A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this game.
Messages are fairly neutral here. Characters expressing genuine sadness and altruism, but some are self-absorbed or comically evil.
Positive Role Models
Many characters make negative choices and display negative traits. But this is done in a cartoonish matter, so it probably won't be harmful for players who can distinguish between real life and a game world.
There are non-white and disabled characters present whose stories don't focus on their race or disability, which is positive. But the vast majority of characters are straight, cisgender, and white. This may be culturally representative of areas in rural England, but there are also a few characters with some stereotypical qualities and characters who lack any discernible personality.
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Ease of Play
Small RPG (role-playing game) inconveniences such as fetch quests and a hunger bar do get annoying over time. Also, while the open-world map isn't too big, traveling can feel cumbersome because both Naomi and her animal forms have rather low stamina bars. Too much time is spent on doing useless errands and tasks, and this definitely interrupts the pacing.
Violence & Scariness
A woman is murdered, and Naomi is the first to find her dead body floating in a creek outside of town. Players see the murder weapon and there's blood. Though the art is cartoony, this image is potentially disturbing.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Some sexually suggestive themes are present. One female-presenting character wears minimal clothing and has a fairly exaggerated body shape. Characters talk about appearance as well, with insults about other's looks are sometimes mean-spirited.
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Many characters swear, including the words "godd--n", "piss," and "s--t."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Though played for laughs, characters do drink excessively and make references to being drunk, with occasional hiccuping or stuttering. They are all of legal age. There's also reference to a "concoction" made by a witch who lives in the woods outside of town, with some dialogue and a cutscene suggesting that the concoction is just a hallucinogenic drug once Naomi drinks it.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Swery's The Good Life is a role-playing game available for download on Nintendo Switch, Windows, Xbox One, and Playstation 4. In this peculiar story, Naomi Hayward, a photographer from New York City, is sent to the almost-too-perfect town of Rainy Woods to work as an investigative journalist. The town is hiding a "big secret," and if Naomi can get the scoop, she will be paid enough to make a huge dent in her colossal credit card debt. A kind of whimsical chaos is a running thread throughout the story, as confusing details make way for the entire story to become obscured and at times, unintelligible. Families should be wary of this seemingly bright, light-hearted title, though. There are a good deal of sexually suggestive jokes and on-screen alcohol and drug use. There are also some mild stereotypes, though these are applied to white characters rather than those in marginalized groups (i.e. the protagonist being an elitist, out-of-touch New Yorker and a rival journalist from Boston having a catchphrase that's just yelling the word "lobster" in a heavy Boston accent). Players will also find a dead body along with the murder weapon and blood in a scene, which could be disturbing to some gamers.
Is It Any Good?
While the idea of taking a casual RPG (role-playing game) and adding a ton of absurdity is immediately fun, the nonsensical plot and clunky moments hamper your experience. The opportunity to play as both a cat and a dog as well as a human character in The Good Life is clever as part of a small-town mystery, so players in search of something new will be intrigued. Whether they will stay interested, though, depends on their tolerance for technical and structural flaws. Gamers already familiar with past titles of Japanese game director Hidetaka Suehiro (aka "Swery") will find themselves right at home in this narrative anarchy. So what if the plot is disjointed and nonsensical? Name one other casual RPG where players can scale a building Assassin's Creed-style while playing as a cute little cat whose form has a designated "meow" button? That's right, you can't.
But while this title is worth rewarding for its weirdness and risk-taking, some aren't as successful as others. Swery has come under fire in recent years for his handling of transgender characters in past games. He's insisted that this came not from a place of hate but rather from imperfect cultural translations between Japanese and English. His apology comes with a dedicated effort to re-write scenes in past games which have come off insensitively and create more positive representations of diversity. In The Good Life, it doesn't look as if Swery has completely changed his writing style to avoid potentially offensive jokes entirely, but has rather simply changed his targets. For instance, there are references to alcoholism that are played for comedy, and these can feel as if they've crossed a line. In addition, there are some suggestive themes, particularly referring to the relationship between Elizabeth Dickens and her half-brother William which feel totally unnecessary to the plot. For adults, it's easy to write off these instances as jokes that don't quite land and be able to move on, but younger players may be affected by mentions of these topics a bit more deeply.
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