Like many other countries, unfortunately, The UK is going through a homeless epidemic.
According to a recent study made in November of 2018, housing charity Shelter claimed that there were over 320,000 homeless people living on the streets of England, Wales, and Scotland combined,y. What are we doing about it, as a collective stack of countries? Next to bugger all, but let’s not get too political, lets talk about CHANGE: A Homeless Survival Experience instead.
This is the latest title from UK-based studio Delve Interactive: A homeless survival sim with vague rogue-like elements. Currently in a “90% finished” state in Early Access on Steam at time of writing, Delve’s previous title before this was a charming surprise to remember: Poncho, a cutesy Fez tribute with the same amount of cutesy-ness coming from its amazingly dense pixel art. A far cry from what CHANGE aspires to be, but in due time.
You play as an extension of yourself, recently made homeless and living on the streets of this randomly-generated city. The goal? Become “respectable” my societal standards and make it back to a home, which could never be easy. You’ll have to beg, seek shelter at the appropriate times, and study for what might be the next step in your life. Are you going to resign yourself to this unfair fate, or return to what you once were?
Before you even begin your experience as homeless, Delve are quick to inform you that encounters and narrative elements of CHANGE may be slightly exaggerated. Peoples reactions to you, what you’ll actually have to do in order to “win” the game, etc.– It’s all tonally increased slightly in order for better pacing and gameplay variety, but even then, there is some blisteringly accurate portrayals on display here.
You do have quite a lot of options once you begin. You’re not just a beggar, you’re an extremely versatile one, but this does come with setbacks. You can’t just focus on the cash you’re getting from passers-by, as that cash does need to go somewhere other than your pocket. You have hunger and thirst meters to look after, you still need to find some decent shelter, and at night? That’s when true natures are revealed.
Throughout your adventure in this amazingly dull-looking city, society turns much more ugly when the sun goes down. You’ll be given a glimpse to this in small little choose-your-own-adventure snippets, with other people simply trying to make ends meet, no matter what, and society is quick to be repulsed by them. You can choose to interact with some of these, in a gamble on your morale and supplies.
I wasn’t able to experience much of what CHANGE had to offer, but there was enough to make me feel like absolute crap for whatever choice I made. There’s a weird Telltale effect to every option, as these ambiguous choices lead to more ambiguous fates for everyone. I said to myself that I made the right decision, but there was a niggling feeling in the back of my mind that I didn’t.
CHANGE is a depressing game to think about, but then it also does make you think. Given experiences with many homeless people, I can honestly attest to some of the events portrayed here, and must say with a belated sigh that these kind of things that happen? They’re usually second nature, and a sign of defeat. That’s what makes you stay in CHANGE: The chance for a happy ending/return that most homeless people don’t get.
CHANGE may not look like a stunner from the bat, but it’s what goes on underneath the hood that makes it an engrossing experience. An engrossing experience that’s close to being the truly realized simulation that Delve are willing to tell. It’s unflinching, confronting, and quite bleak, but then, this is a story about homeless people, not unicorns.
These obviously cheery adventures of CHANGE: A Homeless Survival Experience will be available sometime this year, with the Early Access phase almost complete.
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