Among Us

"Among Us" a great primer for October. It’s “Alien” meets “The Thing” all packaged in a cartoon-y phone-friendly package. 

Throughout quarantine, I’ve been looking for video games to play with the friends I made while working at the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. But just as it was always a bit of a challenge to figure out a workable board game for as many as a dozen people, finding the right game that can bridge our distance, our time zones, our varying technology levels and interests has been a bit of a challenge.

We’ve played loads of “Jackbox Party Pack” streamed off my computer, a few games of “Ticket to Ride” through “Tabletop Simulator” and some of us who’ve taken the plunge on the Nintendo Switch have met up in “Animal Crossing: New Horizons.” “Fall Guys” is another great multiplayer game but it’s limited to groups of four and requires everyone to be either on a PC or a PlayStation 4.

So, the latest time we got together on Discord and wondered if we’d play yet another round of the somewhat-stale “Jackbox” or troubleshoot our way through a digital board game, someone asked “What’s ‘Among Us’ all about? I heard it’s free on the phone.”

And just like that we found a new game to play.

“Among Us” is a hidden roles game that puts up to 10 players on a dimly lit spaceship hurtling through space. You’ll each have a handful of tasks — fix the wiring, clean the vents, shoot asteroids — to accomplish, oh, and there’s at least one imposter who’ll be working to sabotage the ship, scuttle through the vents, kill the other players and avoid detection.

It’s “Alien” meets “The Thing” all packaged in a cartoon-y phone-friendly package.

The crewmembers win if they can successfully identify the imposters and vote to show them the airlock or complete enough tasks. The imposters win if they kill enough crewmembers or successfully sabotage the ship.

Each game is played in rounds during which everyone stays silent — save for the occasional gasp when someone gets killed — while going about their tasks until someone calls an emergency meeting or someone finds a dead body.

During those voting breaks, everyone who’s still alive will be able to debate what they might have seen, who they think is suspicious and defend themselves against claims they’re the imposter. You can vote to eject someone or vote to skip killing anyone. What makes the game so great is that it plays with your ability to keep an eye on other people with dim lighting that obscures your vision and tasks that will take up most of the screen, allowing someone to sneak up on you.

Was it green or was it blue that was running away from the corpse you discovered? Was it red or was it pink that was with you the whole time and couldn’t be the imposter? Who has zero poker face when accused of being the imposter (me)? Is yellow telling the truth about seeing purple kill brown or are they just deflecting blame because they’re really the imposter?

Like pretty much every game out there, “Among Us” is best played with friends. And our friend group, for whatever reason, preferred games where we would try our best to bluff each other so the dynamics of “Among Us” are a great fit.

In a particularly good move, the game also gives slain crewmembers something to do as they can float around the ship as a ghost and complete their tasks, contributing to the overall crew’s efforts, so no one is sitting idle for long. Matches last between about five and 10 minutes.

If you don’t happen to have a bunch of friends to get together, “Among Us” can also be played online with the discussions taking place in typed chat. It works surprisingly well and the fact that the game doesn’t award winners with points or digital currency means there isn’t much of an incentive for cheating, which would quickly ruin a game like this.

My friends and I are already planning another get together to play “Among Us” this week, a first for a group that has met spottily throughout the quarantine. I just need to work on my poker face.

Matt Buxton is a freelance writer and gamer. He can be reached at matt.a.buxton@gmail.com.

If You Play

Game: Among Us

Rating: 5 stars

Platforms: Android, iOS and PC

Price: Free with ads on mobile, $5 on PC

Internet usage: Required for multiplayer

Release Date: June 15, 2018