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Boris the Rocket review for Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PS4


Platform: Nintendo Switch
Also on: Xbox One, PS4, PC
Publisher: Big Way
Developer: Big Way
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB: E10+

Talk about accidental timeliness: Boris the Rocket is a game about being in charge of Russia’s nuclear weapons.No doubt that when the game was first released on PC about 18 months ago, the developers probably didn’t imagine their game would have so much relevance to current events in the not-so-distant future. But…well, here we are.

If you can set aside any existential dread about the end of life as we know it and just focus on the game, you quickly discover that Boris the Rocket is a time- and resource-management sim set in Soviet Russia. Given the authoritarian setting, you might be tempted to think of Papers, Please or Beholder, but neither of those quite work as comparisons.

For one thing, they’re both much better games, which knew how to juggle their monotonous tasks with life-or-death stakes that conveyed the paranoia of living in a dictatorship. Crazy demands piled on top of crazy demands, but they always made it feel like there were consequences to failure. In Boris the Rocket, by contrast, the whole threat of nuclear annihilation is played for a laugh. Again, when the game was being developed they couldn’t have foreseen how scary reality would become, but it definitely makes it harder to take the game seriously.

For another, Boris the Rocket has much more in common with a game like Please Don’t Touch Anything. It, too, expected you to remember an absurd number of tasks, and it was built around logic that didn’t always make a tonne of sense. In Boris the Rocket, the game just keeps on piling more and more, and always expects you to keep up – and failing to do so means game over.

But even the comparison to Please Don’t Touch Anything doesn’t quite work, since Boris the Rocket puts a timer on your actions, so not only do you have to remember how to string together a bunch of random tasks, you’re doing so as a clock ticks down. It definitely adds an element of franticness to the proceedings, but it doesn’t make it any more fun. It just feels like “do this, now do this, now do this”, repeated over and over.

Again, a big part of Boris the Rocket’s problem is completely unintentional and far, far beyond its control. But even if you could somehow ignore real world news, you’d still be left with a game that’s basically Simon, but with nukes.

Big Way provided us with a Boris the Rocket Switch code for review purposes.

Grade: C+