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View Full Version : [Staff Review] RiotingSpectre's Spoiler-Free Whispering Willows Review



RiotingSpectre
10-27-2014, 06:38 PM
Elena of Whispering Willows is a very spiritually aware individual. She can see, feel, and even talk to ghosts thanks to her lineage's natural abilities further strengthened by her amulet. She must traverse high & low utilizing these abilities to succeed at her goal but there's a dark force at work which threatens her life. What is her goal and what are these forces? Read on to find out as this is the Whispering Willows review.

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Due to the fact that Whispering Willow's story is the core of this game I won't be spoiling anything. Given these circumstances this review is going to be (intentionally more) vague and shorter.

Story:

The story in Whispering Willows is where the game's primary focus is and it pertains to Elena running from her house to go in search of her father who has gone missing at the estate he works at to put it in a nutshell. She enters the property and falls down a deep pit which leads to the catacombs thanks to a spirit scaring her onto hollow ground. This is just the start of her bad luck because she'll soon find malevolent spirits, mysteries, and past residents in spirit form all throughout the estate with it all quickly made aware that a singular evil is at the center of it all along with being the reason for Elena's father's disappearance.

Overall, the story in Whispering Willows is fantastic. You can uncover more back-story by collecting notes across the game which relate to the characters within the game itself along with how Elena's bloodline are able to see spirits in the first place. I would have to say that for the true story to unfold you have to grab these whenever you see them and take the time to read them thoroughly because without the notes it seems like a story that's just simply there with unanswered questions. Another thing is that the story has to be savored so don't rip through the notes or the in-game dialogue just to get a move on because proper absorption of all the information you'll be receiving will immerse you in the game that much more.

Continuing on, the story in Whispering Willows is not for children. It contains various themes that may even offend some adults but looking passed all this will enable something similar to a glass of fine wine. To slowly take in and enjoy for all its worth while ascertaining the various elements that compose it. The only thing wrong with Whispering Willows' story is the fact that it's the primary focus of the game itself which means that there's less appeal towards more replay-value friendly sides of a video game such as the game-play. This is further problematic because Whispering Willows is a horror game which means that it will take longer to justify another play-through since you already know when everything that's contained within its story.

Game-Play & Controls:

Whispering Willows is a two-dimensional horror game where you control Elena and her spiritual self. As the human Elena you move at a normal pace as in how any other person would normally move from destination to destination while solving puzzles, moving obstacles, and running from threats. There's a manual run button for her when she's outside and she automatically runs when a malicious apparition is near so this may give the impression that Elena moves slow anywhere else without these requirements which to some may be a problem given how there's a lot to explore within Whispering Willows including backtracking. All of these abilities and more such as investigating items throughout the game will be used quite frequently but not enough to be monotonous.

Continuing on, the most interesting aspect about Elena is that with a single press of a button she'll be able to separate her soul from her body which has a lot of its own controls and this form of Elena can move about the entire screen thanks to her ability to fly which is needed for a few puzzles because she can also go through small holes by becoming a blue flame. She can also move obstacles via possession, talk to other souls that regular Elena can't see but can sense thanks to her amulet, and even see hidden messages after obtaining an item. You utilize all of the controls to traverse numerous puzzles which need to be solved in order to progress through the game and all the obstacles match the general flow of the game itself. The puzzles aren't the only thing you have to do because you have to help the forlorn apparitions across the estate which mostly include fetch quests where you have to acquire something they need to pass on. These aren't troublesome unless you're lost and changing between these forms on the fly will quickly become second nature as you quickly acquire all the necessary items you need to successfully progress throughout the game.

Overall, everything controls very smooth and the only gripe is the fact that Elena can't manually move faster on her own inside buildings unless a malicious apparition is chasing her which can make for a lost player that much more frustrated when they're going back and forth between locations to see if they missed anything they needed. All the puzzles are fun to solve and are very fair in difficulty which steadily rises as the game goes on which makes for an experience that's always testing you. Some may see the fetch quests to help the apparitions as samey but what you have to do in order to achieve your goal with these quests are seamlessly integrated into the game. In the end it leaves only the bare minimum to be desired and can be simply overlooked given how the strengths far outweigh the few weaknesses.

Visuals:

Whispering Willows isn't just about great game-play and story because it also has amazing visuals. Everything from in the game is drawn beautifully with the cut-scenes, character animations, and backgrounds really being something to admire. The game is very atmospheric and will always immerse you in its various environments thanks to the attention of detail that very few other games have. The only complaint to be had is the fact that the cut-scenes have the characters depicted as having four digits on their hands instead of the usual five during actual game-play which is inconsistent. This is usually done because it's easier for an artist to draw but when everything is so beautifully done with a different characterization in other areas; I can't help but notice it as a glaring inconsistent issue that I notice every time a cut-scene appears.

Overall, the visuals in Whispering Willows will leave you speechless. Looking over the minor inconsistency; even the hardest to please players will find enjoyment within the game's artistic direction.

Soundtrack & Sounds:

Whispering Willows is all about immersion and the soundtrack accomplishes this effortlessly. It's very atmospheric to the point where you'll never be comfortable with where you are regardless if the environment itself is bright. The sounds in the game are also good and accompanies the soundtrack without a hitch. These coupled with the visuals in the game together make for a truly unsettling experience that fits with the horror genre like a glove and overall there's nothing to complain about because the auditory aspect of Whispering Willows is perfect.

Conclusion:

If I had to define the experience Whispering Willows has to offer it would be a one-hit wonder. Just about everything the game has to offer is phenomenal with minor hiccups mixed in, and much like any horror game it's not something you'll normally come back to unless you forget the experiences given how the fear factor is a huge part of the game. Another thing that hinders replay-value is the fact that the most focused aspect of the game is the story which means that there's not going to be the usual things to come back to and these two things make the fifteen dollar price tag Whispering Willows has at the time of this review a very hard pill to swallow. In the end the game gets a four out of five and is something I'll recommend for those who don't mind spending a lot of money compared to other OUYA games for an amazing experience that they'll more than likely only tackle once given how Whispering Willows is trapped in its own circumstances.

Score: 4/5

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