We Happy Few, the latest release from Compulsion Games, releases next week. We’re excited to get our hands on the game even if, well, we’re not entirely sure what it is. Here’s what we know about the game and why that’s enough to whet our appetite.
A Unique Setting
We Happy Few takes place in a bizarre retrofuturistic alternative-reality England in the 1960s. Yes, seriously. Everyone wears strange masks and are constantly hopped up on Joy, a drug that induces happiness and hides the ugly post-apocalyptic reality of the world. We Happy Few is like visiting a psychedelic version of BioShock‘s Rapture if you were to play as a Splicer. It’s a huge compliment to compare We Happy Few to BioShock, which broke new narrative ground in gaming, creating a wonderfully realized world deep under the sea. By transforming the past into a macabre fairy tale of sorts, BioShock and its sequels told stories ripe with political and social commentary all too rare in video games. With such a strong source of inspiration, the setting of We Happy Few holds a ton of narrative potential.
Compulsion Studio made just one game before We Happy Few, but it shows the team knows how to bind interesting gameplay with a gorgeous aesthetic and setting. Contrast, the studio’s first game, is a 2013 puzzle-platformer dripping with a noir atmosphere. The protagonist is a young girl in a run-down city with a unique imaginary friend who can shift from a 3D world into the world of shadows. The sepia toned and neon lighted world floating about in space is gorgeous, and made even more so by the shadows cast by the invisible NPCs. At times, Contrast looks and sounds like a 1940s movie full of intrigue and dread. The team also uses the shadow gameplay to great effect, letting you navigate the city in clever and interesting ways. Contrast isn’t perfect, but it’s a great first title from the studio and shows how seriously Compulsion takes the artful blend of world-building and game mechanics.
The above gameplay from E3 this year is the most we’ve seen of We Happy Few, and it’s actually not all that revealing. We know the main character discovers something unsettling about the past, giving him the opportunity to stop taking Joy. The world is procedurally generated, but you will uncover a variety of “micro-stories” around the environment, discovering information about the dystopian world, how this strange society came to be, and how our protagonist fits within it. We Happy Few is allegedly a difficult game, challenging to even hardcore gamers. Since the game rewards multiple playthroughs, there will be ample opportunity to discover new stories and piece together the events of We Happy Few in new and interesting ways.
Interested in playing the game yourself? We Happy Few releases July 26 on Xbox One and PC.