This is a new little segment I’d like to start up called Indie Spotlight. Due to an excess of free time, I frequently stumble across independent gaming projects that catch my fancy. When I find something interesting, either a game that’s already come out but flew under the radar, or a Kickstarter for something new, this is where I’ll give some details and opinions; mini-reviews/previews, depending (though it’s a safe assumption that if it shows up in this segment, I’m probably going to tell you to play it).
With that said, here’s a project that I stumbled upon recently called We Happy Few, by Compulsion Games. Style and story are the first things that draw my attention to any new project, and if there’s a style and story that’s tried and true, it’s swingin’ 60s Britain (I watched too many Austin Powers movies when I was a kid) and dystopia. In the small British town of Wellington Wells, the populace have exactly one thing on their minds: forgetting. A horrible catastrophe occurred in the wake of German invasion, and no one wants to own up to it. As such, the citizens have begun taking a drug known as Joy, which places them in a near-constant state of euphoric happiness and forgetfulness. Unfortunately, not everyone wants to forget; these people are branded as “Downers”, and upon discovery in public, will be brutally beaten down by the people and police until they take their Joy or die. Assuming the role of a Downer, you’ll have to avoid the stares of the Wellies as well as the deviously charismatic TV personality Uncle Jack, while scavenging supplies to stay alive, all in an attempt to find a way out of Wellington Wells before it smiles itself into oblivion.
We Happy Few is a survival game along the lines of Risk of Rain. You have hunger and thirst levels, and to stay alive, you’ll need to sneak into the Wellies’ houses and scavenge their food and supplies. The key mechanic is hiding in plain sight; when on the main streets, you need to conduct yourself like a drugged-up Wellie by waiving to everyone and walking with a delightful gait. If you draw too much attention, the Wellies will gang up on you and start attacking. If the heat gets too high, you can take a Joy pill to get them off your back, but when you come down from the Joy buzz, you’ll suffer stat penalties, and too many Joys at once will cause you to overdose and wander off in a stupefied haze. If all else fails, you can pick up a cricket bat and take a swing, but if you try to take on too many Wellies at once, expect to be dead on the pavement. The game is procedurally generated, with the layout of the town and its inhabitants changing every time you die or start a new game, so no two runs are ever the same.
A Kickstarter was started back in June, and they met their goal of $250,000 and then some. Thanks to stretch goals, they’ll be adding in a Joy crafting system, which also changes the visual effects Joy causes, an infinite sandbox mode, and an additional set of Uncle Jack TV segments that can be seen in-game (apparently, they already had 32 of em’, but that guy is so dang charming, I certainly wouldn’t mind some more). There’s no set release date yet, but the devs are aiming for June 2016.