Whispering Willows is not the best adventure game ever. It doesn’t have the best puzzles, story, or ideas. Even so, it’s an engaging, attractive experience that is worth a playthrough by those who enjoy an engaging world and atmosphere – just be aware that not much else is particularly good.
Whispering Willows tells the tale of a girl named Elena. With the ability to project her soul outside her body, she can travel to the spirit world as she traverses the mysterious Willows Mansion in search of her lost father. It’s a fine enough story. Most of the interesting stuff is gathered by collecting notes hidden throughout the game which flesh out the world. There is nothing extremely compelling here, but it is a solid enough plot. The thing is, the game is heavily focused on its story, so the fact that it never comes to anything overly enthralling is rather a pity.
Visually the game is lovely. The art style is extremely pretty, leading to some gorgeous environments and great animation, though the fact that much of the game is spent in drab indoor environments isn’t great. The music is pretty minimal, serving more to enhance the atmosphere than anything else. It really is that atmosphere that clicks, though. You’ll really feel the somber eeriness that the game radiates, and you’ll enjoy every second of it.
So what’s the gameplay? Well, it’s pretty standard stuff: you’ll walk around the area, picking up objects, interacting with stuff, exploring the environment, and searching for new paths. Occasionally you will have to travel to the spirit world to talk to ghosts, slip through cracks, and possess objects. It’s not very complex or challenging; for much of it you will just walk around for a while, picking up anything you see and using those items on things or people.
You’ll explore in and around the mansion, with the occasional maze or scare or whatever. It’s rather dull, to be honest. There is not much to the experience in the way of rewarding gameplay; it’s very by the numbers, and the opportunities given by the spirit world mechanic are not taken advantage of in the slightest. It’s rather sluggish, too, with Elena not having the ability to run inside thus making every journey take far too long.
One lingering issue I had was the loading screens. They are far too long. Every time you move between areas, you get several seconds of loading screen, and when trying to just explore or get around the world it gets very frustrating. The game is also pretty short; you won’t get a ton out of the game for the ten dollar price tag, but it may be worth it for some nonetheless.
Whispering Willows is by no means a masterpiece, but it is a beautiful world and an engaging atmosphere that unfortunately is wrapped in undeveloped gameplay and a not very compelling story. Still; it’s an experience with a lot to offer for those with a love of eerie and beautiful games.