Whispering Willows (Xbox One) Review

By Albert Lichi 19.08.2015

Review for Whispering Willows on Xbox One

Whispering Willows is a Kickstarter success story in terms of delivering a working game to the public with a budget of around $20,000. It is slightly impressive that such a minuscule budget can be used to make a complete game, let alone one that is on almost every major platform today. Night Light Interactive's 2D adventure "horror" game is now on Xbox One, and it promises a spooky ghost story with puzzle solving and mysteries to uncover. As Elena, who can use a magical pendant to leave her physical body and interact with the environment, it becomes clear that Night Light Interactive has possibly been inspired by Ghost Tick: Phantom Detective, but with much worse animation and lacking character. Cubed3 solves the mystery of Whispering Willows for Xbox One.

Whispering Willows has certain technical flaws. Right from the start, the game has a bunch of audio glitches that makes all sound and music not play. At first, it is assumed this is an artistic choice, since Whispering Willows takes a bold move by making all the visuals 2D hand drawings. This is not the case, since rebooting and starting the game over reveals the game just has a chance of not playing any audio at all.

After the initial sound glitches are overcome, the incredibly mediocre and amateurish rendered stills that look really rough, and are supposed to be cut-scenes (but look like production materials for story boards), take precedent. It looks like something a high school student would post in their Deviant Art account. Thankfully, the in-game art fares better, but not by much.

Elena, the main character is a pretty typical hipster teenage girl with a penchant for snark, but she does love her missing dad, which is her motivation for going on this adventure in the first place.

After the shock of the rough cut-scene art has worn off, the game begins proper, and it couldn't be more unintentionally hilarious by how stiff and choppy Elena's walk cycle is. Not only does she have the knobbiest of old man knees, she moves so stiffly and slowly, and when indoors, she cannot run. This becomes highly frustrating, since Whispering Willows is already a very slow paced game, but the fact the game puts an arbitrary limit on character movement, such as the simple convenience of moving slightly faster, is incredibly presumptuous.

So many of the puzzles (which are brain-deadingly simple) are padded out by the fact that Elena will not run inside buildings/houses. Walking around and hitting buttons is only half of Whispering Willows; the other half of is solving puzzles using her ghost form and avoiding evil spirits that would otherwise kill (rekill?) her in one shot.

Screenshot for Whispering Willows on Xbox One

In her spirit form, Elena can do some things that no human can do, such as becoming a tiny ethereal wisp and fitting into tight crevices, controlling certain devices, and talking to other ghosts that give plenty of clunky exposition. The puzzles are never really that interesting or complex, which might be due to the limited budget; it all comes down to figuring out what key goes where and (slowly) moving to the next area.

It is admirable that Whispering Willows does not hold any hands when it comes to dolling out the general structure of the game, and after the initial starting area, it opens up and lets Elena explore, like older survival-horror games used to. This less hands-on approach is an effective way to get more immersed in the atmosphere and setting, but it does frequently get undone by the game's arbitrary limits and hackneyed characters.

Whispering Willows is a very short game. At $14.99, it is a bit absurd that a title that takes about four measly hours to complete, with no replay value, is allowed, especially when it is made up of weak art/animation and has very apparent glitches in it. There are fleeting glimpses of what could have been a compelling mystery game, but in the end, it just feels very flat and is quickly rushed to finish the story at the bewilderment of the user.

Perhaps when Whispering Willows is on sale for a much lower price, it could be recommended. With some horribly distracting poor animation and generic puzzle design, it is ultimately a very forgettable adventure that is only recommended for those truly desperate for a ghost mystery title. Anyone with a 3DS, DS or iOS device should just get a copy of Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective.

Screenshot for Whispering Willows on Xbox One

Cubed3 Rating

4/10
Rated 4 out of 10

Subpar

Instead of being an engaging horror adventure, Whispering Willows becomes an agonising endeavour in frustration and tedious walking or back-tracking. The real highlights of this title are when the evil spirits that can one-hit kill are on the prowl, which do create some legitimate tension (especially since Elena will finally run), and injects some much-needed excitement in such a ho-hum adventure game. The lacking production values are an obvious sign of the low budget due to the modest Kickstarter goal, but it must be said that Night Light Interactive did put a slightly impressive amount of work and effort into their game, and perhaps if they had some more time with a more exhaustive Q&A circuit, Whispering Willows could have been great. The best aspect is that it does not hold the player's hand, and does grant a reasonable amount of agency the way a good adventure game does. Night Light had their heart in the right place, even if their intention exceeded their means.

Developer

Night Light Interactive

Publisher

Night Light Interactive

Genre

Horror

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  4/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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