Parents' Guide to

Whispering Willows

By Chad Sapieha, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 14+

Horror adventure with strong heroine but lackluster puzzles.

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Whispering Willows' strength lies in its narrative. The story of Elena, who learns of terrible atrocities committed against her people in the distant past, is compelling. The game's writers realistically explore the evil that even well-meaning people are capable of, condemning their actions but never suggesting they're beyond understanding or even forgiveness. There's a slight disconnect between the horror of the events described in notes and the game's cartoonish presentation, but it helps keep the overall vibe from becoming too dark or grisly -- which is appreciated, given the youth and innocence of its heroine.

Sadly, the puzzles and exploration fail to match the power of the story. Working through and around the multilayered, two-dimensional world can be confusing and even frustrating -- especially a garden maze that forces players to memorize which similar-looking holes in the hedge they've entered and which ones they haven't. Transforming into Elena's spirit form to squeeze through cracks too big for her body doesn't really liven things up. The puzzles, meanwhile, are too simple to offer much satisfaction. Some require players to find an item and bring it to a specific place, and others involve the basic manipulation of objects, often to make them match something else in the room. They're just not very original. There's definitely a tale worth telling here, but it might have been better communicated through the medium of books or film. Or maybe a better game.

Game Details

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