Survival simulation games have a few standard rules, one of which seems (to me) to be that a coherent world backstory isn’t as important as the gameplay. Compulsion Games is throwing that out the window with We Happy Few, a dystopian game set in a post-WWII England. The population of Wellington Wells has collectively decided to rebuild after The Blitz, including their memories in the renovation process. A new drug called “Joy” can eliminate memories and leave the user feeling as fresh as if they’d just awoken. One resident isn’t having any of this revisionist history and decides to escape, but getting out of Wellington Wells proves to be a Herculean task.
Players must navigate The Garden District (home of the Wastrels, who suffer insanity as a result of Joy use), enter the main town of Wellington Wells, and somehow find their way out, from there. This sounds simple, except that the entire town is on Joy, and wants you to be, too. Players must decide when/if to take Joy for camouflage, how to scrounge for supplies and weapons, and how to keep fed, watered, and healed while escaping the notice of the residents.
Hiding in plain sight is not always an option, but neither is skulking around corners and alleys. Progress is timed from the moment the player first “awakens” in their bunker, and the timer ends when the player either dies or escapes, and then a new map is randomly generated for another go. The maps are punctuated with colorful landmarks that clearly delineate between regions, though they are just similar enough to confuse the player (okay, me) into panicking and prematurely playing a hand they don’t have. My first playthrough, for example, lasted around 4 minutes, and ended because I got lost and ended up losing a fight to a Wastrel and three “bobbies” who were guarding the entrance to Wellington Wells.
We Happy Few is off to a strong start with its pre-Alpha build, with few graphical glitches, and only a couple of touchy controls. The controls themselves are standard mouse-and-keyboard navigation and interaction. Zeroing in on objects to either grab or manipulate them can be a bear, especially as the mouse sensitivity gets sorted, but thus far, players can do what they have to with not too much extra effort. Combat is the only area where this appears to currently be a major concern, with a slight delay between clicking the mouse and hitting an enemy creating opportunity for them to hit you, first; this can be corrected by anticipatory timing, but that doesn’t always work out so well (see also: my first playthrough).
Sometimes NPCs walk into walls and just try to continue about their day from that very tiny space. Item crafting and inventory management is not quite as fluid as one might hope, but it gets the job done. The team has already addressed these issues in regular Kickstarter updates, which just leaves the “wait and see” aspect of development. Personally, I’m happy to hold my breath, based on the work that’s already been done bringing the 1960’s-era Wellington Wells to life.
Compulsion Games’ Kickstarter is in the final stretch, with the campaign ending just before Noon EST tomorrow, July 4. They’ve already reached their base goal, and are in the process of unlocking a third stretch goal, which features more episodes of the Uncle Jack Show, providing much of the background entertainment for both Wellies and players. A sandbox mode with customizable play has just been unlocked, as well as a crafting system which allows players to adjust doses of Joy to temporarily enhance certain abilities. We Happy Few is slated for release on Steam in June 2016. Follow Compulsion Games on Twitter to receive game updates from Uncle Jack himself, and “like” their page on Facebook for additional screenshots and video updates.