Green Hell is a solid survival experience, so says Miles. The Finger Guns Review;
Survival games are a demanding bunch. Requiring time, effort, muscle memory and persistence to really crack their off putting and demanding exterior. Green Hell is no different. It demands not only your attention but your focus and willingness to push through its initial adversity. I came close to giving up with it altogether on a couple of occasions. But boy am I glad I stuck with it.
Green Hell is a rapturous surprise package with an engaging, fleshed out and deep story mode, coupled with complex, detailed mechanics and an incredible sense of immersion. While it certainly has its issues with an obtuse and ball-busting opening gateway and some janky presentation due to its budget, it nonetheless proves itself a nut worth cracking. If you’re a fan of hardcore survival games, you’re in for an absolute treat.
Waking up stranded in the Amazonian wilderness, your protagonist, Jake Higgins, must adapt to his new jungle surroundings while avoiding the numerous dangers lurking in every direction. The story itself opens pretty remedially, with some apparently stilted and awkward dialogue between Jake and his wife, Mia, seemingly setting up a by-the-numbers story with little significant stakes. Don’t be deceived however, as I was. Green Hell’s story picks up rapidly in the second half, as you start to unravel the mystery of what’s gone on in this unwelcoming forest.
No spoilers here, but the use of ayahuasca, a real life hallucinogenic blend, to slowly drip-feed more information and understanding about the events of your exploration is very well crafted. Further in, the game tackles some pretty deep and dark territory and themes. The nature of civilisations encroachment on the tribes of the Amazon is particularly at the forefront, but it also mixes in other narrative threads about the role of pharmaceuticals, sickness, death and the relentless pursuit of progress for the benefit of those around us. It questions at what cost all of this may come at, and whether unforeseen consequences are worth the risk.
Intriguingly, the more attention you give to Green Hell’s early contextual notes and exposition, the more you’re likely to connect to its second half reveals. It’s a shame I can’t explain more about this without ruining the overall impact of its story. But I can tell you it left me feeling genuinely affected come the credits roll, and that was something I had absolutely no expectation for coming into playing this. It has a great narrative, basically, and you should without doubt play its story mode with an open mind.
As mentioned before though, actually getting to the point of appreciating the narrative is a colossal effort. Green Hell makes no apologies for dropping you in the middle of the proverbial shit-show. A quickfire tutorial will teach you the basics of building a fire, mending a wound and interacting with the world. However, this barely, BARELY, scratches the surface of the depths of the game’s many mechanics, moving parts and intricacies. Funnily enough, I actually forgot that crafting a fire, and general crafting, were two separate mechanics on my first attempt at the campaign, meaning I was flogging sticks onto the general crafting menu wondering why I was soaking wet, freezing to death and suffering starvation despite having plenty of snails to cook.
The introduction is brutal. You start with no tools, items, food, clean water or even the means to save your game. You have to fend for yourself in an environment which perfectly encapsulates the sense of isolation, fear and hopelessness that one stranded in a massive jungle without a squat of anything would feel. My first 4-5 attempts at starting the story mode ended with me being offed by poison (bastard snakes), fever, parasites and a rogue tribesman. It was pretty disheartening, and I quickly found myself questioning whether it was worth bothering to continue.
But persevere I did, and on the next run I decided to stop trying to play Green Hell by my rules, and start paying attention to its rules. The dynamic flipped completely. Using the notepad (your handy go-to guide for everything from crafting recipes, to objective tracking and everything in between), I fashioned myself a makeshift camp complete with a hut (which allows saving), a campfire (after I realised my earlier error) and a couple of tools.
You’re expected to gather all of your own resources to craft tools. So, cutting down trees, hacking away at plants, finding food sources and the means to have clean drinking water are all essentials. The game doesn’t give you any guidance, you have to figure this out yourself using your notepad and simply playing logically as if you were actually stranded. Once I got over the initial hump, I realised just how immersive and effective this direction was for Green Hell.
The jungle itself is full of creatures, wildlife, flora and fauna. All of which have different purposes and uses. I was amazed at just how intricate these systems appeared to keep being. Want to get clean water? Use a rock to knock down a coconut from a tree, smack it in half with an axe, eat the insides and use the shells to collect rainwater. Think two items should go together to form a new tool? Throw them together on the crafting menu and see what happens. I can’t tell you just how excited I was when I realised the solution to all my clean water needs could be solved by simply eating coconuts.
As you discover more animals, flowers, locations and objects of interest in the wilderness, the more recipes are added to your notebook and the more options become available. Eventually, you can build camps with huts, fences, more durable fire pits, drying racks, water distillers, animals traps and so much more. The options are extensive and in some ways overwhelming. In the story mode, not all of this is completely necessary, and you can largely get by without crafting the majority of things available. In survival mode however, you’re free to keep building and expanding to your heart’s content. With such a wealth of options at your disposal, you’ll be free to keep crafting for hours on end, if you wish.
Crafting, cooking, item management and tending ailments are all done in real-time. So there’s no respite to fix yourself up if you’re currently being assailed by bees, scorpions or even a jaguar. You’ll need to be constantly aware of any ailments like the aforementioned obvious ones like fevers, parasites (don’t drink dirty water kids!), leeches and rashes. But you’ll also need to be aware of what you’re consuming and what you’re interacting with. The wrong types of mushrooms or fruits may give you food poisoning, draining your health and stamina. Consuming raw food will understandably mess you up and getting nailed with venom from a snake, scorpion or toad is effectively a death sentence without medicinal herbs to hand. Healing is handled via an in-game menu option, where you scan each limb on your body and then apply the appropriate herb or bandage.
Speaking of the menu system. It’s clunky as… (Green) Hell. It was pretty clear this game was designed with the PC’s various options in mind rather than the more limited controller. Having said that, Green Hell somehow makes it work despite just how much it has to squeeze in. Crafting and sorting inventory can also be cumbersome and frustrating as it just feels fiddly and awkward, especially if you’re in a pinch and need to get something done rapidly. Turns out alligators don’t wait around for me to build my spear to kill it with, who knew?
There are 4 main sustenance-sustaining meters to be aware of at all times, tracked via your handy watch, which also holds your compass and time of day. You’ll need to balance getting enough proteins, carbs, hydration and fats in order to stay in top condition, which means you’ll be needing a balanced diet.
Additionally, sleep and sanity are imperative to keeping you functioning effectively. If your sanity drops low enough, you’ll start hearing voices, your vision will be impaired and you may even start to see phantom threats. It’s genuinely disconcerting and hearing shouting in the dead of night in the middle of the jungle is as terrifying as it sounds. The gimmick of this did wear off somewhat though, as after a few minutes the sensory distortions repeat, losing their luster as fear-inducing events. Still, pretty haunting at first and will absolutely cause a few scares for the faint of heart!
It’s hard to say I had fun in Green Hell, in the same sense it’s hard to say that smacking a wall with your head is an effective way of going to sleep. I certainly found myself getting into a rhythm of collecting, crafting, hunting, building and surviving. At one point I lost a couple of hours building out a perfect camp with everything I would possibly need. Green Hell has other ideas though, as in the story mode it constantly introduces new threats. It never quite allows you to settle, asking you to leave behind the safety of the camps you’ve founded, to enter a new patch you don’t know, forcing you to start all over again. It may not be nice, but it maintains that sense of isolation and consistent discomfort throughout by its willingness to force you out of your comfort zone.
Incredibly, Creepy Jar have managed to create a game world where absolutely everything is out to kill you, and yet you still feel compelled to keep exploring for what else there could be you haven’t discovered yet (that will probably also kill you). There’s a multitude of difficulty offerings, which ramp up from little-to-no challenge to “oh my Christ what masochistic psycho would want to play this?!”. Kudos too, for including a custom option where you can mix up the difficulty features and tune your experience to your liking. Don’t want to worry about food or water? Turn it off. Hate those pesky snakes nipping at your heels? Be gone of them.
While the story mode was the highlight for me. Those looking for longer-term replayability will find it in the survival mode and in the challenges, which provide you a set objective and a time limit to accomplish it in. Given the scope of the game’s mechanics and its world, I imagine hardcore survival fans will have more than plenty to sink their teeth into for dozens of hours. There’s an online multiplayer mode too, though I must admit this part didn’t interest me at all so I haven’t explored much about it myself.
Green Hell is certainly rough around the edges in areas too. Some animations like cutting down trees can look hilariously – pardon the pun – wooden. Texture pop-in is rampant and you’ll notice shrubs, trees and other greenery magically appear before your eyes barely a few meters ahead of you. Despite this though, it never really pulled me out of the immersion of this immaculately crafted Amazionian recreation. It always felt like I was knee-deep in the mire, struggling to stay alive and fighting for every small victory. The minor technical and graphical limitations never really bothered my experience, but they are there. Of note are a couple of lavish open areas later on, which really do capture a sense of open exploration in a vast space.
In total, I’m not completely sure how I feel about Green Hell. It completely broke me down, forced me to adapt my playstyle and quite happily tore me apart, seemingly for its own amusement. But coming out of it now, I think this is exactly what’s intended. This isn’t a game you can go into akin to any other and it will demand much more from you if you want to succeed and get the most from it. In some ways, I really respect that despite it not being totally for me, it’s an incredibly designed survival game that sticks to its vision admirably and without apology.
If you love survival sims, Green Hell is going to give you plenty of unbelievably deep mechanics and options to play around with to make the Amazon your own. For others less experienced or new to the genre, just be aware that Green Hell will make you abide by its rules. Go in with an open mind and willingness to learn however, you’ll be massively rewarded.
Green Hell is a surprisingly great game which has exceptional depth in its mechanics, an immaculately detailed and immersive world to explore (and die in), with a story that has absolutely no right to be as fantastic and deep as it is. With a wealth of options in modes and difficulty settings, wannabe survivalists will be hard pressed to find a deeper, more rewarding experience. Despite some minor technical flaws and a punishing opening, Green Hell is a game fully deserving of your time and investment.
Green Hell is available now on PS4 (reviewed on PS5), Xbox One, Switch and PC.
Developer: Creepy Jar
Publisher: Creepy Jar
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