Happy Game Review – Oh, I Get It, It’s Supposed to be Ironic
Developed and Published by Amanita Design
Available on PC
If you’re like me, when you first saw the trailer for Happy Game you said, “I bet you it’s not going to be happy”. You are correct, kind of. Happy Game is happy in a way, and it’s scary, in a way. It’s actually just very strange. Strange in a good way. You are a small child. You’re in a bedroom that kind of reminds me stylistically of Little Inferno, if you’ve played that. Your room is sparse, and maybe a bit dingy, but it’s not a sad scene. You go to sleep, perchance to dream and all that, and end up in a very. happy. place.
If you try to wrap your head around Happy Game you may come away needing assistance. You can look at the events in the game from a lot of different angles. It may be the dreams of a child, it may be the dying visions of an addict, it could be whatever the dreamcatcher above your bed is dream catching. No, you shouldn’t try to understand the how or why. Just experience it. The game is a point and click. You’ll be given little scenes where you need to solve puzzles by pushing, pulling, ripping, tearing, spinning, and otherwise manipulating the creature, and even the world around you. I never hit a point in my 2 hour playthrough where I was completely stuck. There’s always something to click and drag around.
The visuals inside the dream/hallucination/dreamcatcher vary from level to level. they’re not levels in the traditional sense. When you complete a dream sequence, you return to your room with whatever item you were chasing. The first level sees you chasing a soccer ball; a rare commodity for a child in such shabby conditions. This leads you through a toy-based world of demonic dolls and haunted building blocks. It’s probably the tamest section of Happy Game. The game is violent, but not in an overt way. It feels weird saying that seeing as how later in the game, you’ll be using multiple guillotines to slice a giant, carnivorous rabbit to pieces while it doggedly chases you, even after its face is removed.
The violence feels too cartoonish to be impactful in the same way something like Resident Evil. Not that the violence doesn’t get fairly cartoonish in RE (Looking at you, Ethan Winters’ hand). The moments in-between the gross or scary bits are almost melancholy. The smooth synth soundtrack and tame visuals of these transitional spaces scream familiarity. Why a game about a nightmare world filled with violence evokes a strange sense of nostalgia is beyond me. There is no dialogue, no story really beyond what you can glean from the world around you. The main character occasionally speaks, but it’s some form of bastard simlish that makes no sense. It adds to the overall dream-like atmosphere of the game. Nothing makes sense, and it doesn’t have to, stop asking it to.
I will address something that I’m sure will come up: Yes, Happy Game is short. My playthrough took 118 minutes according to Steam. This time is dependent on how fast you solve the puzzles presented to you. I’m a big brain jeenius, so of course my time will be a bit faster than most. The interactivity on hand in the levels is nice, but the real draw are the visuals. It’s not at an FMV game level of sit back and watch, but sometimes it feels like it comes close. Occasionally, the game will drop you out of a cutscene, you’ll walk forward 2 or 3 steps, and then you’re dropped into another establishing section, showing off some new monstrosity. I appreciate the devs making each level unique. If Happy Game had stuck with the same style throughout, it would have become boring very quickly. The ever-changing worlds add a bit of pizzazz to the whole affair.
The first world, as I mentioned before is kind of toy-based. The second is all sunshine, rainbows, colorful bunny rabbits, and guillotines. The third level sees you starting out in a sort of no man’s land, like something you’d see in-between trenches in the first world war. You’re then pulled into a swamp area, where the world is split in two. I would elaborate further, but it would spoil that section and I refuse to do that to you. I only found one section in the game with a straight-up fail state. Most of the time, the wrong answer in a puzzle is usually so outright wrong that you get an achievement for even trying it. For example, there is a section where you drag a storm cloud over an invisible monster so that the rain can reveal its form. You then need to drag down a lightning bolt to its feet to fully reveal it. Dragging the lightning bolt to your player character nets you an achievement.
All in all, Happy Game is something…different. I really didn’t sit down intending to finish it in one sitting. It just stays so compelling all the way through that I couldn’t help but keep playing. Before I knew it, the game was over, and I was logging into DreadXP to write this review, with the fantastical visuals of Happy Game still swirling through my head. It’s definitely one to check out.