Developed by Night Light Interactive, indie game Whispering Willows attempts to bring a unique take on the adventure and horror genre by combining the two in a way that works well for the most part. The game relies heavily on the standard adventure formula, but adds in horror elements of the supernatural to give a feeling of tension throughout the story.
Whispering Willows tells the story of Elena Elkhorn, a young Native American girl who sets out to find her missing father on the very old and very haunted Willows Estate. Throughout her journey Elena discovers and befriends other former inhabitants of the estate, and often helps them find closure so that their spirits can rest peacefully and move on in the afterlife. The entire game takes place on Willows Estate which features a giant mansion, a garden with a built-in maze, a greenhouse, and an observatory. Outside of the dialogues between Elena and the ghosts that inhabit Willow Estate, there are letters which you can collect that provide more backstory on Elena’s ancestors and the estate itself. These letters and diary entries provide some much needed substance to the lore and narrative of Whispering Willows, and provide a good incentive for exploring every area thoroughly.
Whispering Willows : PS4, Xbox One [Reviewed] , PS Vita, Wii U, PS3
Developer: Nightlight Interactive
Publisher: Abstraction Games
Release Date: 28 August 2015
Price: £7.99 [Disclosure: Game copy supplied by PR]
There isn’t much to the gameplay of Whispering Willows outside of the standard adventure game formula. You run around the mansion searching for items such as keys or knives which allow you to get past a door or object blocking your way. Through a pendant given to her by her father, Elena is able to leave her own body and transform into an apparition, which allows Elena to communicate to the spirits of other dead inhabitants, as well as pick up or manipulate objects that she normally would not be able to in order to solve a puzzle. However, even in her astral projection form, Elena is only able to move through narrow ventilation ducts or holes on the floor to get to the next room in order to pull a switch which opens a door to allow Elena to progress. There aren’t many interesting or fun puzzles that take advantage of this otherwise unique gameplay mechanic which is rather unfortunate. Overall the game itself may take a couple of hours to complete.
Whispering Willows has a simple yet intriguing art style. The hand-drawn aesthetic leaves much to be desired at first, but seemingly fit well with the creepy tone and setting of the game. This coupled with the minimal enemies in the game makes it an interesting take on the horror genre. There aren’t monsters or ghosts hiding in the closet when you least expect it. Rather, the calm yet creepy nature of the mansion brings about a feeling of unease throughout the game as you carefully make your way through each room wondering if the next door will lead to something deadly.
Although lacking at times, Whispering Willows is still engaging adventure game. The game introduces few challenges in the short campaign, but it still presents an interesting story to keep you motivated to see Elena’s story to its proper conclusion. As it stands, Whispering Willows has some solid ideas and the groundwork for what could have been a unique and fantastic adventure game. It’s just unfortunate that the game does not live up to its full potential.