Beta Test #8: Whispering Willows

Beta Test

Whispering Willows

 

Rent. The hit musical about AIDS, capitalism, and the American way. The movie that warns you about power and what it can be like to be at either end of the spectrum. The humility of falling down, down, down. The one thing that makes you think about never EVER going into the corporate world. Well… I’m officially in the twilight zone and can I say it’s nothing like the power of retail. Yes, this month I jump over the moon in the pursuit of a new job in reception that has me quaking in my $12 Kmart flats, if not for the feeling of being a total fake that will be found out at any moment, than the dangling terror of waking up at 6am on a Wednesday.

I’ve been pushed over the cliff by a suicidal Mickey Mouse, and I’m what I own.

Thank god I’ve got video games.

Hello my Creepy Crypts! I’m a Bethany Griffiths, and this is Beta Test. A game review platform where I—a Workaholic, self confessed noob—choose one game a month to go ham on until either I get better or get wrecked. All in the hopes that I can provide you with a completely unbiased review.

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Developed by Night Light Interactive, and Published by Akupara Games, Whispering Willows is a puzzle mystery game, that showcases a variety of chase and timing scenes. Set in a haunted mansion, as all the best things usually are, we play as Elena, the daughter of a man who had close ties to the mansion and its surroundings. Starting in the crypt, the game is set into the horror mode quickly as we explore old tombs and find things that aren’t quite all there in life, or in death.

First I’ll say this. The game looks amazing. The hand drawn effort that went into making this game look as rich and dark as it does takes talent, and that’s why I’m so disappointed by the way it turned out.

The game itself is a ‘WASD’ based exploration mystery, where you change forms to interact with the other characters and move objects. There are puzzles of various difficulties running through pretty much the whole narrative—which was generally pretty good, until you got stuck on a vague quote someone said and have to retrace all your steps to find the one corner you haven’t explored yet. That being said, it’s a pretty basic game that I would have enjoyed as a teen. That is, anyone can play it, and it’s edgy enough to catch my then-goth obsessed brain.

The plot line centres around Elena, but there is a parallel story that ties into the game, about the colonial era, and the interaction between the settlers and the indigenous people. It was an interesting twist on what would have been a pretty straightforward game otherwise. Still, I’m not sure I can say all the pieces fit together. As I walked through catacombs, gardens, guest houses and observatories alike, I found a lot of the characters were only there to fuel plot progression, and the characters that were there for the hell of it were really obscure. For instance, there’s a man with a snapped neck in the garden that jokes about being a comedian in his life. That was it, no further plot, just—comedy.

It seems that once you get over how visually stimulating the game is, the plot holes start to come out. Especially with the cut scenes—I don’t know who was in charge of them but they were under-drawn and unfinished. I got the impression that this was like a group project that one person was really passionate about and the other just went ‘Yeah, I’ll draw some shit’ and only got around to it the night before the whole thing was due. Still, credit where credit is to be had, the game play is easy enough that I wasn’t stumped the whole way through, and the graphics of the actual play through were, again, stunning. I loved the way the artist didn’t shy away from the disturbing imagery.

The bright light that does save Whispering Willows a bit is the creepiness it maintains to instil from start to finish. I was honestly delighted by how raw and disturbed the spectres you find are, especially when they pop up out of nowhere. I think my favourite was the couple out the front of the mansion itself. I jumped a bit too high when they popped up.

Because of the conflicting feelings this gave me, I give this game:

4/5 Spirit guides for style
3.5/5 Spirit guides for plot line
5/5 Spirit guides for easiness
1/5 Spirit guides for The cut scene graphics

So, what can I say about this game? I think in the end, if you’re going to make a game, do it. I’ve got a feeling that the more this company produces, the better the games will get. After all, they’re not doing badly at the moment. I think it would be interesting to see a remake in five to ten years time with the same team to see how they could improve. Like the cast of Rent laments, ‘The story never ends.’

In any case, I’ve been a Bethany Griffiths, and this has been a 6am start Beta Test. A game review platform where I either got better or got wrecked. All in the hopes that I can provide you with a completely unbiased review.

Until next time.

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