I really wanted to love “Whispering Willows”. It seems exactly like my kind of thing: A side-scrolling adventure, with beautiful graphics and a haunting story.
However, my relationship with it never got past the “I like you, but…” phase. And that’s a shame. I’ve been trying to find out why this happened, and below are my thoughts on the subject.
First, the story: Elena is looking for her father, who went missing after accepting the job of caretaker at an old, abandoned mansion. As the story progresses, we learn that Elena has a past full of rich folklore and magic, and the house is just as full of secrets of its own.
The story looked amazing on paper, and it definitely has highlights. However, I was way more impressed with how the game developed sub-plots than with how it handled Elena’s quest for her dad, which seemed to take a very secondary place in some parts of the game. I was specially taken with the story surrounding the house, and the evolution of the “main villain” into how he came to be the person he was.
All in all, though, I feel like Elena’s search for her dad could have done with a few more drafts, and that’s something that really detracted from my experience.
Next, the graphics: I absolutely loved the screenshots I saw before playing the game, and the trailer looked equally as good. However, “Whispering Willows” is not quite that gorgeous when the tire meets the road. Yes, the environment looks great, NPCs are beautifully drawn… but Elena’s movements feel awkward, like she’s a long lost relation of Shaggy’s (from Scooby Doo). Again, it’s a minor gripe, but considering she’s the main character, it feels like something is off every time you move.
The gameplay, however, is spot on. I really enjoyed solving the puzzles and collecting the clues. There is a little back-tracking, and I feel like some of it was done in order to justify the cost of the game (as the story is but 5 to 7 hours, with little to no replay value), but I didn’t mind it too much. The mechanics of having Elena’s spirit come out of her body and “possess” objects was fun, although again it felt like something a bit undercooked and not fully taken advantage of.
Lastly, the sound. As a sound engineer by profession, I’m usually very picky about this issue when it comes to my game reviews. “Whispering Willows” sounded great. I specially enjoyed the sound effects, which reminded me of the good days of folley, an art that seems lost sometimes in videogames.
All in all, “Whispering Willows” is a fine, fun game. There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with it, and I thoroughly recommend it to fans of the genre. However, I include this caveat: if you’ve fallen in love with what you’ve seen before playing the game, lower your sights a bit.
Coming in cold is definitely the best way to enjoy this one.
- Title: Whispering Willows
- Publisher: LOOT Interactive
- Developer: Nightlight Interactive
- System: PS Vita
- Format: Digital Download
- Cross Buy: Yes
- Cross Play: No
- Local Multiplayer: No
- Online Multiplayer: No
- Memory Card Space Needed: 666Mb