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Kickstarter Spotlight: We Happy Few

This week the Kickstarter Spotlight focuses on a psychedelic trip into retrofuturism, war paranoia and more with Compulsion Games’ “We Happy Few”. You might remember them from the vastly underrated gem, “Contrast“.

Wellington Wells is a city for the future. We are proud and proper English men and women who only seek to bring about the continued march of progress! That’s why it is crucial to continue taking your medicine, lad. Nobody wants to be a Downer! Certainly not you, eh? There we are. Down the hatch.

A Technicolor Nightmare

We Happy Few clearly draws from the dystopian nightmares of greats like Bioshock. Uncle Jack is the new Andrew Ryan and, clearly, Compulsion Games is doing their very best to instill a sense of constant paranoia and fearmongering via this smiling conduit. The lunatic grins of the citizens of Wellington Wells, known as Wellies, are welcoming in a way. The sort of bouncing bubbly folk that one might want to get to know. Moments later they’re calling for the Bobbies and your blood is pooling in the street. The contrast of crimson against the orange, green and yellow of the main roads in the city is a strange artistic feat.

We Happy Few

There are signs of a terrible past littered around the city. Venture just outside it and the story becomes clear as day. Buildings with gaping holes in them like some sort of a jack-o-lantern smile. One can almost hear the echoes of the gunfire, the din of bombs and the thundering of soldiers. World War 2 went a bit differently in this future with England being occupied by the Nazis. Wellington Wells saw its fair share of tragedy. The people had to fight back and, in the process, did some terrible things to reclaim their city and overthrow their oppressors.  Wellington Wells moved on with the help of Uncle Jack and some right crackin’ scientists. They not only remade the city but made that lovely little pill that makes you forget as well!

We Happy Few

The city is a lot like any other sort of small town one would encounter in England during 1964 in the countryside. Then the multi-colored road screams out to you as you stroll through. Closed circuit television sets swivel actively to follow along as citizens pass through and they’ve always got the smilin’ mug of Uncle Jack glowing down at them. All of this is set to an eclectic mix of mellotron-tinged pop and electronic sounds that speak to the space race enthusiasm of the time. This is a city of mod fashion, creepy makeup and oppression.

Nobody Likes A Downer

We Happy Few

Downers are those who don’t take their Wellie-prescribed medicine, Joy. Far better to be happy than see the truth right? They are outsiders who are a threat to the very way of Wellington Wells life! The pre-alpha version of the game made available to backers and press has you assuming the role of the fellow in the middle there. There are other protagonists to play as each with their own story that interweaves with the tales of other’s. Each character also has their own strengths and weaknesses and playthroughs will vary accordingly.

Wastrels, folks who don’t react well to the medicine and are cast aside, live out there on the outskirts of town with the truth, the memories of the near past. They are, notably, bitter and weary of anyone. Be mindful of that though depending on how you play they may well be allies or yet another sect of folks that want your blood.

Make It Out Alive

The main objective? Make it out of Wellington Wells alive. This is no small feat and requires not only stealth but brutality as well. Survival elements are also present with a need to keep hydrated, stay fed, rest and along with that manage statuses like poisoning, bleeding and so forth. Crafting is also present in the game with lock picks available to be made and other useful potential tools that can be made from scraps found around town.

Death is something that happens often in We Happy Few and for each death there will be a brand new Wellington Wells to explore. Topology, street layout, building placement, enemy locations and, well, everything is procedurally generated thus adding another layer to replayability.

There is a heady mix of retrofuturism, the ghosts of the past and 60’s mod fashion and music to make for a compelling aesthetic. Compulsion Games, who made the criminally underrated Contrast, has imbued their latest with an unnerving sense of fear, paranoia and it is very reminiscent of Bioshock in that way. Further elements such as combat (which is a bit rudimentary at the moment due to the early stages of development) will evolve as they roll on but what’s here? It looks like this could be something truly special.

The Kickstarter campaign for We Happy Few has 14 more days left and sits at a little over 130,000 of its 250,000 CAD goal. Backer tiers include digital copies of the game, soundtracks, coffee table books, a voice part in the game, pre-alpha access and more. Currently, the game is strictly for PC though console plans have to be in the works. The game will launch sometime in 2016 with enough support.

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About The Author
Jeff Pannell
Jeff Pannell
"Nation! I face you! This is Jeff, resident horror aficionado and lifelong video-game addict, reporting for duty. I'm currently 30 years old, living in Texas (born and raised) and gaming is, well, more than just a thing I do. It is a passion. I love to write about it, talk about it, think about it and well.. GAME. I was but a young lad when I was introduced to the wonders of the Atari 2600 and, eventually every single console imaginable. Obsessed with RPGs and fighting games and binging on any and all video games he can. I serve as Lead Editor and member of the APGNation Editorial Board. I look forward to bringing you news, reviews and interviews for many years to come.