Whispering Willows Review – A Ghostly Good Time!

Just in time for Halloween comes a cool 2D adventure game from publisher Akupara Games and developer Night Light Interactive. Whispering Willows is a beautifully hand-drawn, 2D adventure game that is also part puzzler and part platformer. This is our Nintendo Switch review of Whispering Willows!

You play this game as a young girl named Elena Elkhorn who ends up on a ghostly journey to find her missing father who is somewhere in the confines of Willows Mansion. Along the way Elena makes use of a unique amulet, she received from her father. The amulet allows her to project her astral spirit from her body, think Doctor Strange-like astral projection, that allows her to communicate with the dead and get to areas her physical body is unable to get to.

The game starts out by setting Elena on her course. There are no spoken voice-overs and very little text initially to set the scene. Elena falls into a dark hole and awakes to find she needs to find her missing father. As you start to work your way out you’re treated to a gentle tutorial and then the adventure truly begins, after you’re introduced to your special amulet, no not the “Eye Of Agamotto”. This is when the fun begins.

When you see your amulet glowing light blue, and coupled with a brilliant use of the Switch’s Rumble feature, you know a ghostly form is in the area. Hitting the ‘Y’ button releases your astral projection which not only allows you to talk to ghosts but also allows you to do things like slip into a locked room via a crack in the wall or ceiling!  This feature adds a fantastic element to the puzzle-solving nature of the game.

Some Reading Required

As you make your way through the mansion and mansion grounds you come across “Notes” which you pick-up and read, this is how the game directs you through the game’s story. The game tracks the Notes’ topic as well as how many chapters you’ve collected. The game also has a diary feature which tracks the high-level story plot. Buried within these notes sometimes lie gentle clues, using the traditional technique of using different coloured fonts to help highlight keywords you should focus on.

An interesting surprise was that the game also has some minor platforming features which typically occur at the end of the chapters. Situations, where you need to run from spirits and such and doing so, requires you switch to-from your astral form to make it out of an area in a timely fashion. It was never anything incredibly hard but serves as a sudden change of pace from the “hunt and read clues” game format.

Speaking of reading, therein lies the game’s only real fault. When in undocked mode, pages in your notes or diary can sometimes be a bit small to read, not indiscernable, just a bit of a strain perhaps for an older gamer.  And its worth noting, in true adventure game style, there is quite a bit of reading. Nevertheless, the writing is impeccable and flows really well without grammatical errors.

The game has its share of typical, successful adventuring components. Things like the story unfolding, as said, via reading dialogue and notes. You’ll also find you can inspect items and act on items, picking them up, moving them, etc. The game has a very small inventory so you don’t need many things to complete a chapter.

Other areas of praise include, Whispering Willows‘ puzzles are never too challenging and the musical soundtrack is haunting and eerie at times which is a perfect fit for the atmosphere of the game. The platforming moments are a nice change of pace without calling for the need for trigger-happy button bashing and incredible amounts of fine-tuned timing!

If you're a fan of "Escape Room" type puzzle adventure games then Whispering Willows should be at the top of your list in 2018! The game is beautifully drawn on a foundation of puzzles that aren't a free ride, but certainly, don't hinder your progress or make you feel inadequate.
  • Beautiful artwork
  • Inventive use of rumble feature
  • Wonderful blend of adventure, puzzles and platforming
  • Diary / Notes entries can be a strain to read in undocked mode
Written by
Scott is a comic book, music and gaming nerd since the late 70s. Gaming all began on the Colecovision and Atari 2600. He buys and reads new comics every Wednesday from his LCBS and helps run an online Heavy Metal radio station.

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