It’s truthfully troublesome to consider the place to start out with The Good Life. It’s the newest from White Owls and Hidetaka Suehiro, a.okay.a. Swery. From its outset, you’re Naomi Hayward, a photojournalist who’s accrued inhuman quantities of debt. And so that you’ve been despatched to Wet Woods, a quiet English city dubbed the happiest place on Earth, to uncover their secrets and techniques utilizing your detective expertise and trusty digital camera.
Then the moon illuminates the evening sky, and the townspeople flip into canine and cats. And shortly, so are you able to. The Good Life is actually a pictures recreation combined into a little bit slice-of-life sim, nevertheless it’s additionally received parts of investigation, useful resource administration, and puzzle fixing.
The Good Life does quite a bit, however I don’t actually suppose it does any of it nicely sufficient to hold it via. It’s a world held aloft by its quirkiness and allure, however the best way it barely matches collectively and infrequently grinds its personal gears into itself can put on its cheerful veneer skinny.
The Good Life (Nintendo Change, PC [reviewed], PS4, Xbox One)
Developer: White Owls Inc.
Launched: Oct. 15, 2021
Not lengthy after Naomi arrives on the town, desirous to uncover the secrets and techniques of Wet Woods and studying to rework into each a canine and cat herself, she stumbles upon much more intrigue. A popular native is murdered, and Naomi has just a few clues to go on as she ventures out to each uncover extra secrets and techniques and discover the killer.
This would possibly sound like an interesting situation for followers of Swery’s Lethal Premonition, and it undoubtedly has tinges of that, in each the small-town setting and penchant for the supernatural. However The Good Life doesn’t simply lean into the uncanny and odd, it leaps for it.
Over the course of about 10 to 12 hours to see the principle narrative via, elements of the story can really feel like they’re whisking you between ever-increasing fantastical actions. The shock of discovering out simply how far these go is among the highlights, and so I’ll keep away from spoiling them; however I’ll say, there have been a number of instances the place I assumed a narrative had reached its peak absurdity, and it escalated even additional.
However between its peaks of weird shock, there may be additionally lots of simply strolling round. The Good Life would possibly hit the fuel when it requires it, however on the entire, it’s a recreation the place you’re transferring from place to put as usually as you’re doing issues in these locations. And motion all the time prices you.
The Good Life has a continuing operating clock, on a operating calendar full with moon cycles and essential occasions on sure days of the week. Characters will likely be in locations and, importantly, solely be obtainable for some duties at sure instances of the day.
You do have well being, however that’s truthfully the meter I paid the least quantity of consideration to. As an alternative, I used to be often watching my stamina, as I ran in brief sprints via the English countryside; or starvation, slowly creeping down all through the day; or my wellness, separate from my well being, which might result in a chilly or a headache if left unattended. Medical payments aren’t low cost both. And in some unspecified time in the future, I’ll must sleep too, or danger passing out from exhaustion.
The world is pretty giant, with the quiet city of Wet Woods within the middle of a countryside that additionally accommodates lakes, quarries, ruins, farms, and even a mountain vary. It’s additionally pretty unfold out, and till you get a sooner technique of journey part-ways into the principle quest line, you’re hoofing it (or pawing it, in animal mode).
Typically, I appreciated how easygoing this nonetheless felt. I’d fill my quest log with little actions and tick them off as I went about my day. On my method to see one character to advance a most important plot level, I might additionally cease off to eat some meals, meet up with the quirky and endearing people residing in Wet Woods, and take a couple of snapshots to spice up up my social media account. In fact, all of it might all disintegrate because of a little bit chilly or a scarcity of money, and then you definitely’re despatched right into a spiral making an attempt to scrape collectively what you must be wholesome once more and resume a quiet, easygoing rural life.
Essentially the most regular earnings in The Good Life comes from Flamingo, a social media app the place you add pictures you’re taking on the earth and receives a commission for likes, or “Emokes.” The pictures works, and I like that there are additionally choices for choosing up extra lenses in a wide-angle and telephoto lens. There isn’t rather more customization past that, and it was actually extra point-and-click than one thing with concerned post-processing or finicky digital camera controls, nevertheless it matches the vibe.
It’s extra that the pictures felt underutilized, and very like different elements of The Good Life, begins to really feel like an afterthought. The Good Life introduces lots of concepts after which strikes them apart for different concepts. At the beginning of the sport, it looks as if a thriller recreation the place attending to know the locals and snap good pictures will likely be key. As an alternative, I spent lots of time driving sheep and monitoring smells as a canine.
A lot of the picture targets give attention to both looking for an object or setting on the earth, or in some instances, ready for an individual to do one thing so you possibly can snap an image of it. And getting extra Emokes normally entails adhering to sure “buzzwords” that refresh twice every week. They encourage listening to the atmosphere, but in addition really feel like they might be a bit extra concerned. There are lots of aspect quests that I might solely make a good dent in, so there could be extra there as every citizen’s quest line goes deeper, however I quickly noticed aspect quests as a method to earn money somewhat than one thing I used to be keen to interact with.
There have been additionally some bizarre instances of sure aspect quests not monitoring what I had achieved except I had them energetic, whereas others did. Usually, I didn’t encounter anything majorly buggy, however the efficiency of The Good Life on totally different platforms is one thing to make be aware of. I performed via the sport on PC, however I did spend a couple of hours with the Change model, and the distinction is basically noticeable. It chugs and forgoes a few of the graphical options that easy out The Good Life‘s graphics within the PC model, making it look and play rougher. The Good Life isn’t a visible powerhouse both, nevertheless it has a sure allure to its look, and that allure comes throughout higher when it isn’t stuttering.
By story’s finish, it felt like The Good Life had misplaced the threads of its story, because it tried to wrap up lots of story beats whereas additionally bringing issues to an in depth and exhibiting how Naomi, a jaded photojournalist apathetic in the direction of something not involving cash, can begin to care about extra than simply her debt.
And regardless that I appreciated a few of the quirky characters in Wet Woods, and loved how over-the-top its story beats went, and located an endearing allure to managing its many meters and aspect actions to turn out to be each a profitable detective and titanic influencer, The Good Life feels prefer it spreads itself too skinny to make its breadth really feel impactful.
It’s cool I can mine for ore, then flip it into chunks and use these to fund a house renovation, however the person steps of that really feel too much like taking a particular image for a townsperson or gathering mushrooms for a brand new dish. Their simplicity makes duties really feel too repetitive after sufficient time doing them. There are lots of issues to do in The Good Life, however the reward is usually simply attending to do extra of it. And in between doing these duties, there’s heaps and plenty of journey, except you wish to spend some money to quick journey between the animal shrines you unlock across the map.
There are actually people this can enchantment to, particularly in the event that they like the sensation of checking duties off lists in a digital world. However even then, there are different video games that do that higher. Between all the hobbies and sidequests Naomi can choose up, there’s quite a bit to do however not fairly sufficient to set it aside. The quirkiness of its world and characters is the one facet that actually makes The Good Life really feel its personal, and it has to hold quite a bit on its shoulders. Even thrilling elements, like turning right into a canine or cat, really feel mundane after some time.
The Good Life does many issues, however they by no means felt like they coalesced collectively into an expertise that would follow me. I actually loved elements of it, and a few of its stranger moments actually do land as massive, pleasing peaks. However there’s lots of valley in-between, and whereas I arrived in Wet Woods looking forward to a nice countryside escape, I didn’t really feel like making a return journey after the credit had rolled.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]