CHANGE: A Homeless Survival Experience is an early access game that came up on Steam back in May of 2020, developed by Delve Interactive who released PONCHO back in 2015. Change has you put into the shoes of a recently laid-off and homeless person, now facing the trials and tribulations of surviving out in the streets of their city. Following a similar premise to that of Hobo: Tough Life, but taking on a much more emotional and down to earth approach. Seeing 2 large patches, with a 3rd on the way, is Change worth a purchase?
You start the game off by selecting the type of homeless playthrough you’re going to have, from an Addict or Veteran to having a Mental Illness or being abandoned whilst young. The default and first introductory story are that of Poverty, just coming out from having a job and a home. Most of the stories have the same overarching goal of getting out of being homeless, though add in a unique malady to hold you back or to enrich the story as you go along.
The most common ending is to get up to $200 and have some form of residency, at which point you can go to the housing building to get your life back on track. Though that amount of money won’t come quick, as you will need to build up your Smarts to be able to hold down a job or be forced to beg for change and scavenge for scrap to sell.
A single run will take around 5 or so hours, depending on your experience with similar games as well as the mechanics of this particular game. Each time you win or lose a scenario, you will progress your games overall level, unlocking new stores in town like Bars to help with happiness or new tools to buy like shoes for faster movement. The more you play, the easier it gets, without becoming a cakewalk, giving you more options to reach that final goal.
Similar to other Early Access indie games on Steam that aim to simulate professions, Change is very simplistic when it comes to gameplay. The entire game is played with the arrow keys and mouse, clicking on objects to interact with them. You will mostly be picking up trash to sell, clicking on NPCs to beg for money, or entering into buildings and parks. At points you will have options to pick from, giving a good enough excuse for people to give you money, or to decide if you want to eat food found in garbage bins.
As you explore the city you will need to keep an eye on your status bars, hunger, happiness, and hygiene. Alongside your money and the time of day, you will need to make sure your character’s statuses don’t fall too low. Hunger will cause happiness to go down quicker, and hygiene will disallow you from using some facilities or even talk to people. Once your happiness is 0, you will reach a game over. You can find money in the trash, get it from begging, or buy it from shops, whereas happiness is harder to obtain, from random events or via your perks.
Interacting with the world will slowly build up your character, having him progress his ability at rummaging through garbage, talking with people, or even stealing items. At every level up to 10, you will be able to choose from 2 or 3 perks for a permanent buff, from an increase chance of good events occurring or new options being available during activities. Not all perks are created equal, however, as some particular ones can make rummaging in trash cans much better than begging or making jobs cut out a major portion of the game. If you find a good enough build, the difficulty of Change drops significantly.
The soundtrack of Change is amazingly fitting, with impactful piano work combined with background noises. It furthers its goal of being an emotional ride from start to end, even more so when it creates a sombre backdrop to the darker events that can occur at night. I couldn’t find any fault in the music of Change at all.
The difficulty within Change is wholly dependent on your knowledge of the game, its mechanics, as well as how to game the RNG aspects. Your first run will more than likely die out pretty quick, but by learning what works best, what items to prioritise, and finding a good plot of land with close by facilities, you can play Change without any danger of failure. The latest update news post for the game does note that rebalancing will come with the next major update, so hopefully, this will sort out some of the later ease of play.
Overall, CHANGE: A Homeless Survival Experience gets an 8/10. It is a promising simulator game that has made its way out of early access hell, if not for some slow progress being made on it. When compared to other games that get updates weekly, Change focuses more on larger updates within a longer development time. The atmosphere and emotional presence of the game is great, which also feels like it comes from a real place when the devs have stated they dealt with homelessness in the past and even donate some of their money towards homeless charities. Sitting at £12, Change is worth the small amount you have to spend on it, and hopefully, it will continue with its larger patches to expand upon it even more.
You can purchase this game on steam for £11.99 here if interested
CHANGE: A Homeless Survival Experience is Developed and Published by Delve Interactive
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