Green Hell is an open-world survival game by Creepy Jar, originally released on Steam in September 2019. The game has been steadily updated since then, with a decent number of changes made due to player feedback. Set in the Amazon rainforest – the green hell, players must search for resources and learn their properties to survive in this brutally realistic survival game. There’s a story mode which can be played singleplayer or co-op with one mate, and several customisable survival modes that can be played with a couple of mates. This review will focus on the story mode and despite the initial difficulty, it’s well worth persisting and learning to survive. At the end of January 2021, Creepy Jar released the Spirits of Amazonia Part 1 update that adds a prequel story to the game, so is recommend for players who have already completed the base game.
The story is introduced through the game’s tutorial which teaches you basic survival techniques and to care for your body, nourishment and your sanity. You are Jake Higgins, out in the Amazon with your wife Mia. Mia is on a quest to make contact with a local tribe and to learn their way of life. Communicating via radio link, all is going ok but then something happens when Mia calls frantically in the middle of the night. Jake starts running through the moonlit jungle but then falls and passes out. The game flashes forward to 33 days later, when you wake up in the middle of nowhere with no memory of what happened. You have no food, water, shelter and no map at all, so must search and survive using anything you find.
Almost everything in this Amazon rainforest can kill you; a bit like living in Australia really. My first death was to food poisoning, which would also be my most common death. When you find new food items like mushrooms, nuts, bananas, larvae, and many other things, you do not know their properties until you either try eating them or use them in crafting. Most mushrooms are good to eat, except ones that look strange, like with spider webs on them. The spider web should have been a warning, but I tried it anyway. You do not instantly die from food poisoning, rather you vomit a lot, lose health and sanity.
I thought I would try sleep it off as the negative effects have timers for how long they remain on you. That was Green Hell lesson number 2 – sleeping on the dirty floor means you get dirty and bugs crawl on you. That was death method number 2. I learnt that if you eventually learn the recipe for raised beds, these are a game changer. But it took a few deaths to learn that. Then there are leeches. The game features an inspect interface where you can inspect your four major limbs for injuries, bites, rashes etc. However, it took me a while to learn all the bandage types and how to fix the ailments. You are taught how to bandage cuts in the tutorial but the rest you need to learn yourself.
If you die, the game starts over from your from your last save point. For my first hours in the game, it was like playing Groundhog Day in the Amazon because I had not yet crafted a small hut which is the save point in the game. I did come across an abandoned hut which I made into my central base, and there was a hammock so I thought sleeping in that would save the game – nope. I eventually build a small hut using long sticks, fern leaves, sticks and rope. I proceeded to die to a rattlesnake bite, then food poisoning again, leeches on my legs turned into infected wounds. One time I was doing well, I found a cave and inside was iron ore. I heard this scratching sound and walked around to try find the source. Bite – it was a bloody scorpion and I still had not worked out how to make anti-venom bandages, so later died from the wound.
I was getting frustrated in dying so many times trying to learn where all the various resources are, and particularly what they look like. The in-game notepad becomes your gospel as it shows you all the things you’ve learned to craft as you find new resources. It is a good system as once you pick up say a stone, it will teach you all recipes that use a stone. As opposed to other survival games that only show you recipes as you combine different types of resources together. Having played games like that in the past, I found this method to be easier but still challenging to actually find the ingredients in the thick jungle.
I really liked the lighting effects and graphics of Green Hell. It is amazing to see the sun shining through the thick canopy of trees, though the reflections could be dialed down just a touch. When it is dusk or dawn, the reflections off leaves and logs looked like possible new items I could discover, but it was just the light reflecting in the distance. The denseness of the jungle is well represented, and it was easy to get lost. Thankfully your in-game wrist watch has a compass, but not only that, it has a nutrition meter which you need to pay careful attention to.
Finding fresh water was another cause of death for me. Drinking just any water will end up making you vomit and giving you dysentery – not pretty! I came across an abandoned camp that had been used to make drugs. In here was a water catcher which then added the blueprint to the notepad, so I made a note to build one of those back at my main campsite. I also came across fallen coconuts which you can cut open for water, eat the inner flesh and then use the empty coconut shell to catch the rainwater. However, after running around for 45 minutes exploring and finding new points of interest on my map, I ran into a beehive, copped a nasty rash and then forgot about some leeches which turned into worms on my leg.
I knew that using bone needles can cure the worms, but I hadn’t seen any bones since the initial one that I turned into a bone dagger. Secondly, you lose sanity when you’re sick, malnourished, injured and even when it’s dark. I was already low on sanity from fixing several ailments since the last save game, but after the last 45 minutes, I thought I’d better make my way back to camp so I can save the game, saving everything I’d learned this play session. I’d done heaps of exploring and uncovered about half a dozen points of interest on the map.
I got back to camp and was just about to activate the save point when a leopard leapt out of the bushes, through the fire and proceeded to gnaw me to death. I had a rusty axe but I had no stamina so couldn’t swing at it and the leopard made short work of me. Having died and not been able to activate the save point, it meant I had lost the last hour of gameplay. It was frustrating but it was another survival lesson learned in that if I’m going exploring far beyond my base camp, I should build little outpost huts so I can place save points there. I liked that each death, as annoying as they were sometimes, was a learning experience for the next run.
I stuck to playing Green Hell’s story mode and am yet to complete it, but I like how points of interest you find give you more conversation options to your wife over the radio, driving you to keep searching for answers. Some places you discover require items or things to be fixed to enable their true potential. There’s an overhang that requires a grappling hook to climb up, a generator that operates an elevator but requires fuel, and other such places. These gave you little side things to learn and discover, something different to just surviving.
There are other survival modes in the game for the hardcore survival game fans and you can customise the experience depending on how difficult and real you want to make the simulation. Also released at the end of January 2021 was the Spirits of Amazonia Part 1 update. This gives you story content set before the main campaign’s story which adds a new map area, new tribes to discover and new construction items and resources. Console version of the game are being worked on with planned release schedule of Winter/Spring (US), and later this year will see parts 2 and 3 of Spirits of Amazonia. While initially turned off at how hard this game can be, it’s quickly becoming my favoured survival sandbox game as I learn to survive better and get more confident at exploring the Amazon’s secrets.
Overall, Green Hell is one of the more difficult survival games I’ve played, but I enjoyed the learning experience with each death and the story mode is fantastic. It did get frustrating being so realistic with the sheer number of ways you can injure yourself or get violently ill. It was a bit like playing through Groundhog Day whilst learning the gameplay loop and learning crafting recipes, but it’s worth persisting and building regular save points to allow you to explore more and open up more of the story. There’s plenty of content coming to Green Hell in 2021 so I highly recommend this for survival game fans.
This review utilised a key provided by the developers and concentrated on the story mode. Green Hell is available now on Steam.