A world stitched together with a clumsy stuffed animal for a protagonist, a flying mechanical bug companion and a softly spoken rhyming narrator, the adventure game Woven certainly has a lot of initial charm and it's out now.
The developers said it's like "platform, point-and-click and action-adventure games without being exactly like any of them". To me though, it felt a lot simpler than that, more like a walking sim with basic puzzle elements.
The controls in Woven are a bit—odd. By default, you're in mouse control giving you a point and click style movement system, but you can switch over to keyboard or gamepad to move around like a more traditional 3D adventure.
I'm not entirely sure who this is aimed at. The developer said it's "laid-back, casual and tailored to a broad audience with both easy and more advanced puzzles". The setting, style and delivery of it all certainly makes it seem like it's aimed at children, especially with the constant (and quickly tiring) rhyming but the language used and the flow of it seem just that bit too advanced. Really it's a game for an older audience who enjoys puzzles, collecting and wants something far more casual. That said, my own 8 year old was absolutely mesmerised by it as much as I was at certain points but for me that fascination didn't last long.
The real unique feature in Woven is how you change your character to deal with different situations. To unlock patterns and colours, you need to find them in the world somehow and get your companion to scan them. You also get different body parts from various types of stuffed animals by completing puzzles.
The puzzles to unlock new animal types aren't difficult, requiring a quick bit of finger work to switch some levers around and a little brainpower to make sure things are in the right place. Nothing taxing but not exactly exciting either.
At various stations, you then mix and match these patterns, colours, types of fabric and body parts to create some truly weird combinations. This part I did think was wonderful, letting your creative juices flow to create an amusing looking character.
While the basic design of Woven is truly fantastic, lots of elements do look incredible with everything stitched together including the land, plants, animals and more there is a lot of blandness to it too. A lot of your time walking around is through plain paths that all end up looking a bit samey.
One of the problems in Woven is the backtracking when you miss something. Movement is quite slow, you can easily get stuck on the tiniest of bumps in the path and it just feels clunky to move around. Especially so since there's no combat, you can only jump with a specific body part and even the jumping is so incredibly basic. Add into it that there's no map, walking around without a clue got a bit tiring at times. Speaking to the developer, they said they felt a map would "beat the kind of exploration game it is".
That becomes a problem when you need a certain body part for a certain puzzle or obstacle, this backtracking then becomes slightly more annoying to get back to a station, change and then run all the way back. It's a fun sounding mechanic that wears a little thin.
Two technical issues: the initial resolution in the Linux version seems to be set really low, making everything look blurry. Changing this was a real nuisance too as you have to click through tons of resolutions, one at a time, with each changing the display so it was frustrating to get it up to 1080p. Additionally, it doesn't like gamepad hot-plugging. If you accidentally pull-out a wire or your wireless pad turns off, it doesn't correctly detect it again until you restart.
What Alterego Games have created here is an adventure game with a lot of heart, a fun childish style style and a creative body-changing mechanic that could have been the next big thing but it falls short due to how basic it actually is. Still, it's a very calming exploration adventure and if you're after something more relaxing and casual it's a safe bet.
You can find Woven on Steam.
I'm always looking for games for my own ones but I won't go for one with "clunky" controls. That's the last kind of game for my first one with like zero frustration tolerance. That has to be the easiest part.
Thanks for the excellent write up, Liam. It's clear that this is one game I should just avoid. :)
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