Arts

Games: The Good Life a surreal Swery flight of fancy doomed by crude graphics, boring quests and repetitive in-game dialogue

Neil McGreevy

The Good Life offers a pastoral jaunt in merry old England set in the rural idyll of Rainy Woods

The Good Life (Multi)
By: White Owls

FANS of a dungareed Felicity Kendal are once again foiled on the videogame front, with a picture-postcard English setting the only thing The Good Life shares with its 1970s TV self-sufficiency namesake.

From the none-more-Japanese mind of gaming auteur Swery – whose Deadly Premonition holds the dubious Guinness record of most polarising game ever – The Good Life sees our oddball director up sticks from American horror for a pastoral jaunt in merry old England.

Set in the rural idyll of Rainy Woods (named after Deadly Premonition's original title), players manage the life of Naomi Hayward, a New York photographer lumbered with £30 million of debt to an English newspaper.

Quite why she owes so much – and why – is never explained, but Naomi can inexplicably pay this off by investigating Rainy Woods' mysterious happenings. And so our in-hock paparazzo sallies forth into the village's mysteries for some sylvan sleuthery.

The Good Life looks like one of those CD-ROM games you'd pick up in a filling station for a tenner

It's a solid premise, but The Good Life's main investigation plot is crushed under a glut of increasingly ludicrous chores doled out by its menagerie of eccentrics – from a witch and a violinist who communicates through echolocation to a rival Bostonian journalist who incessantly screams "Lobstah!"

Much like Deadly Premonition, each citizen follows a daily routine across the game's day/night cycle, but the oddball denizens of Rainy Woods grow hair in all the wrong places, transforming into cats and dogs after 11pm. As, indeed, can Naomi, who uses her feral skills to scale buildings, dig up secrets and spray gallons of urine around the place.

Tasks generally involve finding people to talk to or taking photos that fit with trending hashtags – each snap taking around 30 seconds to upload thanks to the town's shonky internet.

Players manage the life of Naomi Hayward, a New York photographer lumbered with £30 million of debt to an English newspaper.

But above all, this is a life sim that pilfers wholesale from Animal Crossing, and the town's mysteries take a backseat to keeping Naomi hale and hearty. You can design your house and plant veg in the garden, all the while keeping an eye on exhaustion and hunger meters – not to mention Naomi's 'prettiness', managed by fixing her make-up. Woke this is not.

Stiff controls, boring quests and repetitive in-game dialogue are just some of the coffin nails in a game that's dead on arrival. And, like all Swery projects, it's ugly as sin. A technical abomination, The Good Life looks like one of those CD-ROM games you'd pick up in a filling station for a tenner, with crude 3D models and remedial animation that wouldn't tax a Gamecube.

A baffling hodge-podge of genres, Swery's Kickstarter-funded flight of fancy may appeal to his die-hard fans – but without Deadly Premonition's goofy charm or enigmatic hero to paper over the cracks, if this is the good life, I'd hate to see the bad.

Richard Briers must be spinning in his grave.

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