Woven, safe and warm – First Sip Review
Woven is a casual adventure game with slight puzzle elements. Developed by Alterego Games and Publishers StickyLock Studios. We ran a short preview for the game and have now been given the chance to check out the full game.
Woven is a laid back adventure game in a pleasant woolen world. However, the world may not be as pleasant as it first seems. The main character Stuffy is a clumsy stuffed elephant who finds himself inexplicably alone in his fabric world. Well, not completely alone Stuffy teams up with a mechanical firefly named Glitch who seems to have lost his memories. The two become fast friends and decide to stick together as they learn more about the land and their histories.
The mixture of a fabric-based world with, out of place mechanical creatures and machines, is somewhat reminiscent of the animated film 9. But, the similarities sort of end there, with Woven having a more laid back narrative.
The story of the game is told in equal measures, visually and via the narrator. In addition, the narrator speaks mostly in rhymes which gives the game a sort of children’s TV show quality.
Easily the best aspect of Woven is the art. Firstly, the fabric-based world looks fantastic, with strong senses of texture built into the look. Secondly, the characters, especially Stuffy are incredibly cute. Stuffy looks just like a plush doll and with his customizable options, you can tailor him to your liking. Or, well Glitch can tailor him for you.
While the fabric look extends to most places and objects. Such as mountains, trees, and even small flowers and mushrooms. It doesn’t extend over everything, notably the water and sky which look more like regular water and skies. While this may have been a practical decision, and one that makes the water seem impassable as is the reality of the game. I can’t help but wish the water was made of wool as well.
Overall the visual aspects of Woven are very well handled. With only a few small exceptions including some slightly rough edges (not like frayed though which would be kind of neat). And more noticeably, but less frequently, there are some trees and other objects that aren’t sitting correctly and jut out into nothingness.
The music in Woven is quite nice, as are most of the sound effects. However, as the game is quite slow it makes the music become rather repetitive. Much more so than it would in say a Zelda game. This is because you spend a lot of time just walking from place to place. With no real action to change things up. Sound effects have a similarly grating effect in some ways. While individual sounds are ok and work well, a lot of the time they will be much louder than the music sort of drowning everything else out. The sound of the ocean or a woodpecker, for example, are fine at first, but if you get to close to them they are all you can hear.
Sound-wise the best aspect of Woven has to be the narrator. With a deep raspy voice that sounds pleasant to hear. Mixed with the mostly rhyming dialogue, you get a really nice kids show feel. Weirdly though a lot of the dialogue that doesn’t attempt to rhyme seems to be throwaway lines that don’t explain the story at all.
Gameplay in Woven is relatively simple but also has a learning curve. To begin with, the game has controller support. But, in order to use a controller, you have to navigate with the mouse to options and then select the controller option. Similarly, the game has no real tutorial so when you find the first musical machine (which unlocks new animal patterns), it takes some trial and error to really understand it. I could imagine that for a child, which seems to be the target audience for the game, these things alone may discourage them.
Beyond this, I experienced a lot of gameplay issues with Woven. Keep in mind it is a new release and as such bugs are to be expected. However, not all of the issues I have seen could be called bugs, yes there have been undeniable bugs, such as a complete crash of the game which stopped Windows Explorer from running so my taskbar and other windows could not be seen. And then, there was another issue I had with the game no longer recognizing the controller after the first time I played.
The unfortunate side of Woven
However, the fundamental issues I had that kept me from loving the game as much as I wanted to were as follows. Game speed. The game is very slow, yes it rewards exploration by hiding collectibles like new fabric styles and memories for Glitch. But, a lot of the game is spent just walking around with no real concept of where you have been and where you are going except for paths, paths that often lead you away from the hidden collectibles. As far I could tell there was no map option, which again may make things harder for a younger player.
Gameplay speed also extends to abilities. Using Stuffy’s abilities is a fairly slow process, most animations take two to three seconds, which doesn’t sound like much but when it drags the already slow speed even further it discourages experimentation. Generally, the game will also show you which ability to use and where to use it as well, which further decreases the desire to experiment. Even resewing Stuffy takes a while, which can make things annoying having to choose a pattern, run to the next area and then find you need to run back and get another pattern.
The Power of patterns
Powers are tied to different parts of the pattern, this was a feature I was excited about. Being able to craft a Stuffy with all sorts of crazy powers. But, out of the 6 patterns I found, 4 of them had the exact same powers. The starting one had the same powers except it was missing the arm power and then finally the last one had a different leg power (but the same arm and head powers as the others). Even one of the patterns that shared powers with the bulk of the others I received the last timeline-wise, making most of them purely cosmetic. Honestly, it feels like a really wasted mechanic which is sad.
In conclusion, while the gameplay was far slower than I had anticipated. And the pattern changing mechanic I was excited for felt underutilized. I didn’t hate the game, in fact I rather like it. But, sadly I could not love it, which is a shame. The artwork and design are fantastic, the core concept is great, the implementation just didn’t work for me.
Regardless, the game is a breath of fresh air. In a world filled with twitch shooters and depressing but poignant story-based games. Woven stands out as being calm, relaxing, and most of all a family-friendly experience.
In Coffee Terms
In coffee terms, Woven is like a relaxing latte, one with beautiful art drawn into the foam. Served in an appealing mug, it looks really nice, but the actual coffee is on the weak side. For those looking for a real caffeine kick, you won’t find it here. For those looking for a deep and fulfilling flavor, you’re a little closer but still should keep looking. But, for a starting coffee. Or for those who maybe aren’t ready to just dive into the world of high energy in your face coffee, you could do far worse. As long as you know what you’re getting there is a lot to like.
Woven Review Summary
One half of the YouTube brother duo, The Game Bros with Sirhc and Ar0n, Chris is a lover of games, movies and other great things you can do from home.
Coffee of choice: I like the sweeter kinds, mixed with chocolate, coconut, caramel etc. but I won’t turn down a flat white or a straight black either.