Author Topic: Willful Review  (Read 172 times)

Jubal

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Willful Review
« on: August 17, 2017, 11:51:36 PM »
Willful - a review by Jubal

Game Type: Indie/Commercial
Genre: Puzzle Platformer

Link: http://store.steampowered.com/app/664060/Willful/

Graphics rating:
Gameplay rating:
Immersion rating:
Overall rating:

Willful is a platform-puzzler, with a zany/surrealist sci-fi theme; it follows an anthropomorphic rabbit called Will, who is chosen as a sacrifice to the dark deity behemoth, but escapes thanks to a system malfunction and then goes on a campaign to rid the world of the beast. I've scored it as a four: it's a pretty cost-effective buy on steam and good for a few hours of fun gameplay if you like this genre. There are some particularly good features and some caveats within that, which I'll go into later in the review.

I'll discuss gameplay and immersion separately, as I think it usually makes sense to in this genre, where the puzzles and storyline are often pretty separate elements; we'll start with gameplay. The diversity and style of gameplay worked well for me; I'll note I'm not a hardcore platformer gamer, and for the most part there weren't too many "super-platformer" type sections (by which I mean things like "time these 20 jumps perfectly or die" that you get in some such games). There was some mechanical/dexterity skill involved, but the puzzle elements genuinely worked as such which was good, and the bosses and enemies were varied enough to require a degree of actual strategic thinking which is also always nice. The range of bosses was good: most provided some level of challenge before I worked out a functional strategy to beat them, and all had a different tactic (some are much faster, some just involve plugging away at a measured pace with the gun, some are slow and require you to run around them a lot, etc).

In terms of overarching structure, you teleport between the levels, and as you gain carrots through the adventure you can unlock new ones. Death is non-permanent but can involve you losing all your money: a "spirit" which can restore your money sits around near where you died for a while, though double-dying before you can get the first spirit back really does lose all your money which is frustrating. Some critters seem to respawn when you die in a way that wasn't super clear. Generally the structural elements worked well, the plot was broadly clear enough to follow, and I found and got all the carrots over the course of a few hours of gameplay. I like the region-hopping exploration element a lot and would've like the game to use & double down on it more, but I'll go into that further on in the review.

There are a few areas that could have been better: a couple of minor gameplay bugs (one time failing to respawn after dying in a boss fight, one time, killing a boss and not having the door open afterwards) meant things didn't feel perfectly smooth, though both the aforementioned issues were non-normal and I couldn't replicate either of them, so don't worry too much about glitches harming your gameplay. More explanation would have been good at times: at the start of the game a few more tutorial points (the thing telling you how to shoot is too easy to miss) would've been good, and some tricky maneuvers, especially shooting downwards which is possible and necessary but can only be done with some difficulty whilst in midair, genuinely needed explanation. Also, what the carrot-finding compasses did took me three worlds to figure out, and I had a couple of times where gems fell on slopes and it was hard to pick them up. Overall these are relatively minor quibbles, but they mean the game is a bit less slick in terms of gameplay than it could be.

In terms of immersion, there's a lot good to say. The storyline and setting are simple but give the game a decent momentum, and the "area hopping" non-linear part of the game was something I really liked. The dialogue is generally well written (there's one point where Chad uses "you're" instead of "your", but Chad is an arse anyway). In general the NPCs are played well; the elders are well established as somewhat comically unthreatening "villains", with the real plotline being represented by the mysterious hologram figure of "Chad" who appears in every level to make snarky comments at you. The golem-being called Craig who you befriend is a nice touch and that subplot makes some good use of the world-hopping element which is otherwise not brought in too heavily, and the other NPCs are all well written.

So, what could be improved? Basically I think a bit more time spent on fleshing things out could have smoothed out the storyline and made the game world more compelling to be in. At a basic level, the well placed dialogue could have been expanded a little to add more humour into the game as it went along, and whilst I'm not going to spoiler the three different endings too much, none of them felt, to say the least, well explained. The balance between keeping a zany setting silly and providing consistency is a tough one, but I think building in some stronger in-world explanations for certain things would help improve & set up the surrealist humour that underpins the game. The zaniness is generally kept at the right level, though the moveable and appearing/disappearing blocks having strange faces on them felt odd enough to warrant further explanations that weren't forthcoming.

As a stretch goal, I'd say that the exploration elements of the game could be worked in more - possibly adding one or two more upgrades/plots that take you between worlds, and perhaps adding something like a "monster diary" or "bestiary" with silly descriptions of the different bizarre creatures and some comment on their lives and lifestyles, which would let the player feel they were building something through the course of exploring the different worlds a little more and would make the setting feel more fleshed out. These are all expansion ideas to what's a decent setting as it is - it's good, but there's also potential there for it to be excellent.

All in all, it's a fun little adventure and will provide some decent hopping and shooting gameplay, with challenges that are frustrating enough to be worthwhile but accessible to gamers who aren't super hardcore platformers. Would recommend a playthrough, and I'll be interested to see what comes out from the game's creator in future!
« Last Edit: August 18, 2017, 10:27:39 PM by Jubal »
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