I've only been in the Amazon for about eleven seconds and I've already got a rash. I spawned in the jungle, looked around, took two steps forward, brushed up against a bush, and wound up immediately covered with tiny spiders. As a result, my arm has broken out in an unpleasant rash, which oddly enough, makes me immensely happy. I've never had a rash in a game before! I love when a game gives me a completely new experience, even if it's an unpleasant one.
It also gives me a goal I've never had before (in a game, at least): cure my rash! That turns out to be extremely difficult, because hours later I've been killed a dozen times from falls, wounds, venom, arrows, disease, and dehydration, and I eventually get so frustrated I find myself squatting in the dirt and pummeling an innocent armadillo with my bare fists out of sheer frustration.
This is Green Hell, an Early Access first-person survival game that feels a lot like The Forest only it's set in the rain forests of the Amazon. The tutorial gives you the basics of crafting, health, and keeping your bearings, as well as explaining why you're lost in the Amazon with a high-tech watch but no matches or food. And a rash.
I like a lot of things about Green Hell immediately. You've got a cool wristwatch that acts as a compass and a status indicator, displaying your health and hydration. The crafting system is entirely sensible in that one stick + one rock = one stone axe. To make a spear you need a stick, a sharp rock, and a vine. Are you paying attention, other survival games that require more than one stick and more than one rock to make a stone axe? Green Hell has put you on notice.
I also like how you have to inspect your body to see what affliction(s) you've got by actually looking at your limbs and moving them around with the mouse. My spider rash, for example, shows up as inflamed bumps on my arm. Walk through a puddle and you might pick up a few leeches, which you can pluck off and drop with your mouse while staring down at your legs in horror. If a worm burrows under your skin while you sleep, and they will, you can—wait, I'm getting ahead of myself.
The first step in Green Hell, unfortunately, is not to cure my rash but to build a shelter. I say unfortunately because having a shelter is the only way you can save your game. I'm not a fan of games that don't just let you save whenever you want, and I'm especially not a fan of getting killed by a leopard while I'm trying to build a shelter so I can save my game, which is exactly what happens. I've crafted an axe, chopped down some trees, gathered some sticks, and I'm just putting on the finishing touches (placing a lot of palm leaves on top) when a leopard runs up and claws me to death.
This is a double setback, because not only do I have to start over from square one and rebuild my nearly-built shelter, but I also need to reacquire my rash so I can then cure my rash. I re-craft and re-gather and re-build, and finally manage to save my game, and then I go off blundering into the bushes hoping to wind up covered in spiders.
Somehow I can't re-contract my rash, though plenty of other horrible things happen. I'm attacked by a leopard again, and while I chase him away with a few blows of my axe, he's lacerated my calves and I can't craft a bandage quickly enough to stop bleeding. I die. While tromping around on my next life I'm bitten by a snake, poisoned, contract a fever, and die while trying to sleep it off. Well, technically, I sleep, wake up, stand up, and then die. While trying to jump a gap in a bridge, I plummet and fall to my demise. I run into some natives, they make quick work of me with a few arrows and melee weapons.
Green Hell, in other words, is pretty brutal, just as it should be given its setting. And mostly, it's the damn leopard. He always seems to find me within a minute of reloading a save, so I decide to start completely over. This guide to Green Hell gives compass coordinates to the safest area of the map, so I start a new game, spawn, and start running toward the safe(r) zone. How many times do I die along the way? I'd say about seven. Leopards. Snakes. Another fall off a log bridge. Natives. One time, I get so close I die within sight of the valley I'm heading for. And I can't save without building a shelter, so I have to start from scratch every damn time.
Finally, I make it. I build my shelter, save my game, and set out once more to get a rash. I don't get a rash, and I don't get killed by leopards, but I'm bitten by a snake. After trying to sleep off the fever, I'm parched, so foolishly I drink from the river, which gives me a worse fever. I've also got worms burrowing under my skin, which I removed with a needle I've crafted from the bones of a fish I killed with my spear (which was pretty cool, really), but I need a bandage for the sore, and while I'm out looking for the one damn kind of plant I can make a bandage from, I'm bitten by another snake. I'm so annoyed I kill it with my spear and devour it raw and get parasites. I'm a mess.
There are plenty of bright spots along the way. I learn to set out coconut shells near my camp to catch rain water for drinking. I can make a fire and cook meat. And the Amazon of Green Hell is quite lovely, especially in the valley. Bad things only ever happen when I stop looking at it and take a few steps in any direction.
I finally do contract my rash again! It's on my leg this time, because both of my arms already have wounds from worms that have burrowed into my skin and have been removed with fishbones. Happy and relieved to be back on track, I walk off to seek a cure for my long sought-after rash and I'm immediately bitten again by a snake. Dammit! Now I'm gonna die of snakes before I can cure the rash it took me two hours to find!
I hate the Amazon. I hate it. All I want is to get a rash and cure it, and all it wants is for me to get everything else and die. An armadillo skitters by and I pounce on him, pummeling furiously him with both fists until I'm completely out of stamina. Don't worry, the armadillo is fine. I'm the only wounded one, here, and I'll die of any number of ailments long before I've gotten rid of this beautiful, elusive rash.