Happier than You Review
Happier than you” is a game wrapped in a message of peace and happiness, hidden under bad graphics and unique gameplay.
At its core, HTY is a game designed to teach empathy. Managing the needs and delights of multiple people and sharing resources for the common good. It is also, however, a game of “graph management” as players try to keep all graphs (and thus their avatar happiness) equal. But doing so is complicated by each graph having their own sub-graphs to manage.
It starts off simple enough, pick three colors to build an invention for one of your three people. Each person has a few favorite colors, and if you choose their colors as one of your three choices, an invention is built. Building inventions increases the happiness of the chosen avatars – something you want. This is soon made complicated by sub-attributes like “jealousy” that have their own colors to keep down. And as you progress, there are more colors to choose, more people to keep happy and more attributes to juggle. During all this, you must keep up with the prices of each of the colors, buy more when they’re in low demand, and sell when they’re in high demand, in order to increase your points as a merchant (awarded at the end of the level, along with inventor and diplomat points). I enjoyed this sub-game, but in the long run it became one of the most monotonous parts of the game because of the ease of trading.
The game rewards a job well done with trophies. These trophies give you keys and those keys open up the higher difficulty, but somewhere along the line, it became conflicting. While the game was interesting, the gameplay wasn’t compelling enough to play for more than an hour at a time. Though if you like the resource-management of RTS without the RT, then HTY is the scratch you’ve been itching for.
The game also suffers from “XNA Syndrome”, an indie game with bland graphics and textures that make it look like a Mac game from the emac-era. The people (avatars) to keep happy are represented by voodoo looking heads on a line graph; it works, but is very utilitarian in its delivery. The only problem with the graphics is that text boxes don’t have a background color to separate them from the game graphics. You have to constantly move the text box around to read properly or it blends in with the words in the game. It would have been nice if the developers had put more effort into making their game visually-unique, but HTY isn’t a graphically dependent game anyway.
The music is delightful. Using free-license classical music, the game sets a mood that is very in-hand with the gameplay. Mostly calm and soothing pianos, there are a few orchestrations involving creepy tunes that add tension, but I personally felt they were out of place. Some may see free-license as a cop-out, but I found the music to be one of the better parts of the game, particularly the song that accompanies the level victory – a very melodic and transcendent piano score.
The opening of HTY showers you with text, and not just any text – religious text. You start off with a quiz about the Ten Commandments to which you choose either “innocent” or “guilty”. I choose guilt for eight of the ten, to which the game told me that it was OK and frankly who hasn’t? Personally, I prefer a theology-less game, but even as it dissuades me, this might be one of the areas HTY shines.
You can tell that the developers didn’t start the process with a set genre that they were trying to fit their message into. They took the issues that were important to them and tried to represent that in a fun yet educating way. Finding an interactive way to represent the quest for human happiness is a lofty goal and one in which HTY mostly succeeds, and ultimately will be absorbed subconsciously by many that will play it. However, HTY is a polarizing game. Its gameplay, graphics, music, and potential theology, mix in a way that is unique to the game. Getting past the socialist and religious undertones, players will find a fun game and a unique experience, but ultimately not a very compelling one.
decent resource management, music is delightful
Bad Graphics, theology, No real Genre