Even though I’m a middle-aged man, I have to admit to having a guilty pleasure of playing video games that may be necessarily aimed at younger players. It’s not because they be significantly easier than more, mature games, but because they contain a certain, whimsical charm that makes them a delight to play through; plus there’s the fact that I can play them with my kids too, or advise them on what they need to do and make myself look like a gaming god! Their bright and colourful presentations, catchy tunes and cartoon-styled madcap adventures provide a nice break from endless slaughtering, tactical decision-making and constantly getting it handed to me on Fifa and there’s no better example of a pace-changing, charming game than that of Woven as it weaves a release onto the Nintendo Switch.
Developed by Alterego Games and published through StickyLock Studios, this materialistic adventure sees you following the exploits of Fluffy, a plush-toyed elephant who lives in a land of fabric. All of the grasslands, trees, hills and mountains are all made of different fabrics that are stitched together; much in a similar vein to games such as LittleBigPlanet and Yoshi’s Woolly World. Anyway, the story follows our fabric friend, Fluffy, after he tumbles down a ravine and comes across a bee-like machine named Glitch. Suffering from memory-loss, the metallic, flying bug partners up with Fluffy to search the land and explore the mysteries of the metal machines that dot the landscape and threaten the peace of this material land.
This third-person adventure focuses on exploration and solving a series of puzzles. However, along the way, you can also indulge in a number of customisations that have a direct effect on certain gameplay elements and take part in some rhythmic mini-games that stitches everything together. The game runs at pleasant pace, there’s no urgency or tension, as you search out the machines that litter the land and activate them with the help of Glitch; an important asset as he is the only one who has the ability to make the machines function. Some of these machines have different functions, from creating blueprints that form different plushies, to full customisation of Fluffy to present him with a series of abilities in order to solve some of the puzzles that stand in their way.
One such machine plays a rhythmic-style of game; one that mimics the note-matching mechanic of titles such as Guitar Hero. Presented with a horizontal grid, a series of notes, or dots, move from the left towards the right, where a series of modules can be moved in order to line them up with the notes that move towards them. String together a combination of notes and the machine presents you with a blueprint that allows you to alter the state of Fluffy; either by changing his appearance to that of a new plush toy animal, or by changing any limb or body part. These blueprints can then be used on another mechanical source, namely the sewing machine or weave, where you can customise Fluffy to your hearts content.
These not only change the appearance of our fluffy-stuffed hero, but also grants him new abilities that can help him to push heavy objects, jump over impassable gaps or perform a ground pound. These skills, or abilities become crucial to progression, as along the path of your journey, you’ll come across a series of puzzles or obstacles that need to overcome in order to progress. A speech bubble from both Fluffy and Glitch signifies what skills are needed to advance and it’s up to you to locate the specific blueprint or weave in order to attain the skill needed. As well as these physical abilities, you can also add further customisation by changing the colour of Fluffy, either completely or by body part, with a number of various colours or patterns that can be collected from the flowers within the land.
There’s a large amount of gameplay options that will appeal to a younger player, from the fabric-friendly environments to the cute plushy and customisations that kids will love. However, this is all further bolstered with a friendly narration throughout the game that details the story, explains new abilities and hints towards puzzles through the medium of rhyme. It really does tell a charming story in a poetic voice that doesn’t feel that far from watching a children’s television programme and provides a good source of explaining what is going within the game in a very child-like and friendly way.
Everything within the game has been designed to produce an instantly playable and accessible premise for younger audiences to enjoy; even if they prefer to simply watch what is going on on-screen. The left joycon controls stuffy, whilst the right adjusts camera angles and the triggers are used to activate your myriad of special moves or abilities. The game also provides a very relaxed experience that runs at a nice pace; although admittedly, there may be sections within the game, or even a few mechanics that may prove challenging to kids; meaning they may need a helping hand at certain points. For instance, for the most part, the puzzles are easily explained, whereby a couple of others may require some lateral thinking. Navigation can be a problem at times too, as the game never displays a waypoint or marker towards where you need to go next or where previously discovered locations, such as the machines, can be found within its open-world environment.
One area where the game really excels, is in its visual and audio presentations. The world in which you explore is bright and colourful and generally feels safe; by that I mean that everything is made from fabric with soft contours and gentle shapes. However, some of the textures do hold a certain blurriness to them; something that I suspect is more down to the performance capabilities of the Switch rather than the game itself. Despite this though, everything remains bright and clear and the land is a pleasant place to explore. Its audio too, is nicely done with some exemplary footstep sounds that change according to the style of fabric you may be walking on. The narration too, is superbly done and really does generate towards a child-friendly environment in which to play.
Overall, Woven is a charming game that is full of well-crafted components. Its world is a delightful place and the story that narrates around it is utterly charming. The central characters too, are simply irresistible and the game as a whole, presents a really nice change of pace from the adrenalin-fuelled, excite-fest titles that we may be more accustomed too. Whether you’re a younger or older player, there’s a lot within this package to instantly like and with its easy-to-use control scheme and accessible challenges, makes this an ideal family game for all to enjoy. It does contain a couple of minor nuances, but they are simply just that, minor and in all honesty, this is simply a game that holds those special ingredients that can be missing from so many other modern games: fun and playability. It’s so charming, it’ll simply make you feel all fluffy and that can’t be a bad thing, can it?
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to email@example.com.
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Gameplay - 7/10
Graphics - 7/10
Sound - 7/10
Replay Value - 7/10
Woven is a charming game that is full of well-crafted components.