Green Hell is developer Creepy Jar’s take on a survival simulator, and an ultra-realistic take on that, far beyond most other simulators out there.
The premise is straightforward: You’re dropped into the middle of an unforgiving harsh Amazonian rainforest environment with nothing but your wits and some basic control tutorials at your disposal. How long you survive depends on your ability to scrounge the environment and make decisions based on the dynamic, usually life-threatening, situations you find yourself in. If you like survival simulator games, you’re in for a treat.
Yes, there is a storyline in this game, and in fact, has a surprising depth you wouldn’t expect from a survival game. At first glance, it might look straight-forward, but as you go through the game, you’re in for some chilling revelations. Hints of which are strewn around right from the beginning of the game if you’re observant enough.
The tutorial section comprises a good amount of the opening storyline as well, where you get to know your character and his motivations behind the visit. You’re Jake Higgins and have for some reasons you’ll find out later, arrived at a dense corner of the Amazonian Rainforest with your wife Mia to seek out a tribe known as the Yabuahaca.
Things don’t go as planned and you’re now stuck in the green hellscape, forced to survive or die.
The game features impressive environmental story-telling. Nothing is really spoon-fed, but the elements of the story are all placed for you to discover through exploration. There are text files, audio logs and internal monologues to name a few, with some interesting twists. To say any more would be spoiling the game’s well-made storyline and is best experienced first hand. Things may not seem as they are and you’re in for some surprises.
This game features in-depth management systems which take time to get used to. The “Hell” in the name is there for a reason and our bet is you’ll spend the first few hours dying, even on the “normal” difficulty.
This is because the game does not hold your hand. It gives you the tools and resources and throws you right into the middle of life-or-death unless you’re playing on the story-only mode, which is an option too. On our first hour on normal difficulty, we ended up dehydrated, poisoned by scorpions and snakes, infected by rashes and burns and lost sanity to end up seeing hallucinations which beat us to death.
Once you master the gameplay though, you can last for days without any hitches, but the learning curve is a steep one and requires some patience.
To start off, the game features ultra-realism throughout its systems. Inventory is managed through a physical back-pack you can open at any time. There are sections for food, resources, tools and miscellaneous items, each featuring draggable items so you can make space if needed, just like real-life.
The protagonist carries a notebook with him, which allows you to keep track of a variety of important information ranging from story elements to flora, fauna and crafting guides. When you start off, it is mostly empty and every time you interact or gather a new type of resource, entries related to it in the form of information and craftables are documented in the notebook.
For example, simply picking up a rock for the first time will unlock recipes for various craftables related to rocks, from weapons such as stone spears to full-fledged building elements such as stone walls. You can also slap together any resources you’ve gathered to see if you can craft something from them through mere experimentation, which sometimes works.
Most items in this game can also be consumed. When you first find an unknown element, say a weird looking mushroom, the notebook will only detail what is currently known about it. If you choose to consume it raw, the effects are also documented for future references, that is if you don’t die because you just ate a poisonous mushroom causing you to fall sick. You can also consume random leaves and pretty much anything.
This brings us to an important nutrient system. The game features four core nutrients you need to keep balanced out: Proteins, fats, carbohydrates and hydration. Each piece of consumable will have a related amount of nutrient levels, which are mostly realistically placed. Meats will have more proteins and fats, whereas a banana will have mostly carbohydrates. Cooking items can also change the properties of these foods, sometimes making them edible in the first place.
Each nutrient level can be tracked on the smart-watch the protagonist wears, an essential piece of equipment which also shows you the time and date as well as a compass and current location, each on a separate screen you can scroll between./ If you’re running low on certain nutrients, the watch will measure your status and show you what you’re lacking.
The time is also important as certain events dynamically occur based on time. You’ll run into more snakes at night, while also losing sanity in the darkness, to counter which you might want to have a fire ready and going.
The game also features no objective markers, which means if you build your shelter and stray far from it, you will practically be lost in the wilderness if you don’t remember your way back. The compass and location tracker in your watch will help, but will not point to your base. That is up to the player to remember. You do get a map once you complete some story elements, but the risk of getting lost is still high.
Your character has a few other important meters to keep track of, which includes a unique “sanity” meter as well, apart from the usual health and stamina/energy indicators. Each player action can have an effect on the sanity, from having an uncomfortable sleep to being near fire, or having tasty foods instead of sickening ones, or simply being injured and not being able to treat it adequately. Once your sanity starts lowering, you’ll start hearing and seeing things, hallucinations which can really throw you off. Losing sanity can result in death as your player can imagine imaginary creatures which can hurt your actual health.
The health meter indicates how healthy your player currently is. Having insufficient nutrition or physical ailments such as fevers or bites can slowly lower your health. Once your health falls into the dangerous territory, your character will start feeling dizzy and an audible heartbeat can be heard. Staying too long in this state can result in death.
The other meter indicates your energy and stamina levels. The energy level dictates the maximum stamina you can have, and the stamina meter itself dynamically changes based on the actions you are performing, such as running or cutting down trees. Having a higher energy level equals having access to more stamina, and is hence important to replenish through sleep and other methods.
The game also features a unique “body inspection” mode. This allows you to observe each limb on your body for signs of any problems. For example, you could have leeches on your legs which you need to physically find and remove. Or you could have a rash on your arm which you need to analyse and apply the appropriate treatment to. Any time a potential injury is there, an indicator shows up next to the health meter recommending you to look at your body parts. This adds a fun level of realism as you could go days without noticing an injury which could lead to infection or sickness. The game will not tell you about the injury directly. The cure will also be something you need to make yourself, using the various resources at your disposal.
Crafting is a huge part of the game as well and is pretty intricate. Almost every item you pick up can be used in crafting. The crafted items themselves can be used in further crafting as well. You can also “harvest” certain items to get further crafting options. For example, you can find coconuts on trees, which you can knock down by throwing any object. You can then break it open to obtain the coconut fruit inside. You can then drink the water inside and use the whole shell for crafting. Or, you could further eat the inner fruit and use the opened shell for crafting other components. Or you could just harvest the fruit and shell separately and use them for crafting for cooking. The possibilities are many and it adds to this intricate system of crafting.
Most recipes will be written down in your notebook, similar to Minecraft. Dragging items together will show potential items you can make. You can spend hours dragging different items just to see if you can make something out of it. You can make weapons, traps, building components, fire-tools, food items, mud-tools and more. Stumbling upon new creations will add them to your notebook for easier crafting later on.
You also have the option to sleep at any time and any place, though as common sense would have it, sleeping in weird places can leave you with bites or worms or fever due to rains. Making shelters is the way to go.
There is also a walkie talkie which can be accessed at any time but is only useful in certain story circumstances as there is nobody out there to respond to you in usual circumstances.
The game features realistic injuries and status effects. Being bitten by a scorpion will induce venom poisoning and a potential fever, along with a sore wound which can get infected. Repeated bites will increase the venom levels to a fatal level. Or on the other hand, a single bite from a highly venomous snake can kill you much faster. Each injury can be treated in multiple ways, but the challenge is in having to find out the treatments and physically craft and apply them before you die. Unless you already have some crafted treatments in your backpack. Even a simple burn can turn into a serious infection if you are “dirty”. Yes, your character can get dirty and if you don’t wash often, chances of wound infections increase. You can even get parasites by eating food with dirty hands. Remember what they say, folks, always wash your hands!
The game also features an inbuilt skill level, where performing certain actions will increase your skills at it, such as cooking or throwing weapons. There are no skill trees, but these upgrades in skill translate to better handling of the tasks in general.
You can also choose to play the game in a survival-only mode which will remove the story elements. You can add challenges and individually change each difficulty level to customise your playthrough. For example, you can turn off leeches or snake-bites if you wish, or make your nutrients deplete much faster. This makes for a fun sandbox experience, which brings us to the next section.
One of the best additions to the game has been the co-op mode, where you and up to three other friends can try surviving in the wild together. The latest update even adds the much asked for story mode update, which means you can now playthrough the entire campaign in co-op mode.
In the co-op mode, all the elements are as discussed before, except with the added support/betrayal of your friends or co-op partners. They can help examine your body parts and for example, remove leeches from your body, or help build shelters. Or they could eat up all the food you had stored in that box and throw you into a fire. Regardless, the experience is seamless and mostly bug-free.
Since there are no objective markers, you also need to keep track of each other through the location markers on your watch. In our playthrough, we decided to go different ways for resource gathering but ended up having to rely on the compass to regroup as we all got lost, shouting out the coordinates over Discord. A true test of jungle survival.
You can choose to have revival on as well, allowing your team-mate to get you up if you fall unconscious. If you die though, you’ll have to respawn, unless you have chosen the perma-death setting which is an option if you’re looking for a hardcore experience. Sanity will also affect you individually, so you could end up seeing deadly hallucinations while your friend wonders what’s wrong with you jumping at nothingness.
The environments are gorgeous, with the Amazon rainforest represented in its full glory. At the highest render distances and texture settings, the forest feels very dense and lifelike. You will genuinely be worried about stepping into swathes of tall grass or plants as you’re not sure if that’s a snake you just saw in there.
Most items can be interacted with, either directly through a white outline which shows up allowing you to pick up or harvest or eat them, or indirectly where you first need to break it down with a tool. For example, a banana will show up as directly interactable, but to get the leaves, you need to chop them down with a tool first, or the whole tree if you want to.
The game also features a day-night cycle with nights being illuminated in a gentle moonlight, making it dangerous to go into the darker forest areas. Rains are constant as-is for an Amazon forest and add puddles and wetness to the environmental entities.
The voiceovers for the characters are well done and the environmental sounds are spot-on. You can hear birds or snakes actually present in the environment, and use the sounds to locate them and hunt them. Hallucinations also genuinely trick you into thinking someone is behind you or that there are creatures around with the sound design.
As mentioned before, the survival-only mode with customisable difficulty and gameplay options and challenges, especially with friends in co-op, offers great replayability.
You could start a game with extreme sanity loss and challenge yourself to find food within a certain timelimit for example.
Since the game has been out for a while now and is constantly in development with the recent co-op story mode being released, most of the bugs initially seen have been squashed. In our playthrough, there were pretty much no bugs or glitches to be seen.
Performance is also good with 60 fps being possible constantly with the right settings.
This is not a game for everyone. If you are someone looking for a relaxing time, this will test your patience as it holds back no punches. But if you are looking for the ultimate survival experience and want to feel like Bear Grylls, this is a great recommendation and possibly one of the best titles out there, especially coming from an indie developer. Hang in there and the patience is rewarded with fun gameplay with ultra-realistic survival elements.