A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that We Happy Few is an action/adventure game available for Xbox One and PlayStation 4 consoles, as well as Windows, Mac, and Linux-based computers. A central focus of the game involves the widespread used of a drug that artificially provides feelings of happiness and joy to escape the harsh reality of the world. Drinking and substance abuse is shown throughout the game, as well as frequent use of swearing, including "f--k" and "s--t." The world of We Happy Few is also a violent world, with characters brutally attacking each other with a variety of weapons or using explosives to blow people into pieces. There are many scenes of bloody murder and suicide. Although there's no nudity in the game, there are sexually suggestive scenes, along with some sadomasochistic scenes where characters are aroused by beating others or by being beaten.
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What's it about?
In WE HAPPY FEW, Wellington Wells is a very happy place to live. If you don't agree, just take your daily dose of Joy and take another look around. The world's bright and colorful, the people are always laughing and smiling ... oh, and everything around you is a lie. This is a place of manufactured happiness, where people are kept in a constant state of bliss through the mandated use of the drug "Joy." While under the influence of Joy, all's right with the world. But peel away the facade, and the reality of this world is much darker ... and deadlier. The game gives players a glimpse behind this drug-fueled curtain through the eyes of a handful of characters forced to see things as they truly are. Will you submit once more to the fantasy that Joy provides? Or, faced with the grim reality, will you fight to expose this truth to the rest of the world? Whichever choice you make, be sure to do it with a smile.
Is it any good?
It's disturbing in its subject matter, but this well-made, mature tale engages with its action and its world full of off-kilter madness. To paraphrase the classic Beatles song, the plot of We Happy Few highlights that "Happiness Is a Warm Drug." That seems to be the mantra for the residents of Wellington Wells. This dystopian "paradise" is a character itself, with a disturbing blend of charm and horror. It's both frightening and fascinating, where you watch people gleefully tear each other apart, cheerfully oblivious to the grim reality of their actions. One of the most stressful things about playing We Happy Few is simply learning to survive in this world. Unlike other games, it's not a matter of killing anything that moves. You've got to fight through some frenzied moments, but most times, you're just trying to blend in and hope no one notices that you're off your dose of Joy. Even when no one's around, you've still got to worry about survival basics like food and water. The game does a phenomenal job of drawing you into the experience and making you feel like your story is the same as the one the characters go through.
Gameplay can feel overwhelming at first, requiring a lot of attention and patience. But We Happy Few strikes a good balance of never quite feeling impossible, but also never giving you an overpowered sense of security either. At the start, any minor misstep can be frustrating, considering your character's lack of skills. Combat in particular is rough around the edges, which feels fitting since your first two heroes aren't trained to fight. This also encourages you to find ways to avoid fights wherever possible. Eventually though, as you begin to get used to the world, things become second nature. You settle into a groove of knowing when to eat, how to slip by unnoticed, and how to defend yourself when things go wrong. While it might be a bit disturbing and intense, you won't need a dose of Joy for We Happy Few to leave a smile on your face.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about drugs and drug abuse. What are some of the effects that drugs can have on someone's behavior? What are some reasons that drugs can be abused by people? Also, what are some of the positive benefits of properly prescribed medication?
How affecting is the violence in We Happy Few, given the realistic attacks on human opponents? Is the violence intensified because of the subject matter presented in the game, or does it not seem believable?
- Platforms: Linux, Mac, PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox One
- Price: $59.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Gearbox Publishing
- Release date: August 10, 2018
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Adventures, Misfits and Underdogs, Science and Nature
- ESRB rating: M for Blood, Strong Language, Suggestive Themes, Use of Drugs and Alcohol, Violence
- Last updated: May 8, 2020
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.