“Get Rich, Avoid Explosives!” So says the tagline of simple-yet-addictive politics simulator coin-collecting title Politician: The Game. There’s not a whole lot to this Snake-like battle to accumulate wealth, but like all great quick-fix games its elegance will win you over and steal away your time.
While Politician looks like some bad shareware from 20 years ago, it’s utterly brilliant — both as a game and, if you care to read into it, a satire — and I couldn’t recommend it more.
You play the game by drawing circles — well, freehand loops — around the yellow coins that randomly populate the screen. These coins auto-generate over time, and you must keep their number below 500. Along the way, you collect power-ups, avoid bombs, and try to maximize your score.
Everything within your loop is collected, boosting your score and stocks of power-ups. Tap on a power-up icon in the sidebar to activate it.
Controls come in three varieties. I favor touch and drag, for easy one-to-one drawing of my loops, but there’s also a tilt option that uses your device’s accelerometer rather more effectively than might be expected. Fat-fingered players may prefer the Touch Controller option, however, which decouples your finger position from that of the avatar in favor of a relative movement system — i.e., drag up anywhere on screen to move up.
Start with First Time difficulty while you learn the ropes, then step it up every few plays until you reach Medium or Hard. Only then does Politician’s compulsiveness become clear. All except the most skilled players will struggle to last more than a few minutes each game, but that’s precisely the appeal. Politician: The Game is a quick experience, like the arcade games of old.
It gets tough on the harder difficulties, where suddenly even quick little loops might take too long to keep you alive.
Kickin’ It Old School
Politician reminds me of the Macintosh shareware games scene in the 1990s, where creativity and addictive simplicity were the driving forces. It looks and feels like several titles I played around the time, all melded into one. This is a good thing — those games are still great fun today, provided you can see past their shoddy interfaces and dated, slightly-off visuals.
There’s an elegant beauty to single-screen games. They can keep you engaged for minutes or hours on end with nothing more than a clever concept and a handful of simple rules. In Politician’s case, there are just three rules you need to worry about: Don’t let there be more than 500 coins on the screen at any one time, encircle the coins to “collect” them, and don’t encircle bombs.
The magnet power-up can really carve up the coins so they’re easy to collect. You get encouraging on-screen feedback, too.
From these emerge infinite variations, made all the more compelling by power-ups you can apply for quick score bonuses or to draw coins or bombs toward your avatar to make collection easier.
Pretty graphics would only detract from the experience. They would draw your attention away from the impossible task of collecting every coin, in a world where the available wealth soon multiplies far beyond your means to gather it without orchestrating your own downfall.
There’s a commentary on capitalism somewhere in here, but, like Tetris’s Soviet undertones, it’s secondary and largely transparent to the simple joy of staving off defeat for a few seconds longer.