Every game seems to make its way to the Switch eventually…but is the Switch the best way to experience them all?
Among Us was initially released by InnerSloth back in 2018, but it really took off in 2020 as streamers began playing the game and people began looking for any method to socialize with their friends, even if said method involved accusing said friends of murder. The game is a virtual clone of the classic Mafia /Werewolf party game, where one person is selected as the killer and the rest of the group has to deduce the killer’s identity before everyone dies. In this version, the game is a bit more active than just sitting around in a circle: You’re tasked with managing a spaceship or interplanetary outpost, and you have to complete a set of tasks and avert imposter sabotages while also dodging the killer’s knife and putting your amateur detective/lawyer skills to the test.
When it comes to Among Us, there are really two questions to answer:
- Is the game worth buying at all?
- If it is, is the recent Nintendo Switch release the best way to experience it?
The truth is that we have a split decision here: Among Us is a fun, engaging game no matter how you play it, but certain control schemes and setups work better than others, and unfortunately the Switch is not well suited to a game that requires this much communication.
My detailed thoughts on the game are as follows:
- With its “Newgrounds art style” and relatively simple mechanics, this is not a game that will overwhelm the Switch’s limited tech specs (after all, it’s originally a mobile game). That said, the game can be incredibly glitchy at times (a lobby may refuse to load properly, or the game may behave unpredictably when certain things happen, such as a simultaneous kill and body report), and the original version of downloading seemed to lack basic functionality (menus wouldn’t even scroll). If you’re used to Nintendo’s fastidious QA and incredibly-polished products, playing a game that falters this much can be a bit of a shock.
- As a crewmate, you’re given a to-do list of tasks to complete while you run around the map looking for bodies. (After being killed, you can still complete tasks as a ghost, which is exactly what would happen in real life: “Sorry for your untimely demise! You’re still teaching your 9 AM class tomorrow, right?”) If everyone completes their tasks before the imposter can kill the crewmates, the imposter loses, but it’s very dependent on the people you’re playing with (and there’s always someone who’s never doing tasks), so task completion wins are kind of rare. Since the tasks were designed for a point-and-tap/click interface, their mappings to the JoyCons/Pro controller can be hit-or-miss: For example, the dreaded card swipe and water wheel tasks are just a simple spin of the left stick, but turning on lights or sorting items in the specimen room are arduous endeavors requiring slow, deliberate movements. (And don’t even get me started on electrical calibration: After failing that task three times and then immediately getting murdered, I was ready to toss my Switch out the window.)
- As an imposter, your job is to kill, sabotage, lie, and generally make life miserable for everyone else. While this is easier said than done (someone always walks in on you the moment you kill someone), it can be immensely satisfying to deceive your way to victory. The Switch control scheme here is fairly straightforward, with one notable exception: Navigating the sabotage map is done with the right stick rather than the left stick, so you have to be really careful to use the correct stick and not accidentally walk away from the task you’re faking.
- If you think you know everything you need to know just by watching your favorite streamers, think again. The game is played much faster in public lobbies then you might expect: Fewer tasks, shorter kill cooldowns, less discussion/vote time, and sometimes not that many players (lobbies either fill immediately or barely fill at all). Forget about elaborate statements meant to obscure your movements; you barely have time to say “orange vented” before you have to vote. It can also be tricky to find a game with a good balance between the crew and the imposter: Short task lists give the crew a massive advantage, but with longer lists and shorter cooldowns, the imposters really have to screw up to lose.
- Speaking of public lobbies…after trying to find a open public lobby in Among Us, I will never complain about Splatoon lobbies ever again. I absolutely hate the game-finding interface in this game: You have some barely-functionality search options to filter your results, and said results are stale pretty much the moment you get them. Actually finding a game generally requires about 10 iterations of clicking on a lobby, being told it’s full, getting kicked back to the main menu, and re-entering the search menu again. You eventually develop some rough heuristics to finding an open lobby: It should have no more than 6 or 7 players when you see it, and you’d better select it within three seconds of it appearing or you’re sunk. Having a Splatoon-like system where you’re automatically placed in a lobby based on your search criteria would be a much better system, but just not booting people back to the main screen when they select a full lobby would be a step in the right direction.
- Where the Switch version of Among Us absolutely fails is in the communication department, which is a huge part of the game (when a body is discovered, players gather and discuss who might have done it). The Switch’s on-screen keyboard is slow, clunky, and obscures the entire screen, so it takes forever to type out your statement and the conversation has usually moved on long before you get your two cents in. (And you can forget about it if you’re accused of being the imposter: By the time you finish typing out your defense, everyone’s already voted and you’ve being tossed into space.) This extends to the post-game lobby chat as well: You’re dying to explain that you totally didn’t see a body in O2, but the next game starts long before you can type out your explanation. Given that communication is such a big part of the game, coming up so short in this area is a big problem.
- Okay, I’ve griped enough: Is the game actually fun? Truthfully, it is! It’s one of those games that can suck you in for hours if you’re not careful, especially since imposter rounds can be few and far between and everybody wants to be the killer (despite the fact that in my opinion, being imposter is way harder than being a simple crewmate). Testing your detective and con artist skills in a low-stakes environment is really engaging, especially if you get time to reveal your elaborate schemes in between matches. While the game is best experienced with a known group of friends and an alternative communication method (preferably a voice channel, but text chat with a full keyboard can work too), public games can be enjoyable once you find a suitable lobby. The $5 price point is also a huge seller as well: Even if the game’s a dud, you aren’t wasting $60 on it like a big triple-A title.
So yes, this game is absolutely worth getting. However, given the Switch’s struggles with arguably the game’s most important mechanic (communication), you’re probably better off purchasing the game on a platform with a faster text interface (either PC or mobile). If the Switch is your only option, it’s still a good game, but its limitations keep it from being a great one. The Switch may be the hot platform for every game in existence (except the NHL series *grumble grumble*), but not everything translates well to a console, and in this case I’d encourage folks to limit their Switch killings to Goomba stomping, and play Among Us on a platform more suited for its gameplay.