Come Take A Look At ‘We Happy Few’!

Announced earlier this year, ‘We Happy Few’ is a new game from indie devs Compulsion Games, the people behind the curious and favourably received puzzle/platformer ‘Contrast’. While the latter game enjoyed noir-vibes and a Parisian atmosphere, ‘We Happy Few’ is a survival rogue-like abuzz with a certain 60’s psychedelia, taking place in a city that’s far more dystopian than utopian. Watch the reveal trailer below to see for yourself.

Not only is ‘We Happy Few’ immediately visually striking, the bizarre behaviour of Wellington Wells’ denizens is also intriguing in the utmost.

Let’s get down to details. ‘We Happy Few’ takes place in the fictional town of Wellington Wells, a distinctly English locale grooving with a 1960’s setting. All the inhabitants are trying to forget their past, whatever it may be, and to do so are taking a drug called “Joy”. A dug which makes everyone happy.


Here’s the twist: you, the player, are the only person in Wellington Wells not taking “Joy”, and to keep out of trouble you’ll have to pretend to be happy and do what everyone else does. Speaking to Kotaku, Guillaume Provost, the game’s designer, said ‘a lot of the game has to do with conformity – it really drives a sense of paranoia onto the player.’

The gameplay largely focuses on stealth. For example, players are required to steal food and other items from Wellington Wells’ inhabitants in order to survive, best done without getting spotted. If you are detected it’ll result in unwanted attention; at first this might be from whom you stole, who you can fight, but if a chase breaks out between you and the owner more and more people will start to focus on you, which is bad news if you’re trying to hide in plain sight.

Provost also stated that actions such as running, jumping, sprinting, crouching – the usual fare in video game controls – will have to be considered by the player before performing them if they wish to remain inconspicuous. ‘It’s a bit of a social experiment… a society that’s based on social conformity… [a subject which] hasn’t really been tackled properly in games so far.’


Uncle Jack concept

Uncle Jack is a pervasive presence in Wellington Wells, continually being broadcast from televisions and radios sprinkled around the city. He has different shows depending on the time of day and players can tune in to find him mid-way through a programme, adding to the sense of a living city, and a city that’s living around you.

Further points can be taken from Kotaku’s interview, which featured gameplay. Things start with the player waking up in their bunker, an area underground where you can sleep, craft items, and get away from the suspicious eyes of your fellow Wellington Wells neighbours. Items available to craft are tools, such as lockpicks, and valuable first-aid in the form of bandages, which come into their own if bleeding is incurred when fighting. Continual loss of blood can kill you if not stopped.

'A man's shelter is his castle.'

‘A man’s shelter is his castle.’

Drugs other than Joy are craftable, such as the “Feel Good” syringe, the “Ironman” syringe, and perhaps the most 60’s of all, the “Psychotropic” syringe. Groovy. Purified water too is up for crafting, which is a necessity when all other water in the city is laced with Joy.

Why is drinking water important, though, and what’s so wrong with Joy? Well, staying hydrated and finding something to eat are key parts of the game, with on-screen meters showing your thirst and hunger levels. Needing to manage these attributes is what forces you to stealing, driving home the survival genre of the game. As for Joy, it acts like any drug: take a little and you’ll come down soon enough, take a lot and you’ll crash, an unhappy effect that’s sure to take the smile from your character’s face and draw attention. Oh, and you’re thirst and hunger will get worse post-comedown, too.

While you’re on Joy, however, it’s a moment of respite, with the other inhabitants taking no notice of you, and the colours of the city taking on warmer and more vibrant hues.


The city itself is procedurally generated, meaning your time trying to survive won’t be assisted by any map memorisation. It’s a feature that could be a put-off for players who would enjoy the ability to further their progress via learning the layout of the place, but the procedural generation undeniably adds to the feeling of paranoia that the city and it’s citizens are trying to catch you out.

Aesthetically, the English inspiration and 60’s mod fashion is evident, and there are nice touches like red Joy-dispensing phone boxes dotted along the painted roads, or bins that strongly resemble an up-turned Dalek from Doctor Who (a show which debuted in 1963). Catching glimpses of the people walking the pavements in Wellington Wells dispels any lingering sense of quaint and comfortable, however; the ‘happy-creepy vibe’ Provost said the team are aiming for is a memorable juxtaposition.


A Wellette

If things are starting to seem like something from a classic science-fiction novel you’re thinking in the right realms: Provost cited works such as Brave New World to be a strong influence, with a 1984 meets A Clockwork Orange theme in mind.

Finally, we come to release dates and platforms. Compulsion Games have said they’re showing off ‘We Happy Few’ much earlier in development than ‘Contrast’, due to the excellent community feedback and ideas that followed their previous game. They aim to have similar feedback for ‘We Happy Few’ which they can then implement into the game, to provide improvements. As such, there is no current release schedule, but there is a date to add to your diary – 4th June.

In order to receive accurate feedback, Compulsion Games is launching a Kickstarter for fans and a community to gather round, who can then provide suggestions for improvements to the game. 4th June is the first day of the Kickstarter. Further information can be found at Compulsion Games official site.

As for platforms, PC is the current focus, but given Contrast’s release on multiple platforms – including Xbox One – there’s no need to rule anything out just yet.

Obviously with a game heavily in development many of the details can still change before release, and although it’s long-term playability is currently up for question ‘We Happy Few’ already has the required ingredients to make it a cult hit. We’ll certainly be keeping a happy smile and close eye on it.

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