Indie games are often fascinating magical little gems, full of innovation, creativity and fun. While the scene has been building steam as of late, many of these projects are still swept under the rug in the gaming business. Enter KickstartMTL, Girls On Games’ way of sending some love towards indie developers who are trying to make it in Montreal’s rich gaming culture.

Today’s KickstartMTL puts the spotlight on We Happy Few, a first-person roguelike game developed by Compulsion Games, the folks that brought you 2013’s Contrast.

The Village of Hamlyn - Image by Compulsion Games

The Village of Hamlyn – Image by Compulsion Games

Oh happy, happy days!

After the demo enjoyed a very positive reception at Pax East 2015,  Compulsion Games finally launched their kickstarter campaign today for We Happy Few, a roguelike game set in a dystopic version of England in the 1960s:

“We Happy Few is the tale of a plucky bunch of slightly terrible people trying to escape from a lifetime of cheerful delusion. Set in a drug-fuelled, retro-futuristic city in an alternative history 1964 England, you’ll have to blend in with its other citizens, who don’t take kindly to people who don’t abide by their not-so-normal rules.”

In the town of Wellington Wells (the name says it all), the citizens are lulled into a state of perpetual happiness and cheerfulness through a Soma-esque (as in Brave New World Soma) drug called Joy. Its invention was brought on by an alternate outcome of the events of WWII: In the world of Wellington Wells, Germany successfully occupied England and it’s citizens did “A Very Bad Thing”. What did they do? We don’t know what (yet), but it has a direct correlation to the creation of Joy and its ability to erase memory and induce a euphoric state.

Early Bird Gets Jack - Image by Compulsion Games

Early Bird Gets Jack – Image by Compulsion Games

What we do know, however, is that in Wellington Wells, everyone is happy. You even have Uncle Jack (another element inspired by literary work, this time by Nineteen Eighty-Four’s Big Brother) who’s
“the proud, smiling face of Wellington Wells. Everywhere you go, he’s there to say good morning and he’s there to say good night. He is there to make you laugh, to make you smile, and to remind you that things really aren’t all that bad, and sawdust really is a very filling substitute for bread. Always so happy. So, so happy.”

So where does that leave you, the player? Well, you play as a Downer (again, quite the fitting name), a person who decides to escape the hallucinogenic and euphoric effects of Joy, and braves the world in its true form. As a feature of joy is to erase memories of the past, throughout the game you’re traumatized by past events that you had a hand in.

Downers - Image by Compulsion Games

Downers – Image by Compulsion Games

As dystopian worlds tend to be shrouded in the illusion of perfection and stability, your goal is to escape the town before society itself collapses.  You do so by avoiding suspicion, blending in and finding possible allies:

 “You will need to learn how to conform and avoid suspicion. You will need to hunt for supplies, and craft the devices and weapons that enable you to make it out of town alive. What do the Wellies approve of you doing? What makes them suspicious? What turns them into a homicidal mob? And is there anyone here who can help you?… This isn’t stealth – this is hiding in plain sight. We Happy Few is a game about blending in, while you look for a way to escape.”

If the citizens of Wellington Wells catch on that you’re not Happy, get ready to be confronted. Things can get pretty rough pretty quickly as you’re disturbing the happiness. You’ll need to either engage in combat, escape or hide. Or, you can pop some Joy to blend in but there’ll be consequences, the like of which we don’t know yet. However, whatever you choose, you have to be really careful: You have one life and if you die, tough luck. You’ll have to restart a new game. But that’s totally fine. The world changes with every playthrough, and you need understand the mechanics of the game in order to win. So you might as well embrace death during your first few attempts.

The Wellies - Image by Compulsion Games

The Wellies – Image by Compulsion Games

If playing a game set in a dystopic world, reminiscent of Fallout and Bioshock (as you’ll see on their kickstarter page, retrofuturistism makes up the brunt of the technology found in Wellington Wells) and will most likely be chockfull of symbolism and allegories, then you should check out We Happy Few. You can find more information on their kickstarter page, follow them on Twitter or head over to their Facebook page!
In the meantime, take a look at their announcement trailer and witness  Wellington Wells in all it’s creepy glory: