Nobody Likes a Debbie Downer in We Happy Few

We Happy Few is a game that took many people by surprise recently. The concept is so disturbing and unique that it is hard to not take notice. The basic premise is that the protagonist lives in a world where people take a drug called Joy. When using this drug, a person actually becomes happy and sees the world as a wonderful place. Rainbows appear, colors are bright and nothing can go wrong. Eventually people lose their high and then must take more Joy to remain in this state. Anyone who goes off the drug on purpose can start to see the world the way it really is. No one in this landscape wants you to be off your Joy, though, and anyone caught not taking it is labeled a “Downer” and punished.

This super weird concept lays the foundation for the most unusual survival game yet. We Happy Few takes cues from roguelikes to inform the gameplay. After a brief introduction showing off the reality of Joy-takers versus Downers, you are set free into the procedurally generated world. There are many different tiles in the world to ensure that each time you see something different. In the demo it was hard to tell that it was procedurally generated because of the art style. The design work is impressive. All buildings and townsfolk have a strong visual style to keep everything cohesive. Even the same surroundings look different when viewed through the bleak eyes of a Downer versus high on Joy.

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Why would you want to be high on the drug when the whole point of the game is to see the world accurately? There is actually a gameplay purpose for this. If the Joyful citizens see you as a Downer then they will immediately begin attacking. Not just the cops, but even everyday folks will come at you with frying pans. So if you go into these districts you will want to take Joy and blend in with the crowd. When on Joy, there are other benefits as well. All your survival meters are temporarily unimportant. This is huge for a survival game, though it is only short-lived. After the Joy wears off then you are back to worrying about hunger and such.

The question is how fun all this will be. Survival games tend to be addictively fun or too difficult with little room in between. So far it is hard to tell on what side of things We Happy Few will turn out. The demo running on Xbox One was mostly solid, except for occasional framerate trouble and a lot of screen tearing. This is likely because the project is still early in development, so do not worry too much!

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The game is also coming to Early Access on Steam and Game Preview on Xbox One before the final launch. This means players like you and me get to share our opinions on how it is progressing. You will be able to get your hands on We Happy Few on July 26 for both Xbox One and PC.