Whispering Willows, developed by Night Light Interactive, is a lightly horror themed, side scrolling, puzzle adventure game. Initially a kickstarted prospect, the game was eventually released on all platforms, including iOS and Android. Was this title worth the crowd fund? Did Whispering Willows deliver the horrific quirkiness of which was promised to the game’s investors? Let us take a look.
The game takes off with the main character, Elena in bed. She wakes from a terrible nightmare, realizes her father is in terrible danger and rushes to his rescue. As she approaches the estate where her father is the caretaker, her necklace begins to glow, a ghoul approaches and frightens her, causing her to plunge into a deep hole. She then awakens in the catacombs of the large estate, where her adventure begins.
Whispering Willows takes place over a series of chapters, each of which are centered around different locations and the backstories of ghosts that Elena encounters through out the game. For example, the first chapter was centered around reuniting a shaman with his body, while another was focused on bringing peace to a ghost who had unfinished business.
It is revealed early on that Elena’s glowing amulet is a mystic family heirloom from her Native American heritage. This amulet allows her to transition into her spirit form in order to get through cracks in the walls, speak with ghosts, and to possess inanimate objects (levers, crates…etc). These abilities allow Elena to progress through the labyrinth of rooms and tunnels in the estate.
Dialogue in Whispering Willows is never too dragged out, and encounters are typically short, sweet, and to the point. Unfortunately, the plot line behind the game is not particularly riveting. There were countless times where I thought to myself that I was only playing because I enjoyed the gameplay, not the story.
Although each character’s backstory was well explained and possessed their own unique sincerity, the ending to Whispering Willows was completely lacking of any real meaning. While each character’s death was tied together, the ending did not capture that significance. As the credits rolled I thought to myself, “that’s it?”.
In addition, the in-game cutscenes were pretty awful. Although there were very few, the artwork was similar to what you would find on an iOS paint application. Other than that, overall animation of Whispering Willows encompassed an art style which was simple yet easy to admire.
The largest downfall to the game was its horror element — or better yet, lack thereof. Whispering Willows is not a horror game to any stretch of the imagination. The only creatures that were meant to instill fear were childlike crawly crabs, bush monsters and one floating demon that you meet at the game’s beginning. Perhaps the ghostly encounters were meant to supplement some sort of fear, but couldn’t possibly due to the fact that every ghost in Whispering Willows is friendly.
Although the storyline felt scattered, the conclusion did not wrap up the story and the game is not at all scary, Whispering Willows was a decent three hour experience for its gameplay alone. The puzzles were never too challenging, nothing felt too repetitive, and the overall ambiance was quaint and possessed unique and spiritual Native American qualities.
I enjoyed the moonlight basked garden, the dead flower girl and ghost dog. The colors that radiated off of Elena’s spiritual self were beautiful and I loved watching her float around the water fountain outside.
For that reason, Whispering Willows did not necessarily deliver all that was promised but delivered something else in return. Unfortunately for the game itself, it held far more potential than what it actually lived up to.
This review was based on a digital copy of Whispering Willows for PlayStation 4 paid for out of pocket.