players during a vote, and the time limit on these means you need to be succinct in your communication – there's no time for logical reasoning here. Instead you need to work out how best to make your case to a group of people who all already have their own ideas.
Plus, this limited communication means you get to ignore annoying family members and friends for long periods of the game if you want!
When you're wiped out by the Impostor, you're not 'out' though, which solves an issue that ruins other party games, of people being excluded. You turn into a ghost, and can carry on completing tasks to help your crewmembers win. That, or you can follow the Impostor round, watching them play and picking up tricks. Living crewmembers can't see you, so it doesn't ruin the game.
The controls of the game are easy, with navigation done using an on-screen joystick or just by touching where you want to go, and the mini-games to solve tasks are pretty basic too. Because of this there's not really an age or competency barrier, and you can let non-gaming loved ones play in games just like you. They do need a smartphone or tablet though.
Joining a game is easy: it's nothing like online Cards Against Humanity games, where you need to fiddle with awkward menus and settings. Instead, you just need a short code to jump into the right game.
For all these reasons Among Us is great as a party game if you play with people you know – there are very limited barriers for entry and play, so people who don't typically 'get' mobile games can play. But you can have a great experience even if you're not playing with people you know.
Online people are nice
I've predominantly played Among Us on my mobile alone, while waiting for food to cook or on the loo, and it's great fun even if you're playing in a public server with random strangers.
People the chat on Among Us games are never rude, or offensive, or mean-spirited – they're focused on working out who the impostor is, and the only enemy here is the one who's murdering the other players.
Among Us is unlike the vast, vast majority of online games that have chat functions, in that joining the conversation doesn't feel like sticking your head in a vat of acid. It's pretty heartwarming, honestly.
In the few off-topic conversations I've had with people in the game, largely held in the waiting room before the match properly commences, these strangers have all been lovely, which is as confusing as it is uplifting.
Well, they seem nice, until they corner you in a spaceship and murder you, before running away to pass the buck onto someone else.