Review – Mr. Prepper (Switch)
In the event of an actual government totalitarian takeover, level five nuclear war, or any other apocalyptic event, I fully accept that I will either be dead within seconds or immediately abandon my principles. It’s more than okay: I’ve come to accept that, and I’ve also helped my family understand that as best as I could articulate without saying “I’m fully committed to looting our neighbors.” We can all talk a big game about what we plan to do, or how we’re going to approach the overall effect of madness as it grips our world, but a majority of the people who’ve been filling bunkers, hiding ammunition and learning to drink their own urine will, almost assuredly, not last a week once things go down. Sorry folks, but the largest of events means nothing when it comes down to individual survival.
So, with something like Mr. Prepper, a survival crafting game from Rejected Games, it’s an interesting bit of fantasy that I pray no one is using for blueprints for the future. You’re a dude who has looked around and realized the government is corrupt, controlling and hellbent on making the people of the country mind slaves. Naturally, names and likenesses are kept out so that this scenario can be appreciated by whatever political party you support. Now being watched by government forces to ensure that you stay in line, you slowly formulate your plan to break away from the flock and be a sovereign citizen, complete with self-sustaining bunker to ride out the coming doom. Helped initially in secret by like-minded brethren, you need to develop your home beneath your home, complete with crops, lights, computer systems and, eventually, a rocket. Wait, why do you need a rocket if you have a bunker? Let’s not think about that now.
When you strap into the world of Mr. Prepper, you need to understand one fundamental thing: you’re going to be here for a while. The progress towards freedom and safety from Big Brother isn’t one that you can find within a few minutes of gameplay. No, you’ll see that you can dump actual hours of painstaking planning, gathering and action to receive very minimal results, and I guess that’s good or something? It certainly captures a realistic sense of how things are to progress in order to build a secret bunker world.
You take a day to carve out a new room, but you still need a ladder to get down there, a few lights to illuminate the area, and then things to put in there (your crafting table, your hydroponic garden, etc.). All of these items take raw materials, and, surprise, you’re limited for raw materials due to the nature of the game. You can dismantle the objects in your home one at a time (some cookware becomes glass, your bookshelf becomes wood), but if you take apart too many things at once it looks very suspicious when your handler comes to check on you to see if you’re being a good little boy.
The name of the game is unflagging patience and dedication to routine. Moving forward in Mr. Prepper is a borderline Sisyphusian task that is hamstrung by several elements of the game, and one that’s very specific to this Nintendo Switch port. The biggest one is that there is only autosaving, and autosaving only comes at the end of a day. Here we encounter the feedback loop of madness that makes up the majority of the beginning of the game.
You need to make it to the end of the day in order to achieve a save, but you need to make that day worthwhile while having very little to make said day worthwhile. You must gather things from the woods because you can’t go anywhere else at first, but you’re limited to berries and logs before you eventually get a gun to go hunting. You can sell some of your things you found through a mail system barter/sale system that’s in place, but you need to choose wisely so you don’t sacrifice what you need to craft additional elements. In short, even on the easiest setting, the player is forced to make baby steps the whole way forward.
Now, this should actually be even better on the Switch, and in the later game world, it definitely is. Being able to suspend Mr. Prepper at any time in handheld mode is a dream in a game that’s limited by time, and it’s very hard to lose track of what you’re doing. There’s such a robust amount of things that require “time,” but the time can pass quite quickly without incident. You cook food, gather supplies, take a nap for refueling, and you can stack some things to run concurrently. Waiting for your crops to sprout? Perfect time to take apart your living room light for some extra glass! Is the delivery of ammunition taking too long? Use your remaining bullets and see if you can bag a deer for meat while the postman becomes an unwitting contraband runner!
Hell, if you’re lucky, maybe you’ll trigger one of the game’s many heavy-handed exposition filled dialogue scenes where people you encounter really let you know what side of the coin they’re on. If you missed what they said, don’t worry! It’s all incidental to let you know some people are SHEEP, and you and your fellow bunker buddies that you meet are WOLVES.
To be perfectly frank, there’s a lot about Mr. Prepper that is reasonably enjoyable. There’s dark humor throughout, intermingling hyperbolization of the fear of End Times with some legitimate criticism of the real world applications of fascism. Once you really get into the bunker and get things going, it can be fascinating to see how much detail goes into a world that’s literally just under a rug in your living room. The hunting QTE isn’t bad either, and I appreciate how many times you can fail in simple actions before even getting up and running. I got arrested on my literal second day because I just left my secret plans to escape out in the open. It’s a very tough game, but I can see people dumping a lot of time into it in order to really see how well these surprisingly good graphics are willing to take you on this journey.
However, like so many other titles that suffer in this realm, Mr. Prepper simply isn’t for the Switch. Look, if you’re using a full Switch or one of the OLED models, you should know you can plug a mouse into the dock and use it for point and click titles. If you can do that, then fantastic, you’re in good company and you can enjoy the game for the most part. If, like me, you prefer doing handheld mode and/or own a Switch Lite, then it’s such a rough, arduous process.
The buttons are alright, but all that information crammed into a tiny screen is an uphill battle, so toggling around with a joystick and shoulder buttons simply doesn’t work. You can do touch screen, and that somewhat helps (hell, anything where you need to associate an inventory item with another machine begs for touchscreen use), but you can only zoom out so far. It’s the same issue that Mutant Year Zero, Ashwalkers, and even Civilization 6 have to contend with: people want these games on the Switch, but they don’t. They want a huge experience to be portable, and it simply cannot work.
Taking everything into account, I didn’t hate my time with Mr. Prepper. It was like wearing a suit that was slightly too small for a single day. You don’t have as much mobility as you’d like, you would really like to get to a tailor before doing it again, but you’re able to bear it for the day, and hey, you looked good. Mr. Prepper has decent graphics, a fun throughline for a story, and really opens up in terms of actions the further on you go. Yet it’s the needing to do it in such a limited window, both for the auto-save countdown and the lack of mouse, that keep it from being something that I’d come back to time and again. I might consider picking it up on the computer in the future, but I don’t think anyone should be playing it on the Switch. It’s just not what the burgeoning prepper deserves.
Colorful and varied, you only really notice the seams on the sprites when the camera moves in close, which isn’t a problem with the shrunken Switch graphics.
While you eventually have so much to do, the initial grind of wake, eat, harvest, eat, sleep will freeze out impatient players.
Soundtrack was so forgettable I didn’t even think about it till I got to this box. At least it wasn’t unpleasant?
It just doesn’t work on the Switch to keep fans engaged, no matter how sure you are that Uncle Sam is coming to take your preserves.
Final Verdict: 4.5
Mr. Prepper is available now on PC and Nintendo Switch.
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.
A copy of Mr. Prepper was provided by the publisher.