Mr. Prepper by Rejected Games
Mr. Prepper is the latest offering from PlayWay S.A., a Polish publisher that seems to crank out quirky simulation games every month (along with occasional horror games like The Beast Inside and Lust for Darkness).
This time the target is American doomsday prepping…sort of. While engaging at times, it doesn’t quite seem to nail either the simulation or the parody.
Just Because You’re Paranoid…
The setting is a key aspect here, and instead of a desert commune or cabin-turned-compound in the Montana mountains, the titular Mr. Prepper lives in a sort of Stepford Wives parody of the suburbs in the very near future.
Beneath the glossy veneer, however, lies the terrible truth: the United States have been taken over by authoritarians and monitored by secret police, so on top of building a bunker, stockpiling food and doing other “prepper” activities, you’ve also got to hide your activities.
Conceptually, this could be brilliant fuel for either satire or chilling speculative fiction. Alas, the presentation is toothless here, stripped bare of anything remotely controversial. And as for satire, our picture-perfect, overly surveilled town is called “Murricaville,” and that’s about as subtle as things get.
Wouldn’t You Like to Be a Prepper, Too?
Mechanically speaking, Mr. Prepper is a crafting game with excursions for more crafting materials, and a solid if mostly unexceptional one.
On the positive side, there are some beautifully rendered areas outside to explore, especially the forests, where you can come across NPCs like an herbalist and huntress. There are also loads of crafting recipes and plenty of options as far as breaking down, rebuilding and redesigning the interior of your house and the subterranean bunker beneath it.
Unfortunately, it lacks a certain compulsive quality to balance out the constant grind. And on a more concrete and specific level, Mr. Prepper can be extremely finicky with item placement and interaction; I got stuck during the tutorial because a ceiling light I’d placed high up on the wall in my bunker was apparently blocking me from putting a workbench on the floor underneath it.
Ultimately, Mr. Prepper feels like a game that can’t commit; thematically, it throws bones to conservative antipathy of government interference and liberal distrust of nationalism and religiosity, but given both the recent developments of things like the QAnon movement and the storied history of anti-government doomsday preppers going back to David Koresh and before, this feels like a missed chance to do something really interesting with the themes and ideas.
Not to mention that generally speaking, actual preppers’ goals are typically to hunker down and survive the apocalypse, whereas the end-game here is to actually escape (by building a rocket, no less, though occasional bits of absurdity like this don’t quite add up to a consistent comedic through-line).
If all you’re after is some casual crafting, Mr. Prepper probably fits the bill, but games like This War of Mine or the bleak and brilliant Sheltered scratch the same itch for scavenging and building while also providing some bonus narrative gravitas.
Mr. Prepper is available via Steam.
Check out the official Mr. Prepper trailer below: