Review: The Good Life

  • Version Played: Xbox Series S

The Good Life is a rather odd game. It sets itself in a small British town with a mystery to solve, while also attempting to be a “life RPG” similar to games like Stardew Valley and My Time At Portia. It describes itself as a “Debt Repayment RPG”, which doesn’t really fit the game at all – the debt is a reason for your character’s motivation, but it doesn’t have any relevance to the gameplay.

Naomi, a journalist from New York, is sent to “the happiest town in the world” to try and figure out the mysteries and secrets the town holds. Early on you discover that the residents can turn into cats and dogs, then gain the ability yourself to turn into either as much as you want. As you’re getting used to it, a murder happens and you try to solve that.

The gameplay itself is a “crafting” type game. You find items by scrounging around the map (a lot are gained by going through bins) or killing animals. These can then be turned into other materials and then those materials can be used to construct things like outfits or garden furniture. Unfortunately, the drop rate for a lot of things is extremely low. It’s the kind of game where you need (for example) rabbit fur, but only get rabbit meat from the first 20 you kill. Gathering materials is not fun at all, and as it’s only required for a small amount of main missions, you’ll likely just ignore it altogether. I spent most of the game wearing a ruffled dress that was needed for a mission.

You have multiple stats to keep up, like HP, health (this is separate from hit points and determines vulnerability to things like colds), hunger, charisma, stress. Some of it is always on the HUD while other times, it’s completely hidden. Most of this is managed by eating food. You can cook, but the amount of time required to get the resources means you’ll just buy it. 

The rest of the gameplay is mainly fetch quests, and the gameplay itself isn’t really fun, it’s just really slow and clunky. Turning into a cat or dog sounds great, but the cat form is barely used (you can jump up buildings but it’s used around twice) and the dog is mainly used for tracking scents. The cat can jump higher than dog/human, but it’s very wonky.

Photography is another important aspect, you start with a sepia-toned camera but can buy a better one, along with a telescopic or wide angle lens. Objects are highlighted so you know what you’re taking a picture of. Some quests will ask for photos of certain objects or people. There is also a “social media” app that you can upload photos to, where your photos will get likes. If your photo matches any of the current hashtags, it will get more likes (and likes translate directly into money).

What makes The Good Place interesting is the intrigue and mystery around it. Something I kind of like is that it’s a view of the UK from a non-British developer. As a result, things are a bit off. The food available in the game included things like hedgehog pie, red squirrel stew, red deer burgers (which some people might have, but it’s called venison), and pork scratchings are described as being great when you bite into them and pork juices flow out. I’m not sure if the food is stuff they think we eat, or if some are there purely as a use for the in-game animals. I also found it fascinating that they added models for grit bins, but seem to be unaware of what they are as they’re marked up as “rubbish bins”. 

Then there’s the mystery of what is going on. The story just gets crazier and crazier as you progress, with some amusing moments. For how the game looks, there’s also a surprising amount of swearing. I was a bit let down by how it’s resolved, but the ending was entertaining enough that it didn’t really matter. 

The Good Life is a rather frustrating, slow and clunky game that just had an intriguing vibe to it that makes you want to see the story through to the end.

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