We Happy Few is a game that very quickly drops the player into the deep end of a very disturbing pool and leaves them to sink or swim alone. From the moment the game starts, with the player character at work censoring old newspaper articles, you’re aware that there’s something very wrong in this world. The Joy pills to make everyone happy, the hockey mask like faces of everyone around you and the absence of children, while the adults play children’s games at the orders of a man on the television and radio; all jarring notes in an otherwise pretty looking setting that hint at the darkness underneath.
Set in a twisted version of 1960s England, the main character is a man named Arthur who, after discovering an old article about himself and his younger brother, decides (with the help of the player) to reject his Joy pills and see the world for how it truly is. Unfortunately for Arthur, his rebellion is quickly discovered and he is forced to flee for his life into the sewers. From this point on, the world opens to the player, with only Arthur’s journal and his mutterings to himself as a guide.
This is not a game where the hero rushes in with weapons bared in open defiance of law and tradition. In fact, doing so will likely get Arthur mobbed and beaten to death. Stealth and blending in are the order of the day and it is here that the first person perspective really adds to the tension. There’s no overseeing, god looking down from above perspective to show what’s around the next corner. If the player isn’t careful to take their time and look around, it’s very easy to be jumped.
Stealth, crafting and rummaging through bins are all key features in surviving in We Happy Few. This is not a game to rush through, dashing from quest to quest, but one that benefits from spending time in each area, scavenging for supplies and crafting everything you can in your sewer base. In this regard, We Happy Few has a lot in common with The Sims, with a great deal of micromanaging required just to keep your character alive.
If you enjoy stealth and micromanaging as much as I do, We Happy Few is a fantastic adventure with an interesting story – though perhaps not one you’ll want to play after dark. If, however, you prefer combat and classical heroism, this is likely not the game for you. Combat is, after all, best avoided and the needs of your character cannot be ignored for long.
Overall, I found We Happy Few to be attractive, compelling and engaging, however I repeat my warning that if you can’t bare micromanagement in games, you’d best give this a pass.
We Happy Few is available now, worldwide for PS4, Xbox One, and PC.
This review is based on an early access copy of We Happy Few supplied to the author free of charge.