Like many of us I like scaring myself a little. I like the feeling of unease you get with a good ghost story. Whispering Willows sets out to tell a ghost story from the perspective of a protagonist who is searching for her father, and it includes elements of a whodunnit mystery.
The first things you notice here is the presentation. The backgrounds are lovingly drawn with little incidental details in each scene. Playing across a 2D plane the graphics are crisp and detailed, with the occasional cutscene told through a series of still images. As you explore the world your controller constantly gives you feedback, flashing rumbling or playing sound effects from the speaker. This is a really nice touch and gives you a very tactile link to the world you mooch around.
Things proceed at a very sedate pace, your movement speed is pretty much a slow walk for the most part. Whilst this isn’t an action game, the slow pace does start to grate as certain sections ask you to backtrack a fair bit. The grounds you explore all form part of a long abandoned mansion house in America. The house has been empty for many a year and now has a sinister air about it. Stories have cropped up about the original owner and the dark deeds he got up to.
The key selling point of this game is your ability to speak with ghosts you encounter. Using your magic amulet, which makes your controller glow, you can kind of astral project yourself at the press of a button. Once in spirit form you can move through small gaps and solve puzzles by moving stuff around. This whole concept works pretty well and is justified well within the game world. The ghosts you encounter are generally victims of the evil owner of the mansion and the bulk of the puzzles you encounter revolve around calming their troubled spirits.
Throughout the game you pick up notes from various different people. These notes all shed light on both the owner of the house, and the reasons the house fell into disrepair. The tale told within these notes is one of scandal, betrayal and murder most foul.
As a story based game the plot plays a major part here and is well told using the notes you find. Things can get a little tricky to follow as you don’t always find the notes in order, but this allows your imagination to work on the missing pieces. Overall the story is told deftly with some nicely judged twists and a great deal of charm. Be warned though, for the size of the game, there is a fair bit of reading to be had. Should you chose to skip the notes you will be missing out on the majority of the plot on offer.
It’s not a massive game and it can be completed within a couple of hours. The game is also cross buy, giving you the game on thePS4 and Vita. Oddly however it doesn’t include cross save, and for some reason each game carries its own trophy list. The trophies on offer provide some incentive to play again, but can all be obtained in one play through. You also get a dynamic theme, should you be interested in these.
Overall this is a pleasant surprise. It tells a good old fashioned ghost story, which although may not be scary does a good job of creating a decent atmosphere. As a total package you get a decent amount, with cross buy and a theme. I enjoyed my time with Whispering Willows and I will be interested to see any future games from the same devs.