Family can be many things to many people. It could be the driving force that makes us wake up every day at an insane time of the morning in order to better provide for others, while some may consider it a burden that stops them from achieving great things. In the case of Whispering Willows, family means a little bit of both of these two examples as players will follow Elena Elkhorn on an adventure to find her father, although the game itself has a long-winded story, offers uninspiring puzzles, and doesn't feel as dangerous as it should considering what's discovered.
Willow, Hold on Tight
Whispering Willows tells the story of Elena Elkhorn who sets out to find her father after having strange dreams of his disappearance. Her father was the groundskeeper at a nearby mansion, so she packs up some supplies and her pendant and sets out to that very location. Her pendant plays an important role in the game as she is able to access her shamanic powers, allowing her to leave her physical body to explore the world in her spirit form.
The game is told through a nice art style that gives a cartoon vibe to it, but in a more realistic setting. The lighting does a great job of offering a specific atmosphere that would change depending on the location, like a well-lit foyer with a large staircase, a dark planetarium, or a kitchen only lit by candle light. Both the art and lighting worked hand in hand to give the game a great sense of atmosphere no matter where the story took me.
Even though the game doesn’t have an official ESRB rating, I would have to guess based on the story alone, it would receive a T for Teen since I nearly everyone was murdered at some point in this game. A pregnant woman, a well-meaning employee, and a small child were all killed by the game’s main antagonist for various reasons, making this a game I wouldn’t recommend children play. A large majority of its story is told through the inclusion of Elena's diary and random notes found throughout the mansion's grounds. Fortunately, the ending of the game wraps up all of the content found within the majority of these notes, which means you could ignore them if you prefer to do more gaming and less reading.
I Sense Something
Elena will come across a variety of ghosts in her journey to find her father. Some of these spirits offer helpful advice on what to do next, while the majority of them don’t do anything but tell inane stories or creep me out with their presence. Apparently, things didn’t go well for most who lived in or near the mansion as ghosts will either have multiple knives sticking out of their bodies, slit throats, or pieces of their faces missing. While these spirits are harmless, that wasn’t the case for everything I came across.
From time to time, Elena will feel an evil presence. When she does, she’ll hold onto herself while her amulet glows red. The evil presence can be seen by either switching to your spirit form, or, for reasons beyond me, steam can make these spirits visible. While the steam helps me know where an evil spirit is, it doesn’t really make sense in the game world considering the only way I’d interact with any spirits is through the power of the amulet. Regardless of that, the presence of evil spirits felt too few and far between as I didn’t feel a sense of danger through the majority of my experience in Whispering Willows.
Rest in Peace
Whisper Willows is a good effort by an indie studio as the art style drew me in from the moment I first saw it, but it lacks any sort of depth as its puzzles aren't difficult to figure out and it's story, as horrific as it turns out to be, didn't really entice me. I didn't feel any sort of connection with the people in the game nor did I care what happened to them, and I'm not entirely sure if it's my fault for plowing through the game or if Night Light Interactive just made a boring game.
- Nice art style
- Good use of lighting
- Ideal for adventure game beginners
- Long-winded story
- Puzzles can be completed easily
- Walking pace is too slow
- Too few evil presence moments