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Review #015: Whispering Willows (Nintendo Switch)

Reviewed By: Chad M.

Developed By: Night Light Interactive

Published By: Akupara Games

Category: Adventure, Puzzle, Platformer

Release Date: 9.27.18

Download Whispering Willows from the Nintendo eShop here.

Spooky time...

October is here and it’s time for the leaves to change colors, people to ingest copious amount of pumpkin spice flavored products and Halloween. With Halloween comes trick or treating, haunted houses, scary movies and my favorite scary games. Whispering Willows takes a stab at the adventure horror genre, which contain some of my personal favorite games. Whispering Willows was a Kickstarter project that was brought to life by reaching its $20,000 goal. The game was ported to a Nintendo product for the first time when it arrived on the Wii U eShop. Now, in the last quarter of 2018, we see it make the trip to the Switch eShop as well.

Casper came to play

In Whispering Willows, you play as the protagonist Elena Elkhorn. As Elena, you are tasked to track down her father, John Elkhorn who has gone missing, all the while discovering the mysteries of the Willows Mansion. Aiding Elena on her journey is an amulet left by her father. You have to move through the property and surrounding grounds to collect items and work through puzzles while encountering ghosts along the way. A shaman by the name of Flying Hawk also pops in from time to time, giving advice while also seeking your help. There is a dark entity that is looming around that you must avoid while exploring.

You never find out how you got here or why this is all happening, but the more concerning thing I learned while playing this adventure horror game is that it wasn't that scary and the story is very thin. It's unfortunate because I feel horror games rely so much on the story.

Gameplay & Controls

The gameplay in Whispering Willows was far more simple than what I was hoping for. I never once felt in danger of a situation I couldn’t escape and the puzzles were fairly rudimentary. Most of the time you’d enter into a room and there was only one item to interact with, leaving the guess work out of the equation. The amulet Elena wears glows blue when near a ghost and burns bright red when an evil spirit is near. It also allows Elena to astral project her spirit where she can then see ghosts and talk to them. Most of the ghosts are friendly and just recount events as well as give hints. Additionally, you'll also come across tiny letters that are scattered throughout all the levels that also provide clues.

While Elena is in spirit mode, she can also posses certain items to move them and get into tight spaces. When moving around outside the property, Elena can run, but loses this ability once she goes indoors. I felt this was a misstep as it slows the pace of the game. Looking past the gameplay, the controls felt tight and never had an issue. Another small gripe would be the loading screens. Every time you go inside, outside, or to another section, you're left with a 15-20 second loading screen that really breaks up the pacing of the game. I wish the developer would have loaded everything all at once, since the scope of the levels didn’t seem all that huge. 

Audio & Visuals

The music hits all the right notes, especially when it slows down and becomes ominous as danger lurks. However, most the time the music is slow and somber, but still creepy. The sounds are spooky and fit well within the game.

The visuals and art style are what shine in this game. The characters have a very sharp comic book art style that is beautiful and really pops off the screen. All the ghosts looked great and I was always running to find the next one as it was one of my favorite aspects of the game. The surroundings also had a spooky vibe and proper dark undertones. You're also treated to cutscenes at the end of each chapter and those too were drawn magnificently.

The game looked great in both docked and handheld mode. 

Final thoughts

The experience I had with Whispering Willows may have not had been what I expected, but not all is bad. Though the puzzles and gameplay were too easy and the story was very short and nonexistent, I still had traversing the property and enjoying the visuals. I beat the game in under two hours and went back for a second playthrough with my daughter. Though I went back, I wouldn’t say it has much replayability as once you’ve played through the game there isn’t anything else to do. This is ultimately more of a middle of the road title for me. The developer has expressed wanting to do a sequel and if that happens, I hope they fix the holes that are present in Whispering Willows. I’d still recommend picking up this title as I enjoyed my time spent with Elena, though it could've been longer and a little more complex.

Final Score: 6/10

Download Whispering Willows from the Nintendo eShop here.

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*Review Code Provided by Akupara Games

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