Whispering Willows Video Game Review
Written by John Colianni
Released by Night Light Interactive
Developed by Night Light Interactive
2015, Rated T
Game released on August 28th, 2015
Platforms: PC, Mac, PS4, PS Vita, Xbox One, WiiU
Playing a video game is possibly one of the most unique media experiences that someone can have. Of all the things that we absorb on a daily basis, very few of them let us have control of some of the outcomes of protagonists and antagonists alike. Unlike books and film, where one must sit idly by while whatever happens is beyond their control, gaming allows a level of immersion that I have yet to feel from my favorite author or director. Much like their media counterparts, video games come in all shapes and sizes, from puzzles to platformers, shooters to side-scrolling adventures and everything in between. While taking a break from my usual “beat everything in the face until it dies” style of game playing, I had the opportunity to sit down with Night Light Interactive's Whispering Willows.
The story follows Elena Elkhorn who sets out to rescue her father. Using the amulet that her father left, she can project her spirit outside her body and communicate with the dead, both benevolent and malevolent alike. As she makes her way through the halls and grounds of Willows Mansion, she will uncover more than just the disappearance of her dad. By helping Elena use her power, the player can help stranded spirits and solve puzzles that will unravel the case of her missing father and the intentions of a sinister antagonist.
Getting right to it, Whispering Willows is beautiful. While it might not be the art direction that some are used to, I loved it. I could almost compare it to an interactive cartoon. The music and ambient sounds perfectly set the mood of being one of the only living souls in a mansion that has long been forgotten about. Making your way through various parts of Willows Mansion will uncover more of the story through collectibles. Unfortunately for the lazy, you will have to read to know what is actually going on with the story (GASP!). The game is wonderfully paced, not allowing continuation into other areas before more items are found and NPCs are interacted with. Players beware: there are puzzles but if you don't suck completely has a human, you should be just fine. Being a horror themed game, the scares are also few and far between which actually works in favor of Whispering Willows. The feeling of loneliness is compounded when the horror actually kicks in. The one major thing above all else that makes the narrative of this game stick out is its Native American theme, which never happens. It's a refreshing theme change that could just as easily been a Gothic setting.
My gaming habits usually consist of being a complete bad ass, duel wielding some insanely large weapon and making leagues of enemies my bitches. Every now and then it's a nice change of pace to take a slower, more evenly paced approach to storytelling. Whispering Willows is that perfect break most gamers will find comforting since it's not trying to teach you some new game mechanic or forcing you to have cat-like reflexes to progress in its story. Beautiful artwork and sound design pile onto an intriguing narrative with a unique theme. So when you're tired of getting your face rocked off by the endless supply of spawn campers or want to slow things down a bit and remember what a great story feels like, don't hesitate with Whispering Willows.