The Good Life Review (PS4)
The Good Life puts you into the shoes of a spunky New York journalist by the name of Naomi Hayward. She doesn’t hesitate to put in her view, even if it’s rude and nasty, and doesn’t let anyone walk on her like a doormat. Except, well, she did put herself into the worst situation ever (in which I’m sure she’d travel back in time to berate Past Naomi if she could). Naomi got herself in some massive debt totally to £30,000,000 and all we know is that her alcoholism contributed at least partly to it. The Morning Bell, a news agency, ends up taking her debt and promises that if she can complete a job for them, they’ll consider the whole debt cleared. Of course, Naomi takes it up thinking it would be easy and quick, but it was anything but. What was this job you ask? Naomi is sent to a small country town named Rainy Woods, which is known as the “happiest town in the world”, to figure out their secrets and pass it on so it can be aired to everyone. Why is it the happiest town? What are they hiding from everyone?
Once Naomi arrives, which she is not a bit happy about, she quickly encounters how weird Rainy Woods is. You meet Elizabeth Dickens, a woman in a wheelchair, who welcomes you to Rainy Woods and gives you your own house outside of the town. Weird, considering there is a hotel right there, but she waves it away as you’ll be staying longer than a day or two. After exploring, talking to the Rainy Woods residents, and getting used to the house she was given, Elizabeth suddenly pops up to tell her to not come out at night and disappears. Of course, she goes out and discovers the secret quickly. Everyone in Rainy Woods transforms into cats and dogs on full or new moons. Though, for some reason, Naomi stays (I guess it wouldn’t really be believable with just pictures) and decides to stay longer. And man, was that a mistake. Naomi soon gains the ability of turning herself into a cat or a dog (though she can actually control it and turn into either one any time she wants) and Elizabeth puts in her own request of weirdly buying her running shoes and having Naomi hold on to them. And then Elizabeth acts weird, luring Naomi out to follow her, only for Naomi to discover her dead in the river in a ritualistic manner once Naomi catches up some days later.
There’s also these hand drawn cutscenes at the prologue about the story/history on Charles II’s dog and Whittington’s cat which doesn’t really put much into the story now that I think about it.
From then on, you’re given the option to go down three routes to try and investigate an aspect of the murder. Each route is basically its own mini-story that quickly dives into absurdity and resolves with the reward being info on a piece of evidence that was left by Elizabeth’s killer. However, you do need to do all three, but you can choose which one to tackle first if you don’t want to go through the intended order. This basically causes each three to be disconnected from one another, so you don’t really get a good sense of build up, there’s really no references to what happened before, and it does feel more disconnected from the “turning into cats and dogs” and Elizabeth’s murder mystery (despite it pushing to help with the latter).
I was also surprised there wasn’t much emphasis on the fact that the people living in Rainy Woods gets turned into cats and dogs when it’s a full or new moon. The most relevant it gets is the last chapter as the villain that pops up focuses on force transforming them, otherwise it’s only brought up at the beginning when Naomi first finds out about it and in one of the routes where there was a vague reason on how this town got this ability (though I wouldn’t really count on it being the actual reason). And there’s not really a reaction of Naomi getting the ability to turn into both a cat and a dog (not even from Naomi aside from her seeing it as feeling like she got high) other than when characters have to mention it for the main quests. Instead of making this tied to the mystery of the town for you to solve, it seems that this was put in to both make Naomi’s transformations seem more normal in this setting and to have the town split into Team Cat and Team Dog based on which one they transform into (which, doesn’t really do much other than affect prices and supposedly some quests are locked until your on their team).
The mystery of who killed Elizabeth also falls to the wayside as well until the very last second where I can only describe it as a “wait, what?” ending that doesn’t really solve it and puts out another two mysteries (which it’s too late to solve as you’re at the end of the main campaign).
I feel this focused too much on mixing British history and myths into it in a way that made the story weirder that it forgot about these two mysteries. And honestly, I feel there is plenty of weirdness that was brought up with these two aspects without having the history and myths completely taking over.
Anyway, so the gameplay. The Good Life mixes in life sim aspects in to add more systems for you to deal with (which you actually don’t really have to deal with to complete the main campaign). You’ll have to take care of Naomi which means taking care of her hygiene (which having poor hygiene will cause shop prices to increase), feeding her by either cooking yourself or buying it, sleeping so she doesn’t get bone tired, there’s also stress (though it’s an invisible stat it seems), and a health meter which will require you to eat food denoted as healthy. Naomi can also get ailments which affect her stats, like getting sick or hurting her back, if you don’t take care of her. There is also crafting, aside from the cooking aspect, which you’ll have to gather the resources for. There’s gardening which you can plant seeds to grow certain plants, but you can attack animals to get a chance at one of the drops, there are a couple twinkling spots, scavenging spots for Dog Naomi, and mining which you have a chance at getting crafting material as there isn’t any specific spots that give more of one item. The crafting here feels more of a padding, as the rng is pretty brutal (and the only reason I got past one of the required crafting quests was that glass beads spawn on roofs) and I wouldn’t say it’s really worth doing. A lot of items is a “grab these items and I’ll craft it for you” so if you want a different shirt or a jacket, it’s too bad unless you have the crafting material. You can also upgrade your home and your garden, but you need the required material.
Of course, Naomi can also turn into a cat or a dog and both have their own uses. Cat Naomi is a fast runner, but stamina runs out quickly; can climb up buildings when you find a climbing prompt, can jump a bit higher, groom herself in cardboard boxes, and can insta-kill prey. While Dog Naomi can run longer, can jump (not as high as Cat Naomi), better at fighting and surviving against predator animals, can sniff out scents, scavenge in trash cans, dig out items, and… pee to mark your territory and unlock more areas to dig. Yeah there’s a dog peeing minigame. Meanwhile Naomi can jump like an inch, can’t climb anything, can skip, kind of okay with running, and generally talk with others and do human stuff that require thumbs. Her cat and dog forms are a good way to travel until you unlock the ability to travel by sheep, though you probably will need to hop off to jump over the small walls and call the sheep again.
Naomi can also take pictures with her trusty camera (or camera upgrade more like). Once you whip out your camera, you’ll be able to aim in at anything and take a picture of it. Most things have tags attached to them, which appear when they’re centered, which feeds into the app Flamingo. On Naomi’s slow ass PC, you can go to Flamingo and upload them which each Emoke (or like) you get will earn you money. The tags contribute mostly to the Hotwords system, which uploading pictures with the hot tags will net you with more Emokes. However, there seem to be some system in place to prevent you from uploading the same thing (or the same tag I should say) as it will quickly drop off to a few or no Emokes even if its a Hotword (I noticed with food the most… I took pictures of food a lot). However, your camera will routinely break after a certain amount of pictures taken and will revert you back to the old monochromic camera until you get it fixed or you save up enough to buy a brand new one. I’m confident that refurbished cameras don’t break this much, but I’m guessing this was added as another way to spend money.
Luckily, traveling around isn’t too bad here. While there is a wide space for you to travel through, there are shrines around that you can activate so you can travel between them for the low price of £10. This helps a lot in saving time in traveling as there are areas that will take you a couple in-game hours to travel to. You can also sway your standing on Team Cat and Team Dog by providing £100 offerings to either (though doing quests/playing with them either when you’re an animal or they are will affect it a bit), and there are Oracle quests (though I honestly didn’t notice until late game).
There are a bunch of side quests to do, though you don’t really have to do them and I would even say they’re not really worth it unless you really want to. All of the quests, main and side both, are mainly all fetch quests. And specifically ones that adds more to the quest when you go back to get your reward. Until you finally do everything and given some money that isn’t quite worth all the effort you put in. You do get some side-quests involving taking pictures, both from your friend in The Morning Bell making requests and a mysterious E (though E quickly goes down the route where you have to spend time gathering crafting material).
Though you have to have the quest selected to actually progress them and have certain conditions happen, which definitely stinks. Usually games will track your progress in the main quests and side-quests without problem, just having one selected (or a few depending on the game) will let you focus on a specific task as well as leading you to where you need to go. Here, that’s not the case. The Good Life does not track your progress in every quest you currently have, but only the one that’s currently selected as active. If you have to do something specific, like craft/buy something, not having the quest selected will either not have the shopkeeper add the item or will cause the item to not count towards it. I, myself, ran into the problem with the quest where you have to drink the “Beer of the Day” every day for a week, got Naomi sick in the meantime, and realized that it didn’t count and the week count reset when I selected it again.
On PS4, The Good Life runs good, but I did encounter people’s faces being wobbly which I realized (probably) wasn’t intentional based on other’s playthroughs, I did encounter one crash due to finding a sheep with flickering text and walking up to it caused the game to crash. There was also a moment where Flamingo took money rather than adding it, but luckily it was at the start of the day so I could quickly roll back to prevent the loss of money. The game is getting updated, so it’s only time before these problems are patched out.
To be honest, I didn’t really know what to think about The Good Life for the majority of time I was playing it, but I’d say it’s an average game. It does have charm to it, and that brand of weirdness and off-ness that you often see in Swery games, but it also is tedious to the point where I wouldn’t be surprised if most people just focus on the main quest only and has some weird decisions that takes away rather than adds to the experience. I guess you can say this tried to do too many things and a lot feels more like padding. Even if your tolerance level for constant fetch quests is high, I would still personally wait until it’s on a sale and after a few patches comes in to iron it out a bit more.