Some games just seem perfect for the Switch. For instance, I have been playing through the Phoenix Wright Trilogy recently and it fits the form factor perfectly. Zelda: Breath of the Wild also would not have had the success it had if not for the amazing ability to take such a grand adventure with you.
The Switch is such a perfect venue for so many games. Mr. Prepper, unfortunately, is not one of them.
Here, you play a chap building a secret bunker to hide from an overbearing government installed after a plague. Firstly, let’s address that setting. It’s less of a dog whistle and more of a foghorn to the right-wing conspiracy theories that float around real ‘prepper’ circles. Whilst a more intelligent game could have handled this with wit, humour, or satire, it’s important to know that’s not what’s going on here. The scenario is played straight, and while that’s not a problem, it does feel like a missed opportunity. It feels functional, but not particularly interesting.
There’s quite a bit to crack on with. As you build out your bunker by trading, collecting, and crafting items, you also have to make sure you’re getting the correct amount of sleep and are eating well. It amounts to some quite intensive time management, especially as you get regular visits from a government agent, who will inspect your house to make sure that nothing is amiss.
Luckily you have quite a few tools at our disposal. You can go into the woods and forage for materials, recycle things from the house or order them – and crafting rooms and items is quite simple. Unfortunately, the government agent who inspects you will notice your frying pan missing, so you need to resist the temptation to melt down every appliance you own to build a rocket.
In theory, it should all work well, but not everything works according to theory, as my driving instructor will attest to.
Mr. Prepper started life on PC, and you can feel it. In moving the controls over to the Switch controller, the rhythm of play has been knocked askew. Finding your way around the menus can be just a little too clunky to be enjoyable, and the more we played, the more we longed for a more information-dense screen and a mouse.
This matters a great deal. Placing items and navigating through menus is the core of the game here, and it just feels so difficult to do. It doesn’t help that the game looks a little ugly. I get why. We’re talking underground bunkers. Harsh metallics, horrible lighting, and brown mud. It all fits the theme perfectly, but also simply isn’t pleasant to look at. The music and sound are similar. Perfectly in keeping with the theme, but off-putting to experience.
In fact, this is one of those games that we had to keep forcing ourselves to play for the purposes of review. The clunky controls, off-putting graphics, and boring soundscape just kept us from pressing on its icon. A real shame as there’s something here. With refined controls and more biting wit, this would have been less of a bunker clunker. If only the developers had kept the Switch’s strengths, and its weaknesses, in mind.
Published by Ultimate Games, Mr. Prepper is out now on the eShop. Versions for other formats are available.