Editor's Note: This review was written with a copy of the game provided free of charge by Nonadecimal Creative.
Social Justice Warriors is an unusual little arcade game developed and published by Nonadecimal Creative. Oh yeah, here's a review pretty close to recent issues. So let me just say it: if this kind of material bothers you, or even just is a little too fresh, then perhaps you should skip both this game and this review. It's topical, and I had a blast blowing off steam with this game, but I get it, it might upset you. That's alright, just give it a pass.
The premise of Social Justice Warriors is the main draw
Lets speak frankly here, the idea of Social Justice Warriors is either the appeal or draw. The idea of parodying both the trolls and the so-called "social justice warriors" as a way to provide social commentary is an appealing one. It's done perhaps a little heavy-handedly here, since the game is pretty simple, but I also think there is a lot of intelligence and research that went into it. So in short: it's not something done just to cash in on that premise, but something that has some thought put into actual criticism of the things it's parodying. Neither side is really given the look of being in the right, either are criticised, and both are bashing away at keyboards all the same.
It's actually a fairly deep game for something that's one quid: there's a lot of dialogue, multiple attack tiers, each of the classes has a different play style, and each of the trolls pulls from a different attack pool. For a game that's a dollar, it's not that bad at all, indeed, there's five dollar games that do much less. There's also some fairly interesting sound design that plays into the sort of retro parody it is.
And that's important -
Social Justice Warriors treats the subject matter as thoughtfully as it can.
It really does, at least to me, come off as a game that not so much picks a side, or has a particular message about both it wants to push, but rather just comments on the nature of those arguments themselves. You're mostly left to come to your own conclusion about who is right or wrong - if anyone - or what else to take from the game. I like that. If the game had tried to ram a message down my throat I would be treating it much less favourably, that much is doubtless.
The game isn't without its problems however
Most of the problems I do have with the game come from the RNG aspect of the game. You select one of four classes, each with four different attacks and four different effects. You get a higher tier of attack when you get to a certain "reputation" or "sanity" - your two respective health bars, and each attack has different results on one of, or both, of those bars of your opponent "troll" Whether they hit or miss is middlingly effected by your respective health - you hit more at high health than low - but it's still fairly random.
The thing that I feel is most problematic are the random nature of your enemies. Other than two pre-seeded "bosses", they're entirely random, and some runs, as a result, are going to be much more difficult than others. I didn't find it to be the hugest problem, but enough of one to mention, certainly. It felt a little like I would always seem to come up with the more threatening "Popular Troll" or "Intellectual Troll" when I was struggling - probably just bad RNG luck, but it ends up frustrating regardless.