A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Players need to know that Among Us is a downloadable action/strategy game for Windows PCs. The game has also been released on iOS and Android devices. Players take on the role either of crewmates trying to accomplish tasks or of imposters trying to sabotage these missions and murder the crew. Imposters can kill players in somewhat gory ways, and bodies are left behind, but there's no blood and the cartoonish visuals limit the impact of the deaths. While there's no dialogue, play is unmoderated, especially when using external chat programs or discussing who may have killed other players. Gamers can also select offensive phrases as their character name, so players should be warned that they could encounter racist, sexist, or homophobic language. Players can choose to purchase cosmetic items and pets that tag along, but these give no advantages within play sessions.
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What's it about?
AMONG US is a betrayal-based party game set in space with a group of four to 10 explorers. As crewmates, you're given different tasks to handle on your ship. Some are relatively simple, like ejecting waste into space or charting a course to a planet, while others are more complex, such as working on the electrical systems on your vessel. All of this would be fine, except that there's at least one imposter in the crew who's working against your better goals, actively sabotaging systems, sneaking through vents, and killing off the crew one by one. As soon as a body is detected or someone notices suspicious behavior (or the impostor wants to sow confusion), players can call an emergency meeting to discuss who they think is guilty and why. If players get enough votes, that person is ejected (into space or lava), and their motivations are revealed. If the crew can discover the impostors, they win. If the imposters can frame the crew or kill them all off by murder or sabotage, the impostors win. Players can participate via local Wi-Fi or online, or practice their skills and sneaking in a free-play mode. There's also cross-play between computers and iOS and Android devices, so people on various systems can play each other.
Is it any good?
Deception, deduction, confusion, and humor go hand in hand with this party game set in space, where the person next to you could be key to your survival -- or willing to stab you in the back. There's no plot in Among Us, other than trying to complete your tasks and uncover the impostors hidden in the crew, who are more than willing to sabotage your equipment and murder everyone to accomplish their goals. It's the drama that springs from trying to deduce who the killers are that's captivating. Did you see someone murder another crew member? Why is that person hanging out in that room? Was it to accomplish a task, or were they pretending to while sabotaging something? These questions and more will pop up as you run through the halls, until someone calls an emergency meeting to accuse someone of acting "sus" (game lingo for "suspicious") or because they've found a body. At that point, everyone can chat to explain where they were and who they think did it. If you have an alibi (or are a better liar who can divert attention from yourself), you may stick around for the next round; if not, you'll get ejected into space or tossed into lava. The bartering and excuses that people come up with during these meetings are not only an incredible glimpse into the minds of fellow players, but also where the action shines: watching alliances suddenly form and fracture as people accuse others and defend their actions. And the game excels with a full complement of 10 players and multiple imposters, because it calls into question everything you think you know about people, especially if the character you swore was guilty turns out to be innocent.
Visually, the gameplay is cartoonish, which is nice when you consider how ghoulish the actions are that you or your fellow players can commit: blowing up a reactor or eliminating oxygen are just some of the ways you can kill players, apart from directly getting your hands dirty. But aside from the limited gore, the game is easy to learn how to play within minutes, and depending on who you're playing with, matches are quick affairs, running 10 minutes or less. Some of the mini-games to complete tasks range from simple to difficult, which is good because it raises suspicion depending on how long it takes to complete. The downside, though, is that once you finish all of the tasks for a stage, no new ones are issued, apart from stopping sabotages, which makes the action devolve into either a waiting game for the next murder or a bunch of rampant accusations out of boredom. The other issue: The game isn't always stable. Games crash frequently, matches that appear open are magically filled, and wins sometimes happen without players doing a thing. But these glitches aside, Among Us is a surprisingly fun, chaotic deduction game that keeps you coming back to find a murderer (or to commit mayhem) round after round.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about violence in video games. Is the impact of the violence in Among Us increased since you are actively hunting and murdering players if you're the impostor? Is the impact lessened by the cartoonish nature of the visuals, even though bodies are left behind?
Why is it important to tell the truth in games like Among Us? When is it important to lie to accomplish your goals in a game that relies upon deception? Is it OK to have a game that relies upon deception at the core of its gameplay?
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