Edward Snowden: traitor to his country, true American hero, or video game protagonist? Pick two out of three. The man who blew the whistle on the NSA is no longer holed up in a Russian airport terminal, washing his hair in the sinks of public restrooms with travel-sized bottles of shampoo. Now he’s the star of a slew of crappy video games for browsers, iOS and Android.
Such amateurish games could eventually become the political cartoons of the 21st century. Don’t be put off because they’ve yet to hit their stride—that will come in time. Or not. Either way, they’re good for a lark. And hey, you might just learn something in the process.
Now that Snowden has been granted asylum in Russia he might have time to check out some of the games he stars in. But which ones are worth his (and your) time? Check out our synopses below, rated on a scale of 1 to 10.
Edward Snowden: Escape from Hong Kong
Snowden is the “American hero” and “the US Government” is the villain in this Canabalt clone. The 2D runner formula (click to jump, and that’s it!) is familiar to anyone who’s ever owned a smartphone—Snowden runs left to right, collecting “data” in the form of green coins as he evades The Man.
Why he looks like a crudely-drawn Indiana Jones is a mystery. The cityscape in the background never changes, and with no ending in sight, Snowden always falls—perhaps a subconscious admission on the part of the unnamed creator that Snowden’s plight, however righteous, is ultimately hopeless.
Snowden Saga is not a saga; nor does it actually have anything to do with Edward Snowden. It’s an ugly Temple Run clone in which a generic-looking figure sprints down translucent, floating platforms. It makes absolutely no sense.
Unlike Temple Run, it’s not even randomized, making it exactly the same every time you play. But perhaps its most heinous crime is displaying an ad for Candy Crush every time you die.
Eddy’s Run: The PRISM Prison
Binji, browsers, free
Eddy’s Run is undoubtedly the least awful of this bunch. The pixel graphics are charming, and the platforming gameplay is even slightly engaging. You jump around chucking laptops at secret agents and seeking sanctuary with reporters and murderous, Guy Fawkes mask-wearing mobs.
The Statue of Liberty weeps in the background. At one point answering a phone earns a verbal attack from a money-green-hued Uncle Sam as enemies track your location and materialize around you.
A maddening difficulty curve will likely prevent most players from finishing it and seeing all the poorly written and overwrought dialogue, but at least it takes a valiant stab at poignancy.
Snowden’s Leaks: The Game
Gamesonly.com, browsers, free
Snowden’s painted as a shifty character skulking around NSA headquarters on tip-toes, hiding behind American flags and copying secret files onto flash drives. He chucks them out windows (presumably Glenn Greenwald is waiting on the ground to catch them) and makes his escape across eight moderately entertaining levels.
Along the way he’s stalked by agents, security cameras, and the president himself. It’s not very subtle—Snowden’s knees literally shake as revolver-toting bogeyman caricatures of Obama prowl past—but it’s certainly more relevant than some of these other games. And the level design actually dips into rather devious territory, with additions like agent-distracting donuts throwing a wrench in the mix now and then. Still, it’s largely trial-and-error.
The final level has Snowden stealing files from the desk of Obama himself, asleep at his post. It’s a toss-up who comes off looking worse in that scenario.
Snowden Run 3D
MTS Freestyle, Android, free
There are not enough Immortal Technique songs in the world to salvage this travesty of a game (yet it for some reason features at least two).
Long and short, it’s another poorly crafted Temple Run clone with unresponsive controls, glitchy, ugly graphics, a user interface that seems designed to be confusing, and absolutely no relevance to Snowden’s actual actions or plight. It even has the gall to feature microtransactions; Julian Assange and Julia Assange (apparently his female alter ego) can be purchased as playable characters for a few bucks each, or for $5 you can summon Vladimir Putin to remove obstacles from Snowden’s path.
A disclaimer at the beginning asserts that “this work…is protected by US and international parody/satire laws.” There’s got to be a loophole in there somewhere, right? If Snowden Run could speak it would beg for its own death.
Snowden Escape/Snowdon the Great Escape
Night Cat/kady sim, Android, free
Snowdon the Great Escape appeared in the Google Play store in June, and Snowden Escape followed in August. The latter is a carbon copy of the original—a shady occurrence that happens all too often in Google’s loosely regulated app market. Regardless, the game is so unabashedly awful that it matters little.
Gameplay is thus: touch the screen, lifting a finger when the guard passes by. It has absolutely nothing to do with Edward Snowden; why the hell is he in prison? One version doesn’t even spell it right. “Snowdon?” Really?
Here’s an excerpt from its Play store description: “Snowdon imprisonment of innocent goodness, the United States FBI agents succeeded, and fly from Moscow to live on the plane … Ecuador.” Right.