Hell Is Other People
HIGH The survival systems are fantastic.
LOW Whenever the story mode decides to tell a story.
WTF “Green Hell” as a title.
With an oversaturation of survival games available, new titles need something fresh to sell an audience. For better and for worse, Green Hell has some distinct hooks to offer in terms of setting and item management. Unfortunately, it also has serious issues when it comes to presentation.
At its heart Green Hell is a first-person survival game set in the Amazon jungle with two modes — survival and story. In both, the player will have to manage hunger, thirst, and tiredness, which can be done by scavenging and hunting for food, finding sources of clean water and building shelters.
To monitor these conditions, the player has a watch which doubles as a compass. A notepad is utilized as the player makes more discoveries and levels up their abilities. Finally, a backpack is provided to store building materials, tools, food, and other paraphernalia.
Green Hell does a great job alternating between challenge (for example, requiring the player to build a save point) and rewarding familiarity (properties of crafting and food types are consistent in every playthrough). This makes the evolution from ‘barely surviving’ to ‘hardened bow wielder capable of precise head shots’ feel earned.
I was impressed by the developers’ commitment to keeping everything as diegetic as possible, meaning there’s almost no content that is not rooted in the world itself, rather than in menus. If I got leeches, I had to look down at my body and pick them off. The notepad does not pause the action, forcing me to flick through pages to the correct entry. If I wanted to light a fire, I had to take my backpack off and go to the right pouch. All of this is mechanically clumsy, but helped root me in the environment with an impressive level of immersion free of menus.
The setting is also impressive — ranging from lush jungles to threatening marshlands, every area is beautifully rendered and brought to life with fantastic sound design. The first time night fell and the wildlife echoed through the trees was a memorable moment. Similarly, the crisp sound of rain falling through the canopy reminded me of rain-battered forests I’ve seen in real life.
Unfortunately, while the environment is great, the story mode brings baggage that weakens the experience with what I can only see as racist content.
Sharing clumsy parallels with the fictional films like Green Inferno and Cannibal Holocaust, Green Hell’s story mode casts the player as Jake Higgins, a man who makes contact with an indigenous tribe known as the Yabahuaca. The script indulges in all the worst tropes.
For example, he and his partner Mia describe the tribe as resorting to “barbaric” inoculation to describe the process the tribe uses to make themselves immune to a local poisonous frog, and they frequently discuss how easy it will be to ingratiate themselves with these “simple people.” It struck me as strange for two scientists (Mia is a linguist and Jake is an anthropologist) to be so dismissive and incurious about the people they are supposed to be engaged with.
There are multiple endings to Green Hell and the ‘bad’ ending has the tribesmen stand around Jake accusingly as he realizes that the disaster happening (not spoiled here) is all his fault — a common theme in typical ‘white savior’ storylines. The Yabahuaca are relegated to being the backdrop of this white man’s struggle, and little is done to humanize them. This use of the Yabahuaca as little more than props is bad enough, but the only in-game interactions the player can have with any indigenous people is in regards to a nameless tribe that the player can kill (and possibly eat), again failing to see their presence as anything more than ‘things to be dealt with’.
The handling of the tribes in Green Hell is a shame because it’s one of the most mechanically compelling and balanced survival titles I’ve touched in years — it’s well-realized experience that offers a sincere commitment to placing the player into a harsh environment. But given the script in story mode? Stick to survival mode instead.
Disclosures: This game is developed and published Creepy Jar. It is currently available on XBO, PS4, Switch and PC. This copy was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the XBX. Approximately 10 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. 15 hours were spent in multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated M and contains Blood, Language, Use of Drugs, Violence, and Users Interact. This game involves eating snails and larva, and killing harmless animals like the capybara. At points the player will have to treat graphic injuries ranging from rashes to deep lacerations. It is possible to kill people and then harvest them for food. There are also drugs in the form of drinking Ayahuasca, a powerful hallucinogen.
Colorblind Modes:There are no colorblind modes available.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: This game offers subtitles, which cannot be altered and/or resized. The game would be very difficult to play without sound as there are a plethora of audio cues for threats, prey, etc. that are not indicated visually, making it not accessible.
Remappable Controls: Certain functions are remappable. The X and Y axis can be inverted and there are 4 control scheme presets that can be used.
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