You will have heard of Hidetaka Suehiro in the last decade: you will have read about him under his pseudonym, Swery, a nice nickname for an equally bubbly personality. Our friend worked in SNK in the heyday, then veered sharply, but deliberately, towards a lesser-profile ecosystem with independent hues.
A very eccentric character, capable of publishing a technically very immature game. And if that technique is only part of the whole, it's much more complex to turn another eye to game design and general mechanics. Given the affection for Swery, the strangeness of his ideas, his abstruse ways of approaching game design, today we will pretend to be bees and have five eyes, so that we can close them all and try to tell you what went wrong. in this title, but also some positive sides.
Follow us in review of The Good Life by Suehiro Hidetaka, born in 1973.
A mysterious case
The incipit of The Good Life is quite weird, as expected: the protagonist, a journalist, finds herself in one remote English village to pay off a debt with your agency. Armed with a camera and patience, we slowly enter the happy village of The Good Life, a small cluster of houses immersed in a bucolic countryside. Moreover, one of the houses is assigned to us as a base in which to sleep, eat and do more. So let's get to know the small cast of plot characters, let's get to grips with the controls to soon discover one of the secrets of this village: the inhabitants at night turn into dogs and cats. But that's not all: going forward, the initial plot will allow us to turn into loving quadrupeds whenever we want.
Therefore, it must be said that the story and the setting have their own reasons: weird characters and a rustic, but sometimes surreal environment accompany us up to the first plot twist, a moment of rupture linked to a mysterious murder which works as a welcome to the new world of Swery. The plot will thicken, inserting elements linked a little to pagan mysticism, history, religion with a slight background of the occult, albeit always diluted by the colors of the setting, trying to drag you and make you passionate about the story.
Here, we could say that here ends the positives di The Good Life.
Lots of design deficiencies
Unfortunately, the idea we got is that Swery wanted to insert too many dynamics, but without developing one in full. To give you some examples: at the beginning the game inserts a photographic system within which to find targets through tags. The tag of the old piece of furniture, of the lighted street lamp and so on, in the hope of putting them online on an invented social network, solving some side missions and earning money to buy more. The mechanics are really sketchy and quite crude in its proposition: coming for a decade of approaches to photos in video games, what is inserted by The Good Life seems a sort of class assignment for game lessons design, with a significant amount of shortcomings. The story is repeated in the dialogues, often quite silly, in the gameplay that makes us become a dog or a cat, unfortunately broken in the platforming and very poor in diversity, even resulting in a barely sketched combat system.
There is a dynamic linked to the factions that love dogs more as opposed to those who love cats, but even here a lot of inconsistency and little fun in taking part, worsened by an unclear menu management, by the difficulty in crossing the mass of things technically useful to keep the character going - like eating - but explained very badly, as well as managed in a not very fluid and congenial way. A whole structure that forces the player to perform redundant and boring actions. The navigation in the game world is jerky, the open world - and we are paying a compliment - is poorly proportioned and linked to the movements of the protagonist who instead of simplifying the movements also add parameters that weigh down the gameplay such as stamina, after all accounts quite useless element. In short, maybe you can even go forward in history, but the heaviness in the digestion of everything else makes it really difficult to advance or find pleasure in doing a secondary quest.
Unfortunately playing The Good Life on Switch didn't help: on Nintendo's hybrid console the game is inexplicably disastrous under the technical profile. Despite a very low polygon size, Swery's work offers a park of textures, models and anti-aliasing algorithms that at best is three generations ago. Interpenetrations, dropped frames, expressions, animations, the ability to transmit village life, visual horizon: there is not a single element that, nowadays and seeing the work of independent teams with clearly less experience than Swery, is frankly explainable with a bit of reasoning. Of course, the money requested by the kickstarter was not (relatively) much, just over € 600.000, but was it worth dividing the development resources to make an immediately cross-platform title?
The writer is a long way from applauding the technical elements of games when they are ends in themselves, but they matter when they should be an integral part of the experience and in The Good Life, unfortunately, they ruin the experience enormously. Some parts are clearly two-dimensional, legacies of the 16 and 32-bit generation, others have a number of polygons that can be counted on one hand and being the title in three dimensions, unfortunately, all this emerges with great impact. Let's break a little lance in favor of sound compartment, which can boast a couple of nice traces, and Swery's evident desire to paint a world of humans and animals that can affirm his sense of belonging.
CommentTested version Nintendo Switch Digital Delivery Nintendo eShop Price 33,99 € Resources4Gaming.com
The vote you read is clearly the result of the affection for the designer and the desire to reward his evident desire to put together an experience capable of saying more than current gaming. The problem, however, is that this time Swery just can't create an experience capable of entering the "author's game" niche. By now, at the end of 2021, there are really too many examples of much humbler indies and a thousand times better success, also thanks to the use of already predisposed and easy to work graphics engines. Swery, on the other hand, does not understand why he enters a three-dimensional territory that he just cannot amalgamate, inserting mechanics that are not brilliant, boring, confusing and completely failing the flow of the game. There are a couple of nice ideas, nice the possibility to explore and do quests from dogs or cats, but this element is not enough to carry on a cumbersome story and a poorly packaged side activity system. Not to mention the technical problems, which we are keeping aside. We do not know if this title will also become a cult game, in part we hope so and we hope we have made a mistake, but something tells us that this time, simply, Swery would have done better to postpone it and rethink it from scratch.
- Nice find of dogs and cats
- History has something to tell
- Huge technical problems
- Poorly designed playful flow
- Very problematic exploration and gameplay mechanics