Whispering Willows Review: The Life Beyond

May 27th, 2014 -

You wake up lost without your father and realize you’re stuck within collapsing catacombs. While escaping, you come across the ability to astral project yourself and speak with the souls of the beyond. You must now use this newfound ability to discover the whereabouts of your father. That’s the premise of Night Light Interactive’s new title Whispering Willows, though it’s Elena in the predicament, not you.

1

It’s difficult to say much about the game without ruining the story, which you can get strictly by playing it through, but you’ll be missing out on a lot if you do. There is a wealth of backstory provided via journal entries which you’ll come across while exploring, be it below ground, in the shrubs, or an in abandoned mansion. These journals provide you with the thoughts of other characters, different view points of past events, and insight as to why characters you meet are the way they are. These are strictly for your knowledge though – Elena just picks them up without reading them, as she wonders things that the pages clarify.

So aside from the gorgeous artwork (I always forget how awesome it looks), lets talk gameplay. The aforementioned descriptions could make it out to be a number of things, but it’s most definitely an adventure game. You’re not going to be slaying specters in this title, so don’t expect to be. You’re moving your character around picking up items, solving puzzles, flipping switches, and utilizing the astral projection bit to get to areas you wouldn’t be able to otherwise, as well as talking to the deceased to progress the story.

hands of the dead

The game does adventuring well, though when it comes down to it, Whispering Willows holds your hand a bit too much with the puzzles. Things of importance are highlighted in the text. For example, there is a puzzle that involves finding a character who was to meet another at a particular time. Instead of allowing you to take that as a hint, they spell out the exact location and say what time it needs to be in red, compared to the normal white text. This is nice for those that don’t like solving puzzles on their own, but that is part of the fun of adventure games. It’s why I love the old (and new) Tim Schafer and Ron Gilbert games.

The game is pitched as a horror title, though I was perfectly content playing it with one hand, relaxed on the couch. The parts that are meant to be scary hardly are, though they do keep you from the free exploration you were previously doing. It also makes for a nice change of scenery, but it’s hardly able to make you paranoid about hallways or labyrinths… well, unless you’re already scared of them. But don’t fret, you have plenty of time to think to yourself during certain portions of the game, as every transition through a doorway brings up a loading screen of promo art. In fact, I think I spent more time looking at the promo art during the labyrinth portion of the game than I did playing. Usually the loading isn’t an issue, as the areas are large enough that it may seem warranted, but a labyrinth is supposed to be seemingly large with lots of pathways. And that’s exactly what we have here – unfortunately, the loading is why it’s difficult to traverse, not the puzzle aspect of it. Also, there is no run button. You run at certain portions of the game, and it’s those moments that make me wish I could move faster elsewhere (running through loading would be especially nice).

Picking Flowers

Overall, Whispering Willows is an enjoyable journey, and a gorgeous one at that. It’s come a long way from its original game jam version, and has provided a richer story than I anticipated. Despite the puzzles being simple, it’s worth playing through. It’s available now on Ouya at a price point of $15, and will be available on Steam July 9th. The game was funded by Kickstarter, and was greenlit for Steam a few months ago around GDC.

BUY

Pros

  • Drool worthy art
  • Expansive narrative (optional)
  • Intuitive controls

Cons

  • Exhaustive loading
  • A bit too easy
  • No run button

No comments yet

Name (required)
Email(required)