Hands-On We Happy Few: Toss Your Joy in the Bin

Hands-On We Happy Few: Toss Your Joy in the Bin

Surviving a drug-fueled dystopia

A.J. Maciejewski

Written by for Previews on

Compulsion Games' We Happy Few has already established itself as a unique experience that has captured many gamers' imaginations. Now that I got to play through an early build of it, I'll outline what to expect from this very strange tale.

We Happy Few screenshot 1
Another day at the office...

Erasing the past

We Happy Few tells the story of Arthur Hastings, a man in charge of censoring the media so only happy stories are available to the public. Why is he doing such a silly thing? He lives in the English town of Wellington Wells where the citizens fended off the Soviet Union during an invasion. However, they did something unspeakable to gain the upper-hand so now they take a hallucinogenic drug named "Joy" so they can live in a constant state of euphoria and forget the past. One day, Arthur decides to stop taking his meds and is therefore seen as a Downer. As the title suggests, being a Downer isn't easy to deal with as hallucinating citizens and police forces aggressively lash out at anyone who isn't full of Joy. There's no denying that this is an incredibly innovative premise for a video game so let's see how the gameplay holds up.

We Happy Few screenshot 2
I was going to take a dip but I just changed my mind

Surviving the present

To my surprise, We Happy Few is actually a randomly generated open-world survival game. At first glance, it's easy to assume that it's a story-driven stealth adventure but as it is right now, that is not the case. You basically control Arthur to try and escape the town by completing side-quests and uncovering objects that help solve puzzles so he can proceed to different areas of the town and eventually find freedom. As you wander around, Arthur gets hungry, thirsty, and tired. To be honest, I really hate having to keep an eye on these kinds of constantly depleting meters. Except for Adventure Island and a few other games, having to sate your character's hunger is a pain in the butt. This is especially true considering it takes only a few minutes for Arthur to require some sort of nourishment. Does he have a tapeworm or something? The poor guy just can't seem to catch a break.

Besides for side-quests, speaking to the zombie-like residents is almost no help at all. Arthur usually says some random nonsensical ramblings then the townsfolk reply with their own gibberish. I have no idea why Arthur talks like that. You'd think that he'd try to actually converse with people to plot an escape but instead he goes on about bananas and porcupines. Has he gone completely insane over the years? Is he just being sarcastic? Whatever the case, it'll make you scratch your head. Sometimes, the locals don't like the cut of your jib and then start attacking you. It's easy to punch them out so they don't pose much of a threat. Plus, you get to throw their bodies off a cliff which is fun. To blend in, you could always pop a few pills but don't take too much or you may end up back at the office.

We Happy Few screenshot 3
Whenever you're bored, why not punch the locals?

Hoping for a better future

In its current state, We Happy Few doesn't come across as much of a game. That being said, I can see how added story elements, tutorials, and gameplay tweaks could make it shape up into an impressive experience. Although some things are better left as mysteries, I would love if the developers explained much more before thrusting you into the open world. For example, why not explain the reason why Arthur spouts such random nonsense? Why not lead me in the right direction as opposed to having the next waypoint at a locked door that I have no idea how to open? Besides these points, it would be awesome if Arthur didn't get hungry, thirsty, and tired so easily. Also, I wish that more helpful messages were displayed so I knew what the heck was going on. When a civilian starts attacking Arthur, it should tell you why such as, "Warning: Arthur just alerted a lady for breaking into her house!"

We Happy Few screenshot 4
I don't know, it looks lovely to me but that might be the drugs talking

We Happy Few is an interesting game to say the least, but it still has a long way to go. I'm hopeful that the full game will feel like a more complete experience and I trust that Compulsion Games will steer this intriguing tale in the right direction. Are you looking forward to the full version of We Happy Few? Let's talk in the comments below.

Gameplay video for We Happy Few 16:24

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