Whispering Willows

7.5 Overall Score
Gameplay: 5/10
Graphics: 9/10
Sound: 9/10

Excellent Graphics and Sound | Great Atmosphere

Fetch Quest-centric Gameplay | Nobody ever just calls the cops

Game Info

GAME NAME: Whispering Willows

DEVELOPER(S): Night Light

PUBLISHER(S): Night Light

PLATFORM(S): PS4 (Reviewed), XBox One, PC

GENRE(S): Horror, Puzzle, Adventure

RELEASE DATE(S): June 30, 2015 (PS4)

Quick – You’re a young girl and your father has disappeared in a spooky mansion that has dozens of unsolved murders attributed to it.  What do you do?

If you said “put on his jacket and go exploring” then here’s your game.  Also that’s the wrong answer, go call the police.

whisperingwillows3

Whispering Willows puts you in the shoes of Elena, a young woman who sets out to find her father, who disappeared while working at the Willows Mansion as a groundskeeper.  Early in the game, you discover that your amulet (with the help of a long-dead shaman) allows you to enter the astral realm, where you can converse with the dead.  It also lets you go into keyholes and solve little puzzles, which is the brunt of the gameplay here.

Which is unfortunate.  The game is set in a side-scrolling multi-pane adventure.  Left and right are it – although sometimes you can enter a door or climb up some stairs or a ladder.  The core of it is puzzle traversal – flip a switch to unlock a door to pull a lever to advance.  The spirit-form gimmick allows your ethereal self to enter very small spaces to move through, and it also allows the player to interact with the other people who’ve died in Willows Mansion.

whisperingwillows2

Which brings be back to wondering why nobody called the police.  There are dozens of restless spirits here, each showing signs of gruesome murder.  I’m fine with making a suspension of disbelief leap, but sometimes it’s just too great.  There are torture chambers in the house – you’d think that a servant would see it and alert someone, or if an investigator was there his first question would be WHY IS THERE A TORTURE CHAMBER?

Back on track, the movement in the game is generally very slow and apt to the horror setting.  Jump-scares and more intense actions crop up about once per scenario, leaving the vast majority of gameplay as fetch quests to advance the plot.  Talk, fetch, move forward.  But the atmosphere generated by the great art and sound add a good amount of credence to the (pretty bland) walking right and left.

The oft-overlooked art of lighting is an excellent example of this.  An early-game sequence has Elena on her hands and knees through a crawlspace.  The small space doesn’t allow for light, showing only a very short path ahead and behind.  And although you know exactly what the room you just came from looks like, the ominous lack of light seems like it just might be hiding a form in the dark.  The lighting works wonders with the hand-drawn graphics as well, meshing seamlessly with the occasional brief cutscene.  It’s very well-drawn and animated.

whisperingwillows1

The music and sound work very well with the game also.  Throughout most of the main sequence of the game, music is incredibly sparse – but ambient noises abound.  When something more action-oriented occurs, the music picks up appropriately, lending a sense of urgency and really ramping up the pacing of the game.  It’s actually quite meta-interesting to see and feel how this changes you, the player, when these situations arise.  Your breath may get quicker and shallower, you might get more focused and tense.  Most of that, I suspect, is due to the audio – while the visuals are great, they’re confined to your screen, while the music and noises can permeate the entire room.  I felt this effect firsthand, and when watching someone else play, it was a palpable feeling coming from the other person in control of the action.

The Recommendation

While the gameplay of Whispering Willows is a bit slow and fetchy, the aesthetic developed by the setting, the animation, and (most importantly) the audio is something that can really draw players in.  Whispering Willows is worth a look, especially for the atmospheric horror fan.

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Whispering Willows (PS4)
Author Rating
41star1star1star1stargray

SHARE THIS POST

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Myspace
  • Google Buzz
  • Reddit
  • Stumnleupon
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • Technorati
Author: James View all posts by
Dangerously fat. Twitter: @hypersaline