Happy Game, the review of the new adventure of Amanita Design



The review of Happy Game, the new adventure of Amanita Design, grotesque and dreamlike as in the tradition of this highly sought after studio.

Czech software house Amanita Design is a blessing in the video game world. Always uninterested in following market trends and not very inclined to pander to the idiosyncrasies of gamers, it has pursued a kind of splendid isolation since its foundation, when it was still only launching short adventures for the web. With time the vision of the studio, always directed by the founder Jakub Dvorsky, has been refined, losing any ambition to compose easily definable works, although visible in the first, however splendid titles such as Samorost and Machinarium. Chuchel, Pilgrims and Creaks, Amanita Design’s last three games, are an ode to playful surrealism, to the magnification of style and visionary as the fulcrum of the experience and to the concept of subtraction as the cornerstone of game design. The review of Happy Game shows that the studio has taken a new step in the same direction.

Happy Game asks us what is happiness

A little boy falls asleep and ends up in a terrible nightmare. Will we be able to make him happy? This is the whole story of Happy Game, psychedelic and surreal horror adventure. In terms of game mechanics we are talking about a point and click adventure reduced to the bone, in which you can only move the character to the right or left, dragging it with the mouse, and in which objects are not stored in an inventory, but are manipulated directly on the screen.

At most you can have the child grab them to carry them from one part of an area to another, but that’s about it. The idea behind such a bare design is to focus the player’s attention on the audio visual experience, of which the puzzles should be an integral part and not a distraction. For this reason, despite the presence of more complicated situations, you progress through the adventure with a certain agility, managing to complete it in two hours or so. Not much? Honestly, it seemed to us the right duration for a title of this kind, which does not aim to colonize the life of the player, but offers him as a small revelation, taking the space it needs to manifest its themes and its ghosts.

Happy Game is full of monstrous toys

Happy Game is a game made of bodies that explode or are ripped apart, of monstrous toys that come alive to devour the protagonist, of ancestral creatures that echo childhood memories never processed, of grotesque landscapes that hide the unspeakable horrors hidden in the unconscious, of blood, escapes and screams. If, as Salomon Resnik writes in The Theatre of Dreams, “Telling a dream is a way of revealing oneself, of discovering oneself, of opening up to the other. To communicate, to establish an emotional contact with the other, with the world,” then the creatives of Amanita Design invite us to sink into the protagonist, putting him on stage in video game form to make us reach his innermost depths. We do not have to psychoanalyze it, mind you, because in fact we are on the scene only as its agents, allowing him to face his fears, in search of a happiness prevented by some real events, always represented in an ethereal way, as if they were shrouded in fog, which are then the engine of his troubled night. We discover, for example, that a bully has stolen his ball and that his favorite stuffed animal has ended up in a lake, two events that can be highly traumatic for a child.

Despite this, the relationship we establish with its world is essentially aesthetic. We advance it, of course, but along predetermined tracks on which we have no freedom to intervene. We have to think in order to solve the puzzles, but we have no possibility of going around or ignoring them. We are faced with what appears to be a pure fruition, in which we are asked only to interpret.

From the stylistic technical point of view Happy Game is the usual jewel of Amanita Design, able to take inspiration from multiple sources, reworking them, to offer an original aesthetic as peculiar, focusing on the smile and how this can decline into something terrifying in the space of a few moments. Even the audio follows the same concept, transforming as needed to emphasize the change of atmosphere of what happens on screen.

Comment

Happy Game is a little gem, yet another of Amanita Design, which deserves to be played regardless of whether or not you love the genre of point and click adventures. It is an experience in the purest sense of the word and as such should be understood and, in a sense, loved. Of course it has limitations from the point of view of play, but it knows it well and makes no secret of it, presenting itself for what it is, without ever pretending to be anything else. It lasts a short time, that is, the right, and does not leave indifferent, which is precisely what a title like this must be able to do.

PRO

  • Stylistically impeccable
  • Visionary
  • Another gem from Amanita Design
  • Has playful limitations that some may not appreciate
  • Have you noticed any errors?
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