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Monday, June 15, 2009
Wandering Willows Analyzed
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | Comment on this story

Gamasutra has posted a new review of Wandering Willows, a casual RPG from PlayFirst. In the game players take the role of a balloonist stranded on an island filled with colorful characters and creatures. Repairing the balloon and returning home requires making friends with the inhabitants of the island.

From the review:

These pets are the chief mechanism of the game. The protagonist does relatively little work. Most of the hard labor of climbing trees for fruit or digging up the ground is done by pets. The protagonist may be accompanied only by one pet at a time, but can build up a stable of different pet species and rotate among them. Pets need to be fed, and they level up with enough experience. Different species are good at different things.

(I found myself fleetingly wondering about the slave-labor hierarchy of this society, since the long-term inhabitants mostly rely on the newcomer to provide them with food and clothing, while the newcomer in turn manipulates the cunning but speechless animals into doing all the really hard work. But I am fairly certain the designers did not intend me to think about any such thing.)

What about story? There is a loose framing arc about assembling enough goods to repair your balloon and get off the island, but it isn't the kind of story one is invited to take seriously. The thing is a pastiche of every sort of childhood fantasy element: aliens, pirates, sea monsters, rocket ships, time machines, ancient ruined temples.

As for the gameplay, if you approach it with a goal-oriented, game-winning agenda in mind, you'll find it is largely busywork. You collect quests, you pick fruits and dig up commodities, you fulfill your quests. If you want to, you can go off-script and bake or sew something you weren't explicitly asked to bake or sew, but there is no need to do so: you can earn friendship points by giving gifts to the other characters, but you're likely to end up with their friendship anyway, simply by going through the assigned tasks.
Visit the site below to read the full analysis.

Gamasutra: Wandering Willows Review
Buy Wandering Willows

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