App Reviewed on: iPad Pro
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The idea behind Democratic Socialism Simulator is simple. It takes the gameplay format of Reigns but replaces the fantasy monarchy backdrop with a satirical version of the current US political system and climate. In the hands of just anyone, this could easily go horribly wrong, but developer Molleindustria has managed to make a smart and charming game that does a pretty good job of showing how much better things could be if we had the courage to actually try and make this country the land of the free.
Swipe for socialism
As the newly elected president, your job in Democratic Socialism Simulator is to represent the will of the people in the nation's highest office. In the case of this game in particular, that involves empowering all citizens and maintaining equity such that no special interests, billionaires, or other politicians can leverage the government to their benefit at the expense of others. At the same time, you also have to try and address the climate crisis by lowering greenhouse gas emissions.
You need to balance these two objectives while still remaining popular enough to serve for two terms and maintaining a budget that doesn't put the country in massive debt. You do all of this using Tinder-like gameplay where you swipe cards featuring requests or proposals from certain groups left or right to either implement or disregard them.
Power to the people
Each of your decisions in Democratic Socialism Simulator has some impact on your governance, and you can monitor all of those decisions at the bottom of the screen. If you decide to tax billionaires so that they pay their fair share, for example, your budget shoots through the roof. Similarly, your decisions also affect your popularity, both in the eyes of voters and a congressional body that can stymie your efforts if you lose their support. In the billionaire tax example, this means you'd lose some support from upper class voters, but garner favor from the working class and any other voters worried about the national budget.
If you mismanage things in Democratic Socialism Simulator, you could lose your re-election or create other problems that end your presidency early. In my first playthrough of the game, I got assassinated by a Nazi when I decided to take the bus to a rally instead of a private vehicle. I guess they didn't like that I was making decisions that actually helped people and my decision to travel in a less secure way marked my downfall.
Not that complicated
The funny thing about Democratic Socialism Simulator is how easy it is. If you just make decisions based around compassion and logic, you can sail through the game with ease, satisfying your electorate, maintaining a budget surplus, riding out two terms, and adequately addressing the climate crisis. Obviously, things can't be so simple in real life, and Democratic Socialism Simulator makes no bones about that, but it underscores that this kind of change is possible, so long as a competent leader can fight their way through a system that is horribly fucked up beyond all recognition.
This can make the denouement of Democratic Socialism Simulator pretty bleak, but the game's bright presentation and sharp writing has more than enough charm that you can enjoy yourself during play. On a technical note, it's a little annoying that Democratic Socialism Simulator forces landscape mode in only a single direction, but that feels hard to complain about considering the game is completely free.
The bottom line
For essentially turning modern US politics into a morality play that you control, Democratic Socialism Simulator is surprisingly fun. It does a great job of underscoring how much better off a country built on individual freedoms and civil rights could be if those were actually granted to everyone in an equitable way. So go ahead and pick it up, and remember: solidarity forever.