I Am Your President review

Even those outside the US will have noticed the American government’s actions bleeding into their subconsciousness. Just by scrolling social media, glancing over newspapers, listening to radio, or flicking through TV channels, you’ll inevitably catch wind of current news concerning US political parties, especially in the run-up to elections. This bleeds into video games too, with various presidents making novelty appearances over the years, and frequent digs at the government as a whole.

I Am Your President is firmly fixated on governing the US, and that’s despite developer President Studio being based in Poland. That’s to say, the actions of the US are so familiar to most of us that even an outsider looking in can effortlessly create a coherent gaming experience around it.

Here, we’re cast into the role of a disgruntled middle-aged gent who believes they can do better. Better, that is, than any US president before them. Trust no one, take no chances. After a brief illustrated intro, depicting the new president’s life before entering The White House, you’re then presented with a few questionnaires to establish a personality and party. Then, you’re asked to promise to achieve a single goal – such as building a wall, ending the opioid crisis, tighter gun control, or a mission to Mars – along with sub-goals based on reaching certain stats for diplomacy, popularity, industry, etc. These stats alter after every turn, with the sole campaign available presently – a lampoon of Trump’s promise to ‘Make America Great Again’ – giving 21 turns to meet your primary goal.  

I Am Your President review

Every turn begins with a knock at the door, along with several multi-choice questions to answer to instigate an event, resolve a conflict, or deal with a crisis. Your actions can impact standings with lobbyists, industrialists, and the military while improving or harming your democratic skills. The menus are mostly well designed (although the world map screen can be temperamental) and the ability to select answers with the d-pad directional buttons is intuitive, limiting the use of the cursor – which is sluggish on the default sensitivilty. The game’s cast is blatantly formed from ‘Shutterstock’ style photos of random smiling people, which gives it a bit of a cheap feel. Drawn artwork fares better. The music, meanwhile, is reminiscent of early Sim City titles.

It quickly becomes apparent that I Am Your President is a text-heavy experience; there’s no spoken dialogue. Text can be hard to read within certain menus, but generally, it’s large enough to read from the comfort of a sofa, with this being a PC game originally. It also soon emerges that the dialogue is surprisingly witty and snappy. I never felt like I was wadding through pages of waffle. Perhaps there are a few too many swear words, but it’s still evident that the developers went out of their way to make the dialogue options fun. Seemingly, there was a need to appeal towards the typical gamer, with a few wry gaming references sneaking in. This not only gives the experience personality but elevates it as a whole. Had this been filled with one-word responses, and dull straight-to-the-point convos, it wouldn’t have been anywhere near as compelling.

Gradually, new aspects are introduced. Some of these take a little trial and error to navigate and understand, but it isn’t long until everything clicks and a daily loop of tasks emerges.

I Am Your President review

Action Points must be assigned daily, placed into numerous sectors including medical, welfare, industry, espionage, war efforts, and greener energy. Investing in these fully can take a couple of turns, and many commence unique events – the public may approve or disapprove, or even a knock-on effect from a different sector could occur. There’s the chance to connect with the younger generation too. One event involves a new mobile game becoming a viral hit, which you can confess to being hooked on. Let’s hope it isn’t spyware, eh? A famous US rapper also angers the Russian president with an outburst during a concert, tasking you with removing heat from the situation. Easy Mode gives hints about which dialogue options will land you trouble, in general, while in Normal or Hard Mode it becomes less obvious about which choices to make.

Your cabinet can also be shuffled once per turn, boosting standings, and it’s possible to examine a world map and use Action Points to investigate countries deeply – which may shake out sleeper agents or potential allies – in addition to establishing trade routes. The map screen has its own choices to make too, usually in the form of a crisis such as a forest fire or virus outbreak. These aren’t too time consuming, and seeing stats significantly increase can be rewarding. Trying to achieve a good standing with every faction is surprisingly compelling.

In addition to making dialogue choices and establishing deals with other countries, you’ll also have to address the population. This is possible in different ways, and the variety is appreciated. Press conferences occur occasionally where you’ll be presented with two options and only have limited time to respond. Events can call for social media to be harnessed to your advantage, using a platform known as Screecher (owned by one Melon Husk) where it’s possible to choose between serious, funny, or downright weird posts. On a more serious note, bills and acts must be actioned or refused, such as reducing the retirement age. The consequences here aren’t as transparent as others. Or perhaps I simply made decent choices. Speeches play a part too, involving shuffling pre-written text boxes – and the need to form a coherent, factually accurate, speech out of them.  

I Am Your President review

As your time in The White House passes, you’ll need to examine progress on promises made during the opening and decide appropriate courses of action to put those goals back on track. To complete a 21 turn run takes 1-2 hours, with the idea being to retry and play again with different promises and on harder difficulty levels. While your time in The White House continues after turn 21, I’m not sure if this was for the best – tedium is bound to settle sooner rather than later, and without a primary goal it can feel like you’re merely going through the motions.  

So while this isn’t something to become heavily invested in, it’s still able to hold your attention for short bursts – I think most people will enjoy the mixture of stupidity and sassiness, providing they’re able to look past staring at the oval room’s walls for almost its entire duration. It’s a shame the term ‘political circus’ is just a metaphor…

President Studio’s I Am Your President is out now on Xbox One. It first launched on PC earlier this year.