Whispering Willows is a 2D adventure-horror game that has quite a fame on steam, assuming that 453 very positive steam reviews really matter. Unfortunately, I’ve found that the game isn’t worth at all and all the reviews from Kotaku, CGMagazine and Gamespot are way overrated. The truth is the aesthetics of the game are as they are presented on the steam store page, gorgeous and with an interesting artwork. The only think that could’ve made them better would have been a bigger diversity in assets. Thinking back at the time I played the game I could only differentiate 3 zones: the crypt, the garden and the mansion. Between them there were only combinations and no more variety. But let’s leave the graphics section aside and focus more on the other aspects.
The main downside, from my point of view is the lack of mechanics that tend to give the game a walking simulator style. If you check the steam store page, you’ll find out that the game is categorized as a horror game, but it lacks those “hide and run” mechanics and even the scary parts. To be fair, I won’t neglect the already existing horror parts, for example the scenes where a creature appears and you must run from it. Yes, those parts are great, cool atmosphere, even respectable in the horror genre, but those moments are so short and I can count them on my fingers.
As a puzzle game the game features some small puzzles to complete in order to open doors or unlock new zones. Unfortunately, all of them require you to use the spiritual form and enter a small hole in the wall or floor and activate a lever. Sometimes this is replaced by a small obstacle that needs to be moved out of the way, quite repetitive and by the end of the game you’ll get bored of that puzzles.
Now it’s time to analyze the characters. The majority of them feels like a filler and the worst part is the bad gameplay – story integration. Each character has its own plot, but at the time you finished its mission you would find yourself with some plot material that it’s hard to digest. Barely at the end of the story you find how they are connected. Also, I found the lack of gameplay mechanics annoying and the game as it is it’s hugely dependent on backtracking. There was even lore hidden as journal entries, but those were even more tangled.
And finally, we’ve come to talk about the story. I won’t comment the proper plot, mainly because I can’t remember it at all, but I’ll discuss why it’s bad implemented. First of all, the biggest part of the story is concentrated at the end of the game when you find the ghost that is tormenting the girl’s father. From my point of view this is bad game design, from the start of the game I expected to be captivated by the story progression, but that’s nonexistent.