Swery’s career65 in recent years it has entered a decidedly peculiar phaseAnd. After the consecration obtained thanks to D4, The Missing and, above all, Deadly Premonition, Swery seems to have slipped into a rather thorny situation. While retaining the whimsical charm of its predecessor, Deadly Premonition 2 came to the market with a large assortment of technical and design issues (if you haven’t already done so, read our Deadly Premonition 2 review) and this has brought many players. to question the actual creative abilities of the author.
The Kickstarter campaign launched in 2018 for the realization of The Good Life it was a moderate success, but the flop of its flagship series and the continuous postponements of the title have generated some concern among the ranks of users loyal to Swery and its White Owls Incorporated. After a two-year delay on the roadmap, the time has finally come for The Good Life, which since the first stages of its marketing campaign has shown itself to be an incredibly strange title in the premises, as well as difficult to contextualize within the production of Swery. Unfortunately there is little to go around it: The Good Life is a title full of problems, marred by obvious gaps both on the technical side and on that of game design.
Debts, British campaigns and mysterious phenomena
Naomi, the protagonist of the story, is a New York photographer and journalist who, to escape from the exhausting debts contracted with the agency she works for, takes refuge in Rainy Woods, a small village in the English countryside.
Rainy Woods is known as the happiest small town in the world, and Naomi’s aim is to find out why she’s notorious as she struggles to find a way to pay off her debt. Shortly after arriving in the village, Naomi discovers that, on full moon nights, all the inhabitants of Rainy Woods inexplicably transform into cats and dogs, and that once they are human they seem to have no memory of their transformation. When he launched his campaign on Kickstarter, Swery definì The Good Life come un “Debt Repayment Daily Life Action Adventure”, and it must be said that, at least for what are the mechanics behind the title, it is a perfectly fitting description. In fact, Naomi can earn a living by photographing the city and uploading the photos to a sort of social network that pays her back based on the likes received for each shot.
This is because her debt is the engine of everything that happens in the game, which pushes her to strive to satisfy her need for money and to investigate the mysteries of Rainy Woods. A situation enormously complicated by the fact that, shortly after her arrival and after discovering that she can transform herself into a dog or a cat, Naomi finds the body of the woman who originally summoned her to the city.
The problem is that it is a structure that only works on paper, because once you take the reins of the adventure The Good Life turns out to be a concentrate of unhappy design choices, at the base of a gameplay that unfortunately proves to be more boring than the premises did not suggest.
A little Life Sim, a little survival, a little punishment
Once you have become familiar with the controls – definitely woody – and with a very lacking graphic sector, The Good Life begins to introduce its distinctive features. The game pushes the player to take a relaxed approach to adventure, and reminds him several times that Naomi is a human being with her own needs.
The protagonist must eat regularly otherwise her health bar begins to drop, she must sleep to avoid collapsing, she must wash regularly so as not to annoy others with her presence and she must finance herself by photographing her surroundings, because otherwise it will be impossible for her. continue with the exploration. Everything in The Good Life has a price: from meals to treatments, up to the sanctuaries that act as “warp points” and the gates that separate the different areas of the map, which is significantly more extensive than one might have initially expected. It is a choice that serves as a reminder that the central theme of the game is debt, and that sets the pace of the adventure in a rather rigid way, prompting the user to carefully invest the time at his disposal. As peculiar as it is, the structure behind the title is not a big deal.
The real problem is that the time that can be devoted to everything else must be used to fight against a botched and unnecessarily cumbersome game design, which brings about inexplicable progression choices. The Good Life is primarily a binder of “fetch quests” with no creative flickers, and continually asks the player to invest a lot of time in researching small items to take from point A to point B just to advance the story.
On one occasion, for example, Naomi is asked to procure a dress; reached the clothing store the saleswoman tells her that she needs five items to make it, one of which can only be crafted by a specific NPC in exchange for three items, which in turn must be found randomly around the map.
The Good Life is basically a matryoshka of interconnected micro missions that unfortunately put a strain on the interest of the players, to the point of becoming tedious. The game itself seems to be aware of its shortcomings, so much so that it is ironic by commenting on certain dynamics with a mockery: if the intent of The Good Life was, however, to provide a critical reading of gaming, a little on the model of the open world of No More Heroes (to get an idea, read our review of No More Heroes 3), then the goal can be considered missed.
White Owls and the art of never being up to par
Even if you wanted to try to get to the bottom for find out if The Good Life hides any noteworthy surprises, however, one should prepare to face an experience with macroscopic problems from a technical point of view. Although it is clearly a title with few demands on the graphic side, and with an artistic direction that struggles to hide its most striking limitations, Swery’s work arrives on Switch (the only version available for review) in an entirely form. other than dazzling.
Leaving aside a very pronounced and really annoying aliasing for the eyes, the game is the victim of a very poor optimization that in certain areas brings the frame rate to collapse below the threshold of 15 FPS, however, with frequent pop in phenomena and texture streaming problems. Let’s be clear: that of Rainy Woods is a fundamentally empty environment, made almost exclusively of huge green expanses crossed by concrete streets and brick walls, so the difficulties just mentioned are in fact inexcusable.
It is not the first time that Swery and White Owls run into results of this kind: both chapters of Deadly Premonition have serious gaps from a technical point of view, and manage to recover for the merits of a brilliant writing and for the evident conceptual quality that lies beneath the aesthetic rendering. Qualities that, in all honesty, we do not find in The Good Life, supported by a just enough script that often expires in the infantile. NPCs are unique and particular in their own way, yes, but none of them are able to tell really interesting or original stories.