- Developer: Alterego Games
- Publisher: StickyLock Studios
- Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC
- Release Date: November 15, 2019
- Price: $19.99
- Reviewed On: PlayStation 4
- Review Code Provided: Yes
Woven is a hard game to describe. It first caught my attention through someone on Twitter letting me know about the game and that I may enjoy it, after a call out for more cute games in my life. The footage I saw interested me as it depicted a stuffed elephant travelling through a world of yarn with his mechanical firefly buddy. It looked like something I could show my daughter and really get her into games. I was graciously given a review copy and hopped in as soon as I could. It’s cute but may not be for everyone.
One thing to keep in mind is that this game is an exploratory adventure. There are no weapons, no real platforming, and no violence. Instead, Woven is focused on exploring the woolen world as Stuffy, a battered and torn stuffed elephant, who stumbles across a mechanical bug friend. Together they explore, solve puzzles, and try to figure out what they are doing there in the first place. Tying the whole experience together is some truly wonderful narration, very reminiscent of Stephen Fry’s turn in the Little Big Planet series. It’s warm, fatherly, and delivered in a fantastical manner making the whole world seem like a story book. It was very refreshing to play something so innocent.
As you explore the world, your purpose shifts and changes depending on what grabs Stuffy’s attention. He comes off as a precocious child wandering around, easily distracted by something new and shiny, and equally scared away by dark corridors and noises. Glitch, his mechanical firefly friend, helps to counterbalance this and acts as a sort of guide and companion figure to Stuffy. Their relationship is presented wonderfully, explained perfectly in the narration, and helped to push me further to figure out where they came from and how I could progress their story further. They also work incredibly well together in terms of the puzzles the world presents.
As you make your way through the woolen world, there are obstacles that block your path, that cannot be passed without altering Stuffy. The next bit is a bit of a spoiler, so skip ahead to the next paragraph if you do not wish to have any aspect spoiled. Good? Ok. Stuffy can change his form and colour through the use of various machines throughout the game world. The different blueprints, and access to these machines, is all governed through the use of Glitch, who can easily scan items in the world to obtain colour patterns and blueprints. This aspect was fantastic, as well as another reason to explore the world. With each pattern unlocked, a fraction would appear on screen advising you how many you have discovered in the world versus what is left to uncover. You may need to jump in areas, which is not something his elephant form can do. Changing Stuffy’s form can lead to new abilities being unlocked, making these areas now traversable. Each action for Glitch is mapped to the left stick and L2 button, while Stuffy’s actions are mapped alternately to the right stick and R2 button. This works incredibly well, and is very intuitive, using only icons to distinguish the actions.
Some of the game world is really a sight to behold. The creatures look phenomenal, and very cute. Beasts of burden are huge and incredibly cuddly looking. All the flora and fauna are fantastic, and have their own little attitudes and behavior. Buttons stick out of the world in random areas, as well as patches of mismatched fabric. All the little details are really quite cute. That being said, there are parts of the world that do not look as nice. Some areas look washed out and worn, while adjacent areas look like real fabric. Some jagged edges mar the experience in areas, as most of the world has lovely soft corners to mimic their fabric make up. Stuffy himself looks incredibly cute and expressive in a permanently innocent and curious way. When he walks though, the floaty animations don’t do him justice. At times you can get stuck behind geometry like flowers and plants, even though they look warm and soft. landscapes jump and shift as the frames adjust after a panning cut scene, or characters pop in and out slightly. It can be frustrating, but the experience is still enjoyable.
In terms of sound design, the music is lovely and helps to set the stage, but is also quiet and unobtrusive. The sound effects are good as well, including Stuffy’s below for puzzle solving, animals chittering as you pass them, it all helps to make the world seem full of life. The real star is the narration though. I have already mentioned this, but the narrators gravelly, deep, and British-accented delivery is truly heartwarming. The lines are all meant to rhyme, and even some of the lines that are not that well written really charm with his delivery. One of the best choices they made in this game was with him, so I applaud this!
The game really is charming, but not enough for me to give this a really high score. Mileage is really going to vary on this one. For people that just want something quaint and easy going, this will scratch the itch. For young gamers, this could really work. It didn’t hold my daughter’s attention as much as “the Fox Game” did, but she is young yet, and can’t really play with a controller. I could see this captivating children though. For gamers that want something exciting and driven, this may not work. The glitches in frame rate, plodding progress, and lack of map and direction could really irritate some. For these reasons, it is a hard game to score. It’s a very charming game, with a ton of heart and a great exploratory adventure, but it does have some things that hold it back. For those people with young kids, I think this is a great game for them to explore.