The game entitled Schulzzug - meaning Schulz train - was officially released over the weekend, based on a meme that has developed for Social Democrat (SPD) chancellor candidate Martin Schulz - Angela Merkel’s main challenger in the September election.
The hashtag #Schulzzug has been used by supporters of his campaign in recent months, and it has even inspired a rallying song by the same name.
The game has its origins in a recent “hackathon” event hosted by the SPD when participants started to develop the app, now available for both Android and iPhone devices. But the party itself does not lay copyright claim to the game.
Gamers direct Schulz in his train down the tracks to jump over walls and other obstacles as he collects “Schulzcoins” and the stars of the European Union flag. The end goal is to ultimately reach the Chancellery.
But the game came under fire because it also allowed the SPD candidate to run over representations of far-right AfD party leader Frauke Petry, US President Donald Trump, and a shirtless Vladimir Putin.
Running over these political leaders - which resulted in no spillage of blood - gave gamers extra points.
Politicians from opposing parties also chimed in.
“Running over people in a game is not actually funny but tasteless,” tweeted Julia Klöckner of Angela Merkel’s conservative CDU party.
Menschen in einem Spiel überfahren zu lassen, ist nicht wirklich witzig, geschmacklos. https://t.co/WwVMWUmXlJ— Julia Klöckner (@JuliaKloeckner) March 21, 2017
AfD MEP Beatrix von Storch also questioned the game on Twitter.
“Is this fake news, or is this really an SPD game? Whoever kills Trump and Petry with the Schulzzug wins bonus points?”
Das ist Fakenews-oder gibt es das SPD-Spiel wirklich?Wer mit dem Schulzzug Trump u Petry tötet gewinnt Bonuspunkte? https://t.co/lB8BB5DSyI— Beatrix von Storch (@Beatrix_vStorch) March 20, 2017
The SPD said on Tuesday that they had asked the game developers to tone down the game. Soon after, the Trump, Petry and Putin figures were no longer featured.
Schulz has developed quite a following among young internet users, including those who created a Reddit thread for him called The_Schulz, styled after a pro-Trump subreddit called The_Donald.
Supporters of the Social Democrat - who was formerly European Parliament President - also have re-purposed Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan to be “Make Europe Great Again”.
The latest Forsa poll, released on Wednesday, showed Merkel's conservative Union (CDU and CSU parties) narrowly beating out Schulz's SPD at 34 percent to 31 percent.
Petry's AfD remained in third place, but with single-digit support for the sixth week in a row at 9 percent. The AfD had climbed to a high of 14 percent in the Forsa polls last September as it gained support through its anti-immigrant rhetoric amid discontent with Merkel's liberal refugee policies.