A trailer for Hidetaka “SWERY” Suehiro’s upcoming game The Good Life released today. The strange game involving a town full of inhabitants who turn into cats at night is just another story by a developer well known for quirky concepts.
Excitement surrounding The Good Life isn’t just tied to its intriguing core concept; it comes from SWERY himself. Working as a writer on Playstation 2 cult games Extermination and Spy Fiction, SWERY developed a knack for adding interesting mechanical twists to popular genres. Players could get infected by zombies in Extermination, and Spy Fiction implemented a clumsy yet robust disguise system. These mechanics came side by side with scripts that embraced the absurdity of B-movie awkwardness with broad villains and bombastic climaxes.
The game that truly brought SWERY into focus was 2010’s Deadly Premonition, the story of FBI Agent Francis York Morgan’s investigation into a series of murders in a rural town in Washington. Drawing key inspiration from television classics like Twin Peaks and The X-Files, Deadly Premonition was less of a crime procedural and more of a surreal drug trip of shadowy axe murderers, alternate dimensions, and turkey sandwiches covered in cereal and jam. While the hunt for the town’s serial killer was compelling and twisted, it was the smaller affectations that sold the affair. The town of Greenvale was densely populated with characters who went about daily routines and offered bizarre side-quests from cooking lessons to fishing for legendary trout.
SWERY’s games have hardly ever been enjoyable to play on an experiential level. Deadly Premonition’s driving and gunplay was prohibitively stiff, while Spy Fiction’s stealth devolved far too easily into chaos. But SWERY’s ability to filter rustic Americana through a distinctly Eastern gaze made them charming. Deadly Premonition sees Greenvale as an escape from the tumult of modern life in spite of its darker secrets. In 2014’s D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die, SWERY paints a broad and boisterous picture of Boston. Characters spend untold amounts of time debating the merits of clam chowder, and in-game books chronicle hockey matches with the seriousness of war reporting. SWERY’s America holds dark secrets, but it is also surprisingly quaint.
SWERY also excels at magical or absurdist affectations. These are the decisions that often drive players to paint him as a “strange” developer. Deadly Premonition is packed with terrifying ghosts, while Francis York Morgan engages in extended conversations with his imaginary friend Zach about movie trivia. D4 contains time travel and a woman dressed in a leotard who believes she is a cat. None of this is presented as unusual or odd; the world simple holds these facets side by side with a good slice of pizza or picturesque lakeside hotel.
The Good Life is the natural continuation of SWERY’s continued efforts to combine the comfortable with the magical. It proposes a tale of murder and suspicion filtered through his unique lens. The Good Life’s quiet British town holds the same wonders as Deadly Premonition’s Greenvale. If his previous games are any indication, the cats might be the least strange thing about it.