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Change: A Homeless Survival Experience Review

Change: A Homeless Survival Experience
Delve Interactive

Homelessness is something that is prevalent in most major cities throughout the world and is also present in some smaller ones as well. While most people tend to ignore the issue of homelessness (especially the politicians), some will sign up to volunteer, while other nice folks will stop to hand over whatever change they have in their pockets.

The latter is what new indie game, Change: A Homeless Survival Experience, is geared toward. Bereft of any politicking or larger issues associated with this homelessness, it distills everything down to the street level. Its pixilated graphics lend a gritty, atmospheric lens to the proceedings.

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You’ll play as a homeless person who has ended up on the streets in some nameless city within the United Kingdom. It’s a 2D side-scroller, where you walk back and forth along a seemingly endless avenue, looking to survive however best you can.

The two primary ways in which you can make money is from begging for change from strangers that pass you by on the streets, or collecting “scrap” and turning it over to any of the recycling centers that dot the urban landscapes. Neither of these methods amounts to much. On top of that, when you beg for change, people react realistically—they peck at you with some sort of condescending comments, outright berate you, or question your motives. A few, however, will feel a little pity for you and hand over some change.

While you saunter down the avenues, you’ll periodically cross paths with cops. If they catch you begging, they’ll warn you not to beg at first. If you get caught too many times, you’ll get thrown in the clink for the night or wind up being relocated to a different part of town (which can spoil any progress you’ve made in the area).

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There are many different types of buildings that you’ll come across; everything from bars and cafes, to libraries and banks. Each of these serves a particular purpose. For instance, if you’ve saved up enough dough, you might decide to enter a bar, and, after putting up with a few rude remarks from the suspicious bartender, drink the day away. While this may raise your happiness value, by the time you leave the bar (or are thrown out), you’ll be in a drunken stupor and won’t fare that well with the public at large.

Although Change: A Homeless Survival Experience is a brutally challenging, rogue-like game, there is some light at the end of the digital tunnel. If you save up enough money to get a stable place of residence, open a bank account, and purchase some nice clothes, you’ll get a shot at the holy grail of the experience: the glorious job interview. If you can clinch a J-O-B, you can rent an apartment and…you’ve won the game. Sounds easy, right? It isn’t.

In Change: A Homeless Survival Experience, your hunger, thirst, and cleanliness bars are constantly depleting. Your happiness bar is also affected by random things that the game throws at you.

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For instance, I had a character who had worked his way up to having a regularly assigned bed at the local homeless shelter. He’d also earned himself a library card and was reading some books on how to present himself properly for interviews. After washing off in a bathroom down the street from the library, he tried to make it back to the shelter before closing time (they won’t let you in after a certain time), but it was too late—he was forced to sleep on the streets. During the night, he was robbed of all of his money (which he was planning on opening a bank account with). From there, things quickly spiraled downward.

As a game, Change: A Homeless Survival Experience, can be a rather bleak affair. But there’s something about the way it flows—the randomness, the procedural environs, the daily grind to survive and hopefully thrive—that hooked me. It’s also an educational experience that will definitely have some people thinking about the various issues that homeless people face, instead of simply playing it as a game.

Danny Hayes of Delve Interactive never wanted to cash in on the issue of homelessness, he wanted to help educate folks about it. Indeed, at the character select screen, you have the option of choosing from various backgrounds. You can play as an Addict, Poverty, Mental Illness, Abandoned, and Veteran.

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Mr. Hayes and his team spent a lot of time speaking to actual homeless people to gain insight from them and listen to their stories, and it shows—Change: A Homeless Survival Experience is a gritty, hand-crafted, labor of love that transcends its simple, pixilated aesthetic. It asks questions of the player which will hopefully be pondered at some point during playthroughs. I know I did.

Hayes also intends to donate 20% of the game’s profits to Crisis, a homeless charity. Now that’s something I can get behind.

SCORE: 86%

Change: A Homeless Survival Experience has some pretty good looking graphics that make its survival gameplay truly shine. However, you want to have a pretty beefy gaming PC or gaming laptop in order to play it at a decent framerate. So, you may just want to invest in a decent gaming rig:

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