The Good Life: Boldly Bizarre & Beautiful Yet Boring – PC Review
I’m a huge proponent of life sim games. Some of my all-time favourite games – Lake and The friends of Ringo Ishikawa – are, or contain elements of, life sims. There is something wonderfully soothing about immersing yourself in a world that is so distinctly familiar yet dreamlike all the same. The Good Life takes this concept and blows it massively out of proportion. It offers a bizarre world full of strange characters and goings-on and lets you run wild within it. Unfortunately, while The Good Life does contain plenty of fantastic ideas and is without a shadow of a doubt a brazenly bold experiment, there are one too many odd design choices to recommend this to the casual player.
“It feels like the gameplay in it should reflect the complexity and ingenuity of its narrative. Unfortunately, it does not.”
The Good Life offers an intriguingly bizarre story that will likely appeal to fans of the developer’s previous work. It’s stilted and awkward at times, and while its twist and turns certainly kept me enthralled throughout, I couldn’t help but feel the entire time that this was a frankly rather unconventional story. Even when it hit familiar beats, The Good Life couldn’t help but be a little weird. How much you get out of the story is therefore reliant on how high your tolerance for the bizarre is.
Because, despite its lofty and at times odd premise, the story of The Good Life isn’t terribly surreal. Rather playing it is. This isn’t like watching a David Lynch movie. Instead, it’d be like watching an episode of Midsomer Murders but dubbed in Danish and while wearing a blindfold. It is conventional to a point, but an odd experience overall.
Fortunately, there is gameplay to supplement the overall narrative. However, while it can be fun at times, it is for the most part rather drab. The majority of quests revolve around you fetching a combination of items or photographing certain places or people. In short, they’re fetch quests. And while this kind of gameplay can work in something like Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles – where it is supposed to be a soothing and relaxing experience – It feels like the gameplay in The Good Life should have reflected the complexity and ingenuity of its narrative. Unfortunately, it does not.
“It wasn’t hard to ease into the world of Rainy Woods and become comfortable with the cosy life there.”
Outside of The Good Life’s mission structure and narrative, there is a fair amount for you to do. The enormous open world you can explore is a delight and beautifully detailed. It was extremely enjoyable to see familiar English iconography in a video game setting. I imagine Londoners likely derived the same pleasure from exploring the streets of Watch Dogs: Legion. The surreality of the game’s overall tone and story matched with the extraordinary amount of detail and care that went into perfecting the realistic look of the game’s world is certainly a wonderfully compelling yet ultimately strange combination.
There are also plenty of life sim elements featured in The Good Life. From NPC routines to unloading your bladder as a dog – the life of a dog is included in said life sim elements of course – there’s enough here to immerse yourself in the game’s beautiful world. While it isn’t as profound or groundbreaking as the seminal titles before it, The Good Life offers enough that fans of the genre will feel content.
Additionally, the characters you’ll interact with during your stay are brilliantly charming. They all have their own quirky characteristics and figuring out how they are all connected was always a treat. I quickly developed my favourites and enjoyed seeing them at the start of each day. Suffice to say, it wasn’t hard to ease into the world of Rainy Woods and become comfortable with the cosy life there.
“I find that there is this frankly frustrating duality to all aspects of The Good Life.”
It’s hard to say whether or not The Good Life is definitively good. Its world is beautifully designed and brimming with life and character, but it can often feel lifeless with little to do. Its characters are fun and quirky but never extend beyond the bizarre characteristics they’ve adopted. The game’s story is packed full of surprising twists and turns and has various avenues to explore, but it can be offputting and difficult to immerse yourself in.
As a result, I find that there is this frankly frustrating duality to all aspects of The Good Life. Its characters are delightfully bizarre and full of eccentricities yet talk and act like typical English people. Its world and story are both surreal and often times otherworldly and yet altogether familiar and homely. It is both good and bad, and rarely leans one way or the other.
I feel for fans of the genre, The Good Life may be for you. It features enough of the genre’s best qualities to warrant a playthrough and a story that’s interesting enough to supplement them. However, for those who have no affinity for the life sim genre, or indeed this kind of surreal storytelling, then stay far away. Not only is The Good Life often inaccessible, but its quest design is frankly terribly archaic and will therefore not interest a casual player.
*Disclaimer: Reviewed on PC, code was provided by the Publisher.
The Good Life Review
The Good Life is an interesting albeit flawed video game that offers a beautiful and idyllic open-world that is exceptionally enjoyable to explore, but a series of missions that devolve into little more than fetching things. While the story is riveting throughout and the stunning art style and music captivating, the lack of interesting missions make The Good Life only accessible to the incredibly niche audience who enjoy this genre.