On the surface, developer Night Light Interactive's 2D puzzler looked to be right up my alley. But as dug deeper into the relatively short game, I noticed shortcomings that kept the game from reaching its true potential. Whispering Willows tells the tale of a Elena, a young girl who is searching for her missing father. Using a unique amulet that allows her to enter a spirit realm she begins her search.
The story was intriguing enough to keep me engaged during the first half of game but the uninteresting character development eventually made me lose interest. While in the spirit realm, Elena can see and interact with dead spirits lurking around the area. This should be a good way to learn more about the events that led to Elena's current predicament but it is mainly used as guidance on where to go next. Unfortunately most spirits didn't really have much to say with the exception of a few.
To get a better understanding of the game you must find the notes that are scattered around the world. These notes do a better job expanding the story and explaining things than any other part of the game. Aesthetically, Whispering Willows shines. Wortham Willow's collapsing mansion and its surroundings are presented in a beautiful, hand drawn art style that I really appreciated. The score is immersive as well. Each area's music does a superb job of complimenting the eerie tone of the game. Things such as hearing a door creak, listening to hard roar of the wind, or the sound of distant footsteps added to an already uncomfortable atmosphere.
The game's puzzles are very simple and require next to no thought at all. Most of them are solved by Elena going into the spirit realm and moving a stationary item, like a bookshelf or desk. This usually opens up a path for her human counterpart to progress further. I feel the lack of challenge and variety in the puzzles is the game's most disappointing aspect.
At no time was I even remotely stuck on the games puzzles. Elena's ability to enter the spirit realm is underused. I would have loved to see more innovative ways to use such power. This inevitably leads to repetitive gameplay that gets old after the first hour. Whispering Willows has some pretty interesting ideas but most of them are never truly realized. The setting and soundwork does a good job of making the world feel immersive but the lack of challenging puzzles and the repetitive gameplay leads to a forgettable experience.
Writer for Darkstation since 2014. I've been playing games my whole life and starting writing about them in 2010. Outside of gaming I enjoy anime and watching my Philadelphia Eagles let me down every Sunday.