Release date: October 15, 2021
Developer: White Owls
Journalist Naomi Hayward’s life has been consumed by enormous debt. The Morning Bell, the newspaper that she works for, has a unique way of settling things – that being to send her abroad to uncover the mystery of the “Happiest Town in the World,” Rainy Woods. Naomi is not too keen on the idea of moving to such a small sleepy village, and she makes that displeasure known upon her arrival, but work is work, and in order to keep her stomach full she’ll need to adapt to her new environment and learn to get along with her new neighbors. Though warned to spend her first night indoors, Naomi doesn’t heed the warning and instead stumbles into quite the scene: all the residents of Rainy Woods have turned into cats and dogs with the arrival of nightfall, but that’s not the main focus of this adventure. Instead, soon after our arrival, there is a strange death in Rainy Woods. This mystery becomes the central point in the plot for The Good Life, and we will be diving in to take a look what this venture has to offer.
Naomi first arrives and the introduction that we get to her is immediately negative. She’s downright rude, and takes her displeasure at her personal situation out on others. Immediately, we are shown that there is a lot of room for character growth and that we are in for quite the ride when it comes to seeing what happens to her and where she goes from here. Luckily, with us in control we can steer Naomi in the direction of our choice. Will we focus on simply posting pictures for likes and lining our pockets, or will we take the time to get to know the people of Rainy Woods and help them out with the various errands they propose to us?
The Good Life is quest-oriented, and the completion of tasks will be what drives the main story. With the open world approach to the town of Rainy Woods, players can roam freely to explore, obtain items, snap photos, and engage with townsfolk. At home, there is access to a small garden, and Naomi can edit photos to be put onto the game’s social media site. Growing your following online can really boost Naomi’s career, so mastering the camera and tagging system for the online social media site Flamingo is a must – the better the photo and the better the use of tags, the more exposure the content gets, the more your following grows. Paying attention to trends, then uploading photos that follow suit can also be quite lucrative, but this isn’t all there is on offer in The Good Life. A lot of my own game time, for example, has been spent getting beaten up by badgers. Badgers are very rude and will attack you simply for existing as a law-abiding citizen within their vicinity. You don’t have to do a single thing, they just hate you on principal and like making it known.
Naomi can also explore the town after gaining the ability to turn into a cat or dog herself, thus enabling her to unravel the mysteries of Rainy Woods and utilize unique mechanics only available when in dog or cat form. The downside to all of this is that there are so many systems and mechanics and none of them seem to be fully fleshed-out, leaving us with an averaging experience overall and nothing to really write home about. That said, the sheer amount of things you can do in The Good Life will keep players busy for quite some time, and there is something that will appeal to most players, be it photos, farming, or just exploring. As a dog, you can follow scents and even pee on things. As a cat, jumping to high places and climbing marked areas works to make exploration a cinch. Even after reaching the end of the story, players will be able to continue to spend their time in Rainy Woods, and replays of the game could allow you to see different endings depending on what all the player accomplishes before turning in their final main quest.
Quests push the story along, and can be a source of confusion in the early game. Some quests must be completed within a certain time frame, for example, and can have the player rushing around to complete tasks before that time elapses. Alternatively, side quests can be saved for quite some time and done later, but this can get a little overwhelming, because whatever quest the player sets as active is the one that will show up on screen and on your map, and that means you won’t be getting tips on completing the things you don’t have set to active. This can be swapped manually, and that management aspect is a little dated in a world where it’s 2021 and players are used to being able to see multiple objectives on in-game maps and completing the tasks at their leisure.
The artistic approach to the characters is very exaggerated and cartoon-like, but this actually works out really well with such a quirky cast alongside such a fantastical story. While the designs work well, the voice acting is another story – at times voices won’t match in-game text, will sound muffled, or may seem underwhelming for specific lines. This leads to a feeling of the audio being incredibly unpolished, and coupling that with a middling soundtrack and we have a very lackluster experience overall as far as audio goes. This does not, however, break the entire experience but does give us a handful of situations that may result in the arch of a brow in confusion.
Overall, what we have here with The Good Life is an interesting amalgamation of a game. On one hand, we have more content than most people can handle, but on the other, not all of the systems in the game are necessary for completion, thus giving multiple avenues for people to find their niche and also proving itself as a stumbling point for players who tend to go for full 100% runs. With art assets that are middle-of-the-road, the game doesn’t have the polish that first-party titles do, but sticks out as memorable and lovable because of its quirks. The Good Life may not be a ground-breaking graphical experience, and the endless array of fetch quests can at times feel dull and repetitive, but the overall story presented is interesting and full of promise. For players who like to relax and unwind with a game, The Good Life is a far cry from the bustling forest towns of Animal Crossing, but does have credit as a functional and entertaining life simulator of its own merit. After all, how many games can you think of where sheep are a valid method of travel?
The Good Life copy provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review.