GamingReview: Whateverland

Review: Whateverland

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Recently, I’ve been playing a lot of Point and Click adventure games. My recent review of Nine Noir Lives can attest as much to this. So, when I was informed that Caligari Games had sent over a copy of their new graphic adventure release, Whateverland, I jumped at the opportunity to give it a shot. What I found within was a delightful experience, albeit somewhat truncated.

Bad kid, mad world.

The story begins with a man breaking into a house to steal a necklace from a woman named Beatrice. The man in question, Vincent, is seemingly quite talented, as he is quickly able to procure his desired item. Unbeknownst to him, Beatrice has been watching over him the entire time. And when she catches him red-handed, she reveals herself to be an all-powerful sorceress, banishing him as retribution for the crimes.

Upon awaking, Vincent finds himself trapped in a refrigerator, located at a junkyard. Yet, the further he delves into the dump, the more things seem slightly off. A ghost called Nick fills him in on his bizarre new home, referring to it as Whateverland. A strange world where existence is eternal, and people slowly transform into depictions of their personality.

Determined not to remain a prisoner, Vincent teams up with Nick to recover seven segments of a spell to summon Beatrice. From there, they hope to negotiate their way out of this plane and back into reality. The only problem is each piece of the puzzle is possessed by different Whateverland inhabitants. It’s up to Vincent to decide if he’ll play nicely to retrieve them, or dive into his thieving skillset to do so dubiously.

Too short for its own good.

The overarching story is completely acceptable in its own right. However, I found that the best narrative moments came from the short stories surrounding the individual residents. Usually, these involve an insight their past, their current situation, and how they arrived in Whateverland. I suggest keeping an eye open for François’s plotline, as it meshes dark comedy concepts with poignant drama excellently.

Contrarily, I wasn’t initially enamoured with the games main protagonists. They felt absently dry, almost appearing uninterested in the story. Still, over the course of my playthrough, I did warm to their self-deprecating humour and monotone delights. Admittedly, their friendship does come across a bit rushed, and their innate synergy is undeserving at the best of times.

In truth, Whateverland is plagued with a fair amount of narrative pacing issues. Characters aren’t given ample time to be fleshed out, as you only spend about 10 minutes in total with each of them. This is unfortunate, as the little snippets we are exposed too are rather intriguing. As it stands, only one or two characters stood out to me, and even then, they were treated unjustly.

Gameplay that strays away from the norm.

Whateverland plays like any other Point and Click adventure game, using the mouse to move around and interact with various points of interest. You’ll then be given the ability to investigate, talk to NPCs, or, in the case of items, pick them up and add them to your inventory.

Incidentally, Whateverland doesn’t feature a ton of the genre’s traditional gameplay loops, such as using items to overcome figurative barriers. In lieu of this, it utilises mini-games as its primary form of checkpoint progression. These cover a wide assortment of ideas, ranging from challenging puzzles akin to Lost in Play, or jovial tasks like cooking a bowl of ramen. I honestly wish there were more mini-games to partake in, as they were a great addition, and a true highlight.

As alluded to earlier on, you’ll have the final say in whether or not you play by the rules. The choices you make will impact the story at large, as well as the characters opinions of you. At the same time, it will also alter the way in which you gain the seven pieces of the spell, along with the tasks your presented with. Keep this in mind if you intend to experience the entirety of what the game has to offer. One playthrough won’t cover it all.

Bell and Bones

There is a mini game that is much more prominent throughout Whateverland, that being Bell & Bones. Effectively, this is a turn-based strategy scenario that crosses basketball with XCOM. The ultimate goal of the game is to fire the bell into one of three spoons. To do this, you control four Bones, which are the miniature models enacting as your team.

Each one of the Bones excel at something, such as passing or running large distances. They also come equipped with their own special abilities, which can be used either aggressively or defensively, based on your current situation. There is a surprising amount of complexity to be discovered here. I could easily see Bell & Bones being transformed into its own fully fledged release.

Having said that, there are some usability problems present in Bell & Bones. For example, the camera is fixed to one perspective, sometimes making it hard to select the space you want to move to. This can be frustrating, as it makes it feel as though the game is conspiring against you. Thankfully, you do have the option to bypass these sequences altogether by using an in-game item to automatically win. Nevertheless, I’d still recommend trying it out as it is relatively fun.

Visually unique.

Whateverland’s art style clearly takes inspiration from Tim Burton’s ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas.’ The decision to use this was quite ingenious on the part of Caligari Games, as the aesthetic perfectly aligns with the game’s narrative direction. This is further enhanced by the character and background designs, which have all been painstakingly hand-drawn.

Depending on your taste, you may or may not be into it stylistically. Regardless of where you stand on that matter, this is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the more unique looking games currently available on the market.

The UI, whilst presented well, does harbour some technical hiccups. As aforementioned, the usability can be a tad rough, with simple tasks like exiting out of your inventory proving to be unnecessarily tedious. This doesn’t take away from the UIs visual thematic, which coincides with the tones of the game remarkably.

Atmospheric arrangements.

If you enjoy jazz, blues or instrumental chanson music, then this soundtrack will be right up your alley. The compositions themselves are short, pleasant, incidental pieces, that accompany the on-screen visuals tremendously. They also seamlessly blend into the background, allowing you as the player to remain focused on the unravelling story.

When it comes to voice acting in Whateverland, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. The supporting cast largely fill their role, with a select few even exceeding expectations. Once again, François fits this category, as the actor authentically captures the plights of his characters life.

Vincent and Nick aren’t outstanding by any measure, but they aren’t overly bad either. At the very least, Vincent’s actor seems to be enthusiastic about playing his role. According to one line of dialogue, he is checking off a lifelong bucket list item by doing this. For that, I really can’t fault him. And, as I mentioned earlier, he and Nick do exude a lot of charm, and playful traits.

Conclusion

Overall, Whateverland is an enjoyable Point and Click adventure, if a little rushed. The mini-games are a welcomed alternative to the standard gameplay loops, helping to keep things feeling fresh and new. The Burton-esque visual designs expertly capture the extraterrestrial ambiance, which is similarly matched with the games OST. While the overarching story and character narratives are pleasant, they suffer from a lack of development, occasionally resulting in a flat experience. Personally, I can offer a light recommendation to seek this one out.

If you’re still unsure if this is something you’d be interested in, then you can try out the free prologue demo over on Steam.

SUMMARY

+ Enjoyable mini-games
+ Unique art style
+ Pleasant soundtrack
- Truncated story
- Some usability problems

(This was reviewed on Steam. You can also find this on GOG.com.
Lee Fairweather
Lee Fairweather
A lifelong video game lover turned games journalist and historian. You can find me playing anything from the latest AAA PC releases, all the way back to retro Mega Drive classics.
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Review: Whateverland+ Enjoyable mini-games </br> + Unique art style </br> + Pleasant soundtrack </br> - Truncated story </br> - Some usability problems </br> </br> (This was reviewed on Steam. You can also find this on GOG.com.