First Impression: We Happy Few (PC – Steam) ~ Pop Goes The Joy

Wikipedia pageSteam pageOfficial website

Being happy is a wonderful thing. Now imagine that you can take a happiness pill that makes you happy and joyful all the time. And on top of that, imagine that participation is mandatory, and you live in bliss… That’s the situation we have in We Happy Few, the game I want to talk about today. Now, to say that this game had a rocky release with a lot of bugs and glitches is an understatement. But, now that the game isn’t in early access and out for several years and the last update being from 2019, I think it’s the best time to take a good look at this game and if it’s really worth our time or that we should pop a Joy to cover up this game. Also, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section with your thoughts and/or opinions on the content of this article and/or this game. Ready, let’s go!

Pop goes the Joy

In We Happy Few, we take on the role of Arthur. Somebody who is working for the newspaper and censoring unhappy articles. When he suddenly sees a picture of his brother, he gets a lot of flashbacks that makes him stop popping his mandatory Joy. What is Joy? Well, like I explained in the introduction paragraph of this article, it’s a drug that makes people extremely happy and that’s mandatory to take or else you will be killed or exiled to the slums. People who don’t take Joy and don’t see the dangers of the world be camouflaged by the drug’s effects are called Downers and are shunned by all the Joy takers.

Now, how did the world get to this place? Well, that’s something for you to find out. The concept and setup of this game is excellent and I personally think it’s amazing. I feel like I’m playing a game like Bioshock or Prey again. Somewhat open-world yet linear-ish games that take you on a journey through a deep and rich story. And from what I have played so far, We Happy Few certainly delivers upon that front in my opinion.

Couple this with amazing voice acting that really helped me to get even more immersed into the world and the game, I don’t have any complaints about the story and the delivery. The pacing is also good. Everything gets some depth, but it doesn’t stay on one subject for too long. Some sections feels a bit too small in my opinion but thinking about it again, it would ruin the great world building that this game does.

I can forgive the fact that there are a lot of lines repeated when you talk to the townsfolk because the way the towns are populated adds so much to the atmosphere, and it makes the game even more immersive. The fact I can interact with every person on the street, and they play a random line with the accompanying animation, it’s delightful. If this concept is tried again, I think it would be great if it had a bit more lines and variations between the townsfolk.

Anyways, that’s more then enough about the story and the setting. Let’s talk about the other aspects of this game. It’s possible that even when this game has a nice story and setting, the game isn’t fun to play. Remember that I talked about various technical issues in the opening paragraph of this article? Well, I’m sad to say that there are still several technical issues. Thankfully, most of them are visual oddities but nothing game breaking anymore. I once had a dead enemy instead of dying, t-posing and following me around the map.

Only I time during a mission, I was afraid that my save file got cursed by a technical glitch, but exiting and restarting the game solved that issue with me loosing only 2-ish minutes of progress, since that isn’t too bad. The auto-saving in this game works miracles! And you can still manually save whenever you wish in 10 save slots just in case you want to experiment in this game. Or want to make a safety save or make a safe you can use whenever you want to also finish side quests.

Emotional Telephone Booths

You could play this game without using any Joy, but I highly recommend against it. Simply because it isn’t that much fun always running from everybody, and the stealth in this game isn’t that good to hide away. Since, when you are seen, you can’t hide until you are off the radar, and you find a good spot. And if you think, let’s fight the enemies then… Do think again. Since, when you get violent, people act like Zombie Pigman in Minecraft. They make other people around you hostile, and you quickly get piled up.

In those moments, it’s recommended you find a telephone booth to pop Arthur’s favorite strawberry Joy and try to go to an area where the folks people aren’t angry at you. Since, the Joy is a timed mechanic. At the upper left part of your screen, you see a sort of timer that indicates for how much longer you under the effects of Joy. When that meter runs out, you better find a source of Joy OR hide from the surrounding people, since not taking Joy is a crime. Oh, and don’t overdose on Joy either since that’s going to be a bad trip.

So, how does this game play like? Well, this game is more a sort of adventure game. You can pick up various items to either play this game more stealthy, or play like me and go all in and don’t care about what happens. The difficulty of this game highly depends on how good you understand the mechanics of this game. Do you understand the crafting system and where each item spawns or do you understand how to skill tree works and how to use your points to buy the best abilities…

Something that you will have to understand is how the compass at the middle of your screen works. It tells you a lot about your situation and nearby quests. You can even select which quest you are tracking, like in the Fallout games. I wish other games had that too, since in Prey for example… You have several tracks on the screen that all lead to your active quests. Sometimes markers even say: “multiple objectives”.

There are several other mechanics in this game like a hunger, thirst and sleep system. While those meters can deplete, they don’t affect the game too much, sadly. Most of the effects in the game you have from this system is that your stamina depletes a bit faster, and you have to attack more. It’s a shame, really, since it could be an amazing mechanic. It feels undercooked and it shows. The fact that finding food and drinks in the world isn’t easy, or beds for that matter.

So, when you lose all your health, you get set back at the latest checkpoint, and you can try again. Overall, the game is somewhat forgiving in my opinion. I have seen games that are more difficult. I personally felt I was able to breeze through the game somewhat and if I did die or hit a roadblock, just trying it again from another angle seemed to help. During my playthrough, I didn’t have a lot of weapons, so I had to improvise and running in the open fields with a quickly recharging stamina bar helped me quite a lot. Since, most enemies aren’t THAT fast.

Something this game does quite well in the UI. I find the UI spotless and to the point. You get a lot of information without it having too much information or getting confusing. Some things in the UI are a bit clunky, like how you can’t multicraft or discard multiple items at once when you are overburdened, but I got extremely quickly used to it.

While this game has some minor negatives, I find this game quite enjoyable to play. I really like solving the puzzle in taking just enjoy Joy and the right items to craft the right things, so I can survive another mission and encounter. Since, experiencing the humor and world building that this game provides is so fitting for the gameplay and so enjoyable.

To Joy or not to Joy

I could start and go nitpicking on how certain animations look a bit weird or how some bodies ragedoll extremely weird, but honestly, I think it doesn’t really matter because the art team of this game did an amazing job on this game. Not only does this game run smoothly on my 1050Ti, it also looks pretty good.

I really have to applaud the effort in the difference you can see if you are or aren’t under the influence of Joy. It looks very differently depending on if you take or don’t take any Joy. And it even looks different when you overdose or take drugs. Speaking of which, I really like the intrusive messages that discourage drug use in real life. It talks about how your combat abilities in the game are improved, but it has very negative and different effects in real life.

Apart from some very occasional nitpicks, visually this game looks great, and I’m sure it’s going to hold up for quite a while. The lush fields and the amazing cities with a lot of attention to detail are really commendable. No wonder that with so much visual stuff going on, that sometimes residents are sitting on the air in front of a bench. You can’t simply account for every edge case. If I can give one sort of nitpick in terms of the visuals, I think a bit more character models for the citizens would be great since once I tried to get the whole city to chase me and I did see a LOT of duplicates… I don’t mind duplicates, but if you have 10-ish of the same guy chasing you… ah well, it ruins the good character model just a bit.

On top of this great visual design, you have some amazing sound design. The sound effects in this game are great. They fit the art style and the atmosphere quite well, and it gave me the right information to assess the situation. And not only that, it helped to immerse me quite a lot into this game. The little sirens for example to let you know you are caught and people are looking for you are a great tool to know you have to escape and hide until the sirens stops.

If you have read my blog in the past, you know I find the music in a game quite important. And does this game deliver? Yes. Yes, it does. The soundtrack is quite pleasing and fits the atmosphere quite well. It wouldn’t surprise me that I’m going to add the soundtrack to my playlists after I have played the game a bit more or if I have beaten it. Actually, I think I might just add it to my playlists after publishing this article.

All in all, this game highly surprised me when I saw the trailer, and I was afraid when I heard the news of the technical issues. But, then I gave this game a try and I have to say that I really like this game. It has its quirks that I had to get used to but it didn’t take long before I was running around with the fluent and responsive controls. I might have to learn the combat system a bit more, but I panic too easily in those sorts of situations and I tend to “mash the attack button and strafe” mostly. Whoops.

Do I recommend this game? Yes, I do. I highly recommend this game to everybody who enjoys playing adventure games in the genre of Bioshock, Prey, Alice in Wonderland… but might want to have a bit less shooting action in the game. It’s a unique game that really deserves a chance. It won’t be a perfect, flawless experience, but it doesn’t matter. And no, I didn’t take a Joy to write this segment. I really do enJoy … sorry, lame pun. I really do enjoy playing this game and can’t wait to see how it continues. Together with Prey, this game is going to fill my summer quite nicely. A summer full of joy and amazing adventures, one in space but this one… it’s an adventure on earth were not following the norm is going to move you forward and it teaches some nice life lessons when you think about it in that way.

And with that said, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game for now. I want to thank you so much for reading this article, and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article, but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

Review: Pokémon Sun and Moon (3DS) ~ New Generation!

sun-moon-box-art.jpgOfficial website

Well, you might have seen this one coming from a mile off. Because I love playing on my handheld, I was ,of course, going to play Pokémon Sun and Moon. Well, I choose to play Sun. Also, I played on the old-school 3DS.  Because I haven’t bought a New 3DS just yet. I might do that next year when I have a bit more budget. In any case, it’s time to take a look at one of the biggest games from Nintendo this year. Is it any good or is it a failure? Is this game worthy enough to start a whole new generation of Pokémon or should we all shout to Nintendo to stop? Here is my opinion on the matter. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or this article in the comment section. One little note: I have written this review as spoiler free as possible!

Childhood of Pokémon

pokemon_sun_3ds_screenshots_2.jpgI have been playing almost every Pokémon game from the very first Pokémon games. I owe a lot to the Pokémon series.But, let’s not go into a whole personal story about how this series influenced my life. That story is for another time. Speaking about stories, usually, the story in these kinds of Pokémon games is pretty generic.

The start of this game is almost the same as all the other Pokémon games. You move to a new place and you meet the Professor of that area. He gives you your first Pokémon and you go on a quest. But it doesn’t take long before new and fresh story ideas get introduces.

To avoid spoilers, I’m not going in-depth about the story of this game. Honestly, I think that the story could be been written better. I can’t put my finger on why, but the story didn’t pull me in like other games can. I have a theory, though. This game tried to do something new with the Pokémon-francishe. They tried to stay away from the usual “8 badges, defeat evil team, capture legendary and defeat elite four” story. Yet, various story elements make a return.

I think that the story would have been better if some main characters referenced the older games. It would have been interesting if the Professor said: “Gyms, we don’t have that here. Here, you do various trails to earn Z-Crystals.”  Something I truly like in the writing is that it’s variable. The reactions after a big battle can differ if you have used something or not. Like characters can get impressed if you defeat them without using any Z-Move.

But that’s enough talk about the story. Since otherwise I might go into spoiler territory. Let’s keep it at: “It’s a decent story, but could have been polished a bit more.”

The visuals of this game are pretty good on the New3DS. I have seen various people on the train playing the game but the visuals on the old 3DS take a pretty big hit. I honestly think that some parts of the game look a generation behind on the old 3DS. If you want the best visual experience, I think it would be for the best that you play this game on the New 3DS.

The visual presentation of this game is pretty well done. Everything looks pretty colorful and pops out. It’s clear that there has been put a lot of care into the visuals. That brings me to another reason why I recommend to play this game on the New 3DS. The framerate. I’m under the impression that the game sometimes slows down more on the old 3DS systems then on the New 3DS systems. I had several times where I had to wait before Pokémon started attacking each other.

So, I’m really glad Nintendo didn’t implement any 3D in this game! Otherwise, this game would go in the single framerate digits. Which it sometimes comes pretty close too. Especailly in double battles for me.

Just a bit too much…

cave

This game adds a lot of new mechanics. It also upgrades some old mechanics to create a whole new experience. The clothing customization is back from Pokémon X and Y, and it’s still as expensive as in those games. The Pokémon Riding mechanic is also back, but now with a twist. You can page Pokémon in. These replace the HM’s from the previous games. Yes, HM’s aren’t in this game anymore. And no HM returns as a TM, so these moves can’t be learned in this game.

In this game, you can also have that Pokémon petting minigame and you have a Festival Plaza you manage. You can also take pictures from hidden Pokémon and receive likes. You can maintain an island in Poké Pelago and fight in a Battle Royale. So, with all these distractions, don’t forget you have the main story to complete. Oh, and let’s not forget that Pokémon can call for backup during battles. (If only you can bring in a second Pokémon at that stage…)

There is so much to do in this game, which is a positive in my book. While I can understand that it’s overwhelming for some people, where some mechanics get glanced over, but I think it’s handled pretty well in this game. The only nitpick I have is that the new features and mechanics are introduced too fast. You barely learned about the “picture taking” mechanic and ten minutes later, you learn how Pokémon Rides work. It can become a bit too much sometimes…

Which brings me to another point. In my honest opinion, there is sometimes just too many animations in the battles. Opening doors now require you to press “A”. You go into an animation to open the door, the screen goes to black and it shows you entering the building while the screen fades back in. But that isn’t the worst of it.

I wish they added a feature where you can easily skip the “Z-moves”. I stopped using the Z-moves since they take way too long to play. Here is an idea, what if after you have seen the animation one time, you can skip it the upcoming times.

But what bugs me the most is that when you capture a Pokémon. The amount of menus and visual flair you get is interesting and all, but sometimes I’m frantically pressing “A” to try and get back into the action.

Some familiar features also get a downgrade. The new fishing feature is lame in my opinion. You can only fish at a few spots. And sadly enough, some features like a Safari Zone and triple battles are absent from this game. Also, double battles are barely present in this game. Also, I haven’t encountered any hordes in this game.

Newcomer friendly

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So, I’m going to come out and say it. This game isn’t too challenging. I was able to get into the end-game without being defeated once. Sometimes there is no challenge. Once or twice, a fight got pretty dicey since I forgot to heal my Pokémon. Something I dislike a whole lot is that most trainers you meet in the routes don’t have more than three Pokémon. Not even the bosses. That’s such a shame. It’s improved when compared to the previous games (OmegaRuby and AlphaSapphire) but not enough.

This could have been easily fixed. Introduce difficulty modes in Pokémon. One for newcomers to learn the mechanics of the game and enjoy the games like it’s now and one for long time players like myself were everything is more difficult.

The game has too much handholding in my opinion. These things wouldn’t happen in the harder difficulties too.

One feature I love a whole lot is that now you get the result of an attack before you do it. So, you don’t have to remember which attack is effective to which Pokémon. The catch here is that you had to do the attack at least once against that opponent. So, when you do attack X to Pokémon X… you won’t see the results if you use attack X on Pokémon Y. Unless you have used attack X on Pokémon Y.

The controls in this game are pretty great. Apart from some minor menu issues, I never had any problems with them. Speaking of the menus, I love how you can choose the order of the buttons yourself. This way I can finally choose in which order I want my buttons. I love customization like this! If only the “B” button worked every time I pressed it. Yes, sometimes the “B” button didn’t cancel an option, it rather didn’t do a single thing.

The music and sound design in this game is amazing. While it’s not the best soundtrack in a Pokémon game, in my opinion, it’s one of the better ones. The sound design is pretty well done. I love the ambient noise in caves. You can sometimes hear Pokémon chirping in the background. It adds so much atmosphere to the game.

 So, I said everything I wanted to say about this game. It’s time to wrap this article up.

Final thoughts

The negative:

-The pacing of the new features could have been better.

-The game is too easy. A harder difficulty mode would have been welcome.

-Visuals aren’t that good on older 3DS models.

-Slowdowns on older 3DS models.

-So things would have too much visual fluff.

-Some animations should be made skippable or run faster.

-Sometimes the game is too cutscene heavy.

The positive:

+ Great visuals (on newer models)

+ Great soundtrack and sound design.

+ The story is decent. And there is finally a bit more story focus! Also, different actions mean different reactions.

+ There is a lot to do in this game, so this game is pretty lengthy.

+ …

Final verdict:

I’m somehow certain that this is an unpopular opinion but here I go… I think that this game is a step in the right direction for Pokémon games but there is so much missed potential. The game tries to please everyone. It adds so many new features to please longtime players but they make the game easy and accessible for newcomers.

The game could have been so much better if there was more content aimed towards the long time fans. Since due to the easy difficulty, this game is over pretty quickly.

Also, I think I’m going to buy a New3DS to play this game again in better visuals and have better performance. Since that’s something that really brought the game down for me.

I recommend this game to anybody who loves Nintendo, Pokémon and 3DS games. And to a lot of other people of course too, since it brings old and new fans together. And that’s something that makes me overlook a lot of the shortcomings of this game.

The game is great, but not perfect. The game could have used some more polish, but what we got is an amazing fun time and a great way to end the year. I’m so looking forward to what the Nintendo Switch port will bring.

So, that was everything I wanted to say about this game. Thank you for reading this review and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article on my blog but until then, take care and have a great rest of your day!

Score: 80/100