The Happy Hereafter is a casual strategy game where you run the afterlife—or rather the town in which people stay after passing on. Using the undead denizens of your land to build and harvest resources, you will discover progressively more complex aspects to expanding your ghoulish grove. There really isn’t a way to “win” the game, as the point is mostly to negotiate the needs of your followers and the economy of the afterlife. Much like other games of this variety, the point is for the player to entertain themselves through finding out how to advance the techtree and widen their options. Although often this means that gameplay will eventually cap out at whatever the ultimate level of building can go, these limited strategy games are still capable of being very fun, provided they put the time and effort into making the experience so good that you may even choose to start the game again from the beginning once you reach its maximum potential. Mirball Studio’s The Happy Hereafter’s track, however, does not inspire this.
The Happy Hereafter isn’t a bad game, but it lacks polish. The controls feel slippery and awkward, and maneuvering the map can become tedious. Also, the game’s formula quickly becomes repetitive. When harvesting food, certain nodes become exhausted for an amount of time so short that it doesn’t allow you to stop and think about where to harvest from next. Instead, you simply feel frustrated that you sent your worker halfway to another node just for the old one to respawn unceremoniously. The game attempts to spice things up with side missions and NPCs that unlock different aspects of society-building, such as technology and magic, that manage to feel rewarding even in their simplicity. However, they feel disconnected from the main gameplay, which consists mostly of directing your workers and building what you’re told to build.
Building is a bit of a let down, as the set up makes you feel like you can build all kinds of unique structures but it really only allows you to build them as needed and in pre-selected spots. Want to build a new residential building? Well, you can only build a few at first, and only in the boxes on the map designated for them. While this isn’t inherently bad, it certainly seems like a missed opportunity. It takes a game with no distinct end goal and locks it on a linear track to nowhere.
The graphics and design of the game are also lacking. Though the art is nice enough, certain aspects of the interface really clash with the dark, whimsical atmosphere The Happy Hereafter attempts to evoke. The font is so plain and often off-center, which is both underwhelming and lazy. Progress bars also use a boring font, displaying uninteresting numbers as the floating rectangle grows. Workers and residents not only share a greatly limited number of models, they very frequently come to town with the same randomly generated name. Eventually, trying to keep track of all the different Trevors just gets annoying.
On the upside, the game does intersperse comic-like cutscenes between two different stages of the game that are pleasant to look at and convey a sort of story that the rest of the game fails to get across.
Though available on PC, The Happy Hereafter really is a game that feels like it should be solely on mobile devices. The pared down mechanics and repetitive tasks suit perfectly a $1.99 + pay for perks model found in many cell phone strategy games. Though a fun diversion, this game gets old fast, yet you can easily find yourself playing for some time before realizing you are getting nothing out of it. With some tweaks and more attention to small details, The Happy Hereafter could be a much better game than it is. However, unless it happens to be on a ridiculously good sale, I would recommend giving this game a pass as-is. Ironically, The Happy Hereafter is a game with more heart than soul.