In these times when every newspaper headline fills me with dread, I’m pleased to report that there is some good news out there. Political Animals is here to wash away your disappointment, anger and frustration by letting you take control of an election campaign…with animals!
Political Animals has been developed Squeaky Wheel from the Philippines and is being published by Positech Games, but surprisingly isn’t being sold as part of a bundle with Positech’s Democracy 3, it goes hand-in-hand as a precursor to running the government that you do in Positech’s game. The light hearted tones of Political Animals and bright gaudy art style shouldn’t belie what is a deep strategy game drawing inspiration for in-game events from real world political events and scandals.
When starting a new game, there is a welcome variety of customisation options on hand. You choose your animal along with a positive and negative trait, two areas of policy to lead on and where your election takes place. Maps styled on the geography of the US, Japan and the UK are present and correct along with a handful of others. You can also choose your opponent’s strategy, will they be pragmatic, underhand or wholly unpredictable? Finally, and most crucially, you can choose the difficulty level and number of days of political campaign you have before the election.
Playing around with the last two options can play a big role in how you approach game. You can have a short and easy blast around the campaign trail where you run wild with where you send your advisors in a frantic effort to secure the support of the undecided voters. If you want a challenge, you can turn up the difficulty and set the campaign to take 30 days and watch your opponent make full use of the map and get into the detail of the strategy.
My preferred style of play has been for the quicker campaign and balancing the opponent difficulty to suit my mood. The objective for each campaign is to win the election (and then enact your ideas in Democracy perhaps?), and there are several ways to achieve this. The straightforward strategy is to send your animal or one of your advisors to a district, spend some money holding a rally to raise the district interest in a policy type, then campaign on that policy type. A more devious approach would be to hand out some bribes in key districts, albeit risking scandal.
It becomes more complicated when you factor in the role district patrons play. Without the support of patrons, you will have to use up more logistics (action points) to campaign or bribe in the district, while if another patron dislikes you, you won’t be able to raise much money through fundraising. Without that money, you can’t pay your aides to work for a turn and you might not be able to afford to campaign. It’s a delicate balance, especially when a scandal could blow up after your bribery gets exposed by your opponent.
Along the way, you also handle a variety of events. Will you attend a patrons birthday bash and lose an aide for a turn, or ignore it all together and lose the patrons support? Will you help the flood victims in a district to gain support but spend your logistics, or will you ignore the poor animals entirely and lose their support come election day? Your choices could be the deciding factor between winning, or losing on election day.
Perhaps the one element that is missing is the option to change election rules. Political Animals works on a first past the post system based on the popular vote. How interesting would it be to see electoral college votes, or some form of proportional representation appear on some maps?
When you add it all up together, you have a great political strategy game that offers a choice of playstyles, all of which are entirely worthwhile. Play a quick game with a cynical Machiavellian approach, or take in a long-term election campaign trying to be the best animal possible. Wrapping all the political trickery in a cute bow of bright colours and friendly animals, and you have a cracking game to brighten your mood in these dark times.
Verdict – Headshot
Platforms Available/Reviewed – PC
Please head here for more on our scoring policy. Review based on press copy.