Whispering Willows Review: Playing A Ghost Story

out of 5

Whispering Willows, the new game developed by Nightlight Interactive and published by Loot Interactive (they with one of the best game logos out there), looks to take gamers on a journey, as they solve puzzles and help restless souls find peace in the afterlife, all while helping the main character, Elena Elkhorn, find her missing father.

Elena is a descendant of a Native American tribe that was all but wiped out by a New England industrialist named Wortham Willows. Because of her heritage, she has the ability to let her spirit roam outside her body, and the spirit can go places that she can’t and help solve the puzzles and open doors. The spirit Elena can also speak to the dead, which offer clues and give “missions” of the sort as Elena searches for her missing father.

Whispering Willows Review

The story of Whispering Willows feels like something out of a spooky ghost tale. If it had been set a few hundred years earlier, it could have been a Washington Irving short story. There is a deep, sad, and yes, horrific mythology here, and Elena’s quest to find her father takes a back seat as the mystery deepens to what exactly happened at the Willows Mansion.

The art direction for Whispering Willows is all hand-drawn, which looks wonderful while playing, but takes a few steps back during the active-panel cutscenes. The ghosts are well-designed and Elena has few animations (she doesn’t need a lot of animations; it works here). The structures, which include the Willow Mansion, guest house, observatory, and catacombs, among others, are well thought out, and getting lost or frustrated isn’t a fear. When spirit Elena appears, the blueish glow draws the eyes well, and if played in the dark, creates a perfect atmosphere for a mystery/ghost story like this.

There is very minimal vocal work, but the music here is absolutely fantastic. It helps set the mood and keeps the player engaged as Elena completes her journey.

Whispering Willows Review

The story is obviously the strongest aspect of the game, as the play control — it’s a side-scroller — is not given much love. Elena can sprint only when outside, and her slow movement — and certain environmental detections, especially around staircases — gets frustrating at times. Also, fear of being hurt or damaged is practically nonexistent until about an hour in, and then it’s still few and far between. Whispering Willows is less about surviving some calamitous horror, or monsters, and more about playing an interactive and haunting ghost story.

That said, the game is short and can be finished with 100 percent trophy collection (on the full family of Playstation consoles) in under three hours. And once all trophies are collected, there really is no other reason to play again, sadly. While the length of the game is an issue, when you are playing, it’s a magnificent game with a solid story, some great characterizations, and heartbreaking revelations. It’s definitely worth a play just to experience an interactive, immersive ghost story. I finished this game a few days ago, and I still find myself thinking about it, which says a lot.

Whispering Willows is available now in PlayStation Store for the Playstation 4, Playstation 3, PS Vita, and from the Nintendo eShop for the Wii U. This review was made possible by a review code for the PS4 provided by the publisher.

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