The Good Life: Hands-on impressions from PAX West 2018
One of the most beloved figures in the game industry is Hidetaka Suehiro, aka Swery, creator of the cult classic Deadly Premonition. A lot has happened to Swery since Deadly Premonition released 8 years ago, but he’s back with his studio White Owls Inc and their new game The Good Life. At PAX West this year, I got the chance to play The Good Life, and it’s everything a fan could want from a Swery game.
In The Good Life, you play as Naomi, a New York journalist that’s just moved to a happy little British town called Rainy Woods. Happy on the surface anyway, as this town is filled with bizarre occurrences and gossipy neighbors. The game does have a central plot involving a murder and the townspeople turning into cats and dogs, but neither was present in the demo I played.
The Good Life is described as a ‘daily life simulator RPG’, and that’s an apt description based on the demo. There was only one block of Rainy Woods available to explore with and a few NPCs to interact with. That said, there was enough content to get a taste of that unique Swery flavor. One NPC stood on a street corner mourning the loss of his friend, but quickly you realize by ‘loss’ he means lost a bet and by ‘friend’ he means his truck. On the same block a red truck slowly drives about, and the fellow stands on the sidewalk gazing at it from afar. So he asks Naomi if she can take a picture of it for him, she agrees and notes that it’ll be “the hottest picture ever!” Safe to say this is all pretty weird, but in a charming way.
Another NPC was gossiping about a neighbor cheating on their partner and wanted me to get a photograph of them being caught in the act. Sure enough, I found the aforementioned neighbour sucking face with a stranger in some bushes on a different part of the map.
While these quests were charming, it became clear that the demo was definitely just a prototype. I photographed the red truck and the cheating neighbor, but in both cases when I went to hand in the quest, the quest givers would just repeat the same dialogue over again assigning the same quest to you. There was also no inventory system or quest log to keep track of what you’re supposed to be doing. However the game was only successfully crowdfunded earlier this year, so it’s still very early in development. This demo was enough to give the impression of how The Good Life will play, and based on that it’s shaping up to be interesting.
Photography is a huge component of The Good Life, and you’re supposed to earn currency by selling your photos. In the demo, photography mechanics worked competently but it was far too early to get a strong impression of how it’ll intertwine with leveling, progression, and earning money. All I was able to do was zoom in and out and take photos, and the interface wasn’t that helpful explaining how to browse the pictures I’d taken.
They have a lot of quirky ideas going into The Good Life, but most of it wasn't in the demo. Naomi is supposed to be able to take side jobs like being a bartender or a miner but there was no way to take jobs in the demo. Similarly, in the game, the residents of Rainy Woods are supposed to turn into cats and dogs when night comes, but none of that is ready yet.
The art style was the aspect of the demo that left the strongest impression just because I’ve never seen a game that quite looks like it before. It’s like a combination of an early polygonal title and paper-mâché figures, at least that the best way I can describe it. Every character model feels very handcrafted, which helps them stand out and not just feel like set decoration for the town.
Despite that this demo was just a prototype and lacking content, it still made me excited to try the final product when it releases. Swery has this great way of seeing the beauty in the bizarre, and as I walked around the block taking pictures of trucks, cheating lovers, and sheep, it’s a safe bet that there’s a clear end goal in mind for The Good Life. it may be a good while before we see the final product, but if it’s as charming as this demo was then fans of his past work should keep an eye out for it.