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Happier than you

Published by FunEffect
Price $19.95
Primary Genre Secondary Genre

A game for the times, perhaps? This puzzle game also gives a satirical poke at consumerism and greed in today's society - where many are overwhelmingly concerned with surrounding themselves with the latest gadgets and gizmos, and the shiniest and best products that their money can buy. Can you keep them all happy? Why not have a crack at it? Play "Happier Than You".

A game level in progress. The game assesses your performance in these key areas.

At the very least, kudos to the developers of HTY for an original and entertaining concept. I can honestly say that I've never played a puzzler quite the same as this one. That alone does not make HTY a great game, but it did entertain me for a good couple of hours before the gameplay started to wear a bit thin.

Players build abstract "inventions" that are assembled from parts that they must buy and then present their products to the marketplace. Each consumer in the game has their own ideas about what kind of products they would like, and these are indicated by corresponding marks beside their comical plasticine heads. They all appraise the player's invention and gain happiness points depending on how well the invention matches their wants. The more consumers that demand a particular component in a product determine it's price in the marketplace. Since the player needs to buy all components before using them, there's a bit of strategy involved in knowing when to stockpile which resources, and when demand is high, selling off unneeded components at a tidy profit.

Mrs Green is NOT happy... ...but Mr Red is extactic

Sounds easy, right? Just make products with the highest proportion of commonly wanted components! Well, it just so happens that some of these consumers are quite jealous types. Some of them have developed rivalries - and when their rivals derive more pleasure from a product, their personal happiness decreases by an amount equal to the difference in the happiness gained from the invention by both. Parents will no doubt be better at the game right off the bat. Ever tried keeping 4 kids happy over the weekend? Rather than rewarding the good behaviour of the consumers that are only concerned with their own material possessions, the player is forced to appease the complaining and jealous consumers first (rather like what happens in real life customer service).

Each customer has their own initial happiness level and a happiness threshold that all of them must attain for the level to be won. On a turn where a consumer reaches this threshold, all jealousy penalties are negated for that turn only. This also adds a few gameplay choices into the mix. As the player progresses though the levels, they can choose through an unlocking system whether to add more consumers, more components, or more levels of jealousy to make the game more challenging. Also, some consumers wants can be hidden from view of the player occasionally which can introduce an element of luck as well.

The graphics are odd. Not in a bad way. The characters faces are unnerving, yet entertaining as their expressions of glee and dismay greet your every presentation of material offering. The interface is presented nicely and most functions in the game are handled logically. Background music is orchestral, of high quality and fits the game very nicely indeed. Sound effects are excellent. Control is entirely mouse driven and intuitive. About the only annoyance I have is with the amount of clicking needed to buy or sell large amounts of components. A right-click or shift-click option would work well here.

What the game is really lacking is some kind of overall goal. A system that tracks achievement and rewards players for progress over time. As it is, the game has a tendency to get a bit samey (in a Tetris way) that some players will revel in, and others will grow weary of. Overall though, I think that the innovative and fresh approach offered will appeal quite broadly. It certainly had me hooked for a while. A clever game that is well worth a look.

Unfortunately, coming bundled with the game is a bit of religious claptrap that some may find as offensive as I did. I'm not going to let it affect the score since it is not in any way integrated into the gameplay, and is easily avoided once you know where it is. Most players will however stumble across it the first time they fire up the game.

Graphics 77%
Sound 92%
Playability 85%
Longevity 61%
Overall Score 77%
Silver Star

Published on 08 May 2009
Reviewed by Steve Blanch

Keywords: happier than you review, funeffect reviews, funeffect games, happier than you scores, pc game reviews, indie game reviews, independent gaming.