Developed by the worker owned cooperative Pixel Pushers Union 512, Tonight We Riot is a side scrolling crowd brawler with a retro-anarcho-communist aesthetic. Set in 20XX, Tonight We Riot depicts a society at breaking point under the oppression of capitalism, with the working masses living precarious lives in service of the capitalist owners whose power is entrenched through owning the media and political institutions. So pretty much like right now, without the global pandemic.
Before we go on, a big trigger warning for any reactionary readers we might have who prefer their video games to not contain politics; Tonight We Riot is unashamedly political, featuring not only women but people who are not white too.
The game is straightforward enough. You (and a comrade in co-op mode) lead an organised cell of elite antifa super soldiers through twenty levels, liberating fellow workers and seizing the means of production along the way. In your way are the class traitor cops, who are taken out by your assortment of weapons including spanners, rocks and molotov cocktails. If you’re lucky, you may also be joined by Loukanikos, a very good boy who is exceptional at killing cops.
You control the flag bearer and workers will roughly follow your movements around the level and your lead in attacking enemies. In a style that reminds me of Pikmin, workers can be directed to move independently to the flag bearer while holding L, allowing you to avoid traps or maul multiple groups of enemies. If the flag bearer is murdered by fascists, control moves to another random member of the rioters. So long as one comrade survives, the revolution lives on.
It is possible for a single surviving worker to clear a stage but to unlock riot gear you’ll need to complete stages while meeting certain worker thresholds. Riot gear powers you up and gives you more tactical options for subsequent stages, this reflects the build up of worker power necessary to prevail in revolution.
Tonight We Riot has its flaws, the difficulty can be uneven and the vehicle stages have some unsual collision detection. Also, at no point do any of the workers have a discussion espousing the merits of the immortal science of dialectical materialism, instead arguing about movie quotes. It’s also a short game and there will doubtless be some who feel the length (about an hour and a half if you’re bad at games like me) makes it a poor value proposition. But I am politically biased and will overlook minor matters in any game that lets me throw molotov cocktails at the parked cars in gated communities.
Tonight We Riot is out now on the Switch eShop. It comes out on PC and Mac on the 8th of May, which is tomorrow at the time of writing.