Political games are a bit like busses: everything's quiet and then a general election gets called, and here they come. In the case of Corbyn Run the bus is a giant blue battlebus that, rather than featuring the false Brexit promise of an extra £350 million a week for the NHS, is emblazoned with "LIES."
The clue's in the title. Corbyn Run is a piece of light propaganda from a small team of indie developers, who doubtless wear sandals, eat avocado, and believe in things like human rights. They're unaffiliated with Labour: this is a passion project. And so there's a lot of bigging-up Corbyn, and Tory-bashing.
Which is fine by me. I mean, who likes the Tories?
Corbyn Run is a simple running game that lasts 5 minutes or so. You tap on the screen to move Jeremy Corbyn around, and the goal is to punch accountants and bankers as you overtake them. They drop coins which fill up your 'pledge' power, and when the meter's full you can LAUNCH PLEDGE — the first one is to ban zero-hours contracts, after which a couple of Deliveroo drivers join Corbyn's movement.
Bashing the Tories isn't as easy as it sounds, however, because the ones on the ground leave potholes in their wake (not enough public investment, see) and an assortment of leading Tories turn up to have a pop. There's Theresa May in her chopper, tossing champagne bottles, that clown Boris Johnson on his zipwire, throwing little Union Jack flags, and of course the big LIES bus. Getting hit by anything reduces Corbyn's pledge power, and makes it harder to win new supporters.
Corbyn Run is not an especially profound satire, or an especially brilliant game. But it's worth one playthrough to see the videogame Tories in all their glory, they're done with a wicked sense of humour, and there are one or two standout moments. For me the best bit is when the Ghost of Thatcher turns up, and how it happens.
First you launch a pledge to build 100,000 affordable homes per year.
As you can probably see on the far right (boom boom), this policy summons the dark soul of the Iron Lady — which is quite appropriate, because her terrible right-to-buy policy is a major factor in Britain's housing shortage and inflated market. Even beyond the grave the lady is not for turning, and so she appears — looking like the evil twin of Aladdin's Genie — raining down plasma blasts from her mouth on those damned Trots.
This cameo alone made me smile, and it's easy to forgive the basic nature of Corbyn Run because it's free, and done with humour.
Politics is not a game but, in its own small way, Corbyn Run does ennoble its subject. The whole thing may be a joke, and many people won't agree with this perspective, but it's also about one man against the odds, trying to create a more equal society. There is a truth here in the crowd mechanic too, in the fact that Labour's policies are popular with the public, but Corbyn himself is still fighting an uphill battle against powerful opponents and, whatever we can achieve in a videogame, most indications are that he'll lose.
It may stir a few people to vote, or not, but at least Corbyn Run will survive as some weird fragment of our times and this general election. Who would have thought that the runner genre could be used to encapsulate one of the figures of our political age, however clumsily, and some of the forces he's battling against.