A ghostly outer body experience.
Things that go bump in the night have always been a very fascinating topic for me. When you translate ghosts and other worldly beings into video game form, it can become even more interesting as you now have control. Some games take this idea and turn it into a fright fest. Others go for a more subtle approach with storytelling and atmosphere. Whispering Willows follows more in the latter, and makes for a very interesting premise.
The game starts off with Elena Elkhorn discovering that her dad has gone missing, and she runs off after discovering something is not right. With her she has a pendant that allows her spirit form to assist her in the world of the living. As she explores the mansion and its surround locales, she will figure out exactly what happened to her dad, and why the location is haunted.
The game features some very nice artwork and animations. As the game is played in 2D side scrolling fashion, this works well for the visual appeal. The environments look decrepit, the other ghosts players run into sometimes look creepy and other times silly, and the occasional enemies to avoid can seem a bit menacing. Yet nothing looks gory or gross, this is a very friendly game visually even though the story comes across more mature in nature.
Price I’d Pay: $9.99
How long to beat: Three hours
As players explore the mansion, garden, and other locations, Elena will have to use her spirit form to either talk to other spirits, sneak through cracks in the ground or wall, or possess items and move them for her. This is the majority of gameplay, and it works efficiently. While it would have been great to have a map system as it can be easy to get turned around at times, if players pay enough attention to the environments, they will learn their way around and become familiar with their location. While there are some cut scenes, most of the story will be delivered via notes found and the diary entries she writes. It’s an interesting if somewhat typical story, but those that would rather watch their story unravel versus read might find some issues with the plot delivery.
Audio goes a long way with creating atmosphere, and it’s no different here. While there is no voice acting for the characters, the little noises Elena makes convey enough. The soundtrack is what really gives the title a spooky yet whimsical feeling. While it won’t keep players up at night with scares, it might raise a hair or two depending on the player.
Whispering Willows can be completed in about 3 hours, and with most trophies/achievements received. It ends on a rather simplistic and expected note, but the journey getting there was fun, and the core gameplay works for this idea. It wasn’t extremely hard, and I never got stuck for more than a few minutes. Mostly just needing to have the right item at the right location to proceed, with just a few minor puzzles to actually solve will see players to the end.
I wasn’t left feeling dead cold after finishing, it and I appreciated the simplistic nature to the game. Minimal frustration, some nice exploration, and able to be finished in a single sitting if you have a few hours to spare. This ghost story isn’t the most memorable, but it doesn’t have to be. Whispering Willows was an enjoyable time, and for those that like a decent story, side scrolling exploration, and the idea of talking to ghosts, I’d recommend it.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.