Who in their right mind would want to venture to the Antarctic to explore an old castle, and other random locations? Not many people I’m guessing, well how about doing this not just once, oh no, not twice, but three times! The game franchise We Were Here hit the scene in 2017, due to its popularity a sequel was created, We Were Here Too in 2018, going on from that in 2020 we have the third part in the trilogy We Were Here Together (WWHTG). Developed and published by Total Mayhem Games, this First Person Puzzle title has you working cooperatively with another player online. Your aim is to solve all the problems in front of you by working together. The twist is that each person works in a separate area, you cannot see what the other is doing and through clear and concise communication, you must identify the solution in order to move on.
For fans of this franchise, you will note some stand out differences to the 2 previous experiences. We Were Here Together is at least double the size of the others in this series, this handed the developers the opportunity to increase the variety and number of puzzles that you will have to face. Another addition is the ability to pick up and store items in your inventory. This ensured that a number of the challenges ahead were multi-layered and some planning and scavenging of the areas was required in order to have the right objects at hand. If you happen to be late to the party, and this is your first experience of the Total Mayhem Games series, then have no fear, no previous experience is required. Unlike in the first 2 games, the developers have allowed you to work together on the some of the problems on the same screen. This gives you the ability to iron out any creases in your communication skills and come to a clear understanding before going your separate ways.
Now that we know where the franchise started, and what the main differences are between each, I’m going to start with a bit of a warning. We Were Here Together is only an online Co-op experience. Similar to the popular and unique title A Way Out, the game will only load in with 2 players in the lobby. Unlike A Way Out, both players must purchase the game, and the only way to share the licence is using Microsoft’s Gameshare system. If you are thinking of purchasing this game make sure you have friends who are willing to play it, or you are open to work with unknown online gamers. If you have no friends, or you are adverse to playing with strangers, then this one won’t be for you.
Right now we have got that out of the way, let’s look at this game. You explore a number of different areas with your fellow adventurer; The Base Camp, Ice Caves, and the Antarctic Wilderness. The only form of communications that you have is a pair of Walkie Talkies. With these you must discuss what you see in front of you, and somehow piece together what your partner sees. As the game progresses, this gets more intense and detailed. You must mix ingredients and combine items that you have found to complete recipes. You place your trust in your fellow gamer, and by working together you somehow muddle through.
With this being a puzzle game, you’d expect problem solving to be the main skill set, I found that though it was obviously important, communication was the king. The use of Walkie Talkies was very clever, if you both talk at the same time, the messages blocked one another out. Fail to press the button, and you are talking to yourself like some regular nut case. After a short period of time myself and my brother adjusted to the restrictive talking measures. We found that this game style really makes you bond as you start to unravel the many mysteries in front of you. The humorous comments made over the radios at the beginning soon faded to puzzle critical information only as we took our roles as each of the problem solving adventurers.
Having played the previous 2 games, I fully expected the puzzles to increase to an almost impossible peak by the end of the game. With WWHTG being so much bigger than the others I was honestly dreading working out complex multi layered problems, while trying to clearly explain what I had seen, and what I was doing to my partner in crime. Fortunately, and strangely disappointingly this didn’t happen. The puzzles seemed to taper off to an almost school level challenge. It was a relief to a certain extent, but it felt like the developers maybe had over stretched themselves, and perhaps they had run out of time near the end of the process. This isn’t to say that the majority of the challenges that you will face won’t push you, trust me they will, it’s just a shame this level of quality didn’t run throughout the whole title.
Played out in an exclusive First Person viewpoint, you must adjust to searching areas just through the eyes of your protagonist. I found this limited your field of view, and this meant that objects could be easily missed. A slow and methodical approach must be taken in order to succeed. The art style reminded me of The Long Dark, but it had a distinctive cartoon edge to it. I love how the developers used darker shades of the earthy colour palette that had been implemented. Walking around there was an air of foreboding, and I was constantly on edge waiting for something to go wrong. The animation of your playing partner was smooth, but it was a little strange that any items being carried would not be displayed, even if it was in their hands. Each area of the map that you visit, has a unique look and feel to it, as I explored for clues or items, I found I was never bored as I was discovering new areas as well as methods to move the story forward.
In the Antarctic wilderness the silence is deafening. Standing still and isolated in this frozen world, you could hear a pin drop. All of a sudden crackle sound from your radio, your partner needs your help. The audio is absolutely spectacular, both sound effects and music work together in perfect harmony. Total Mayhem Games have created an atmospheric, and dark mysterious air to the world that you must explore. The tone and tempo of the music fits the theme perfectly, and the sound of the harsh weather reminds you of how alone you truly are.
With so many contraptions to handle, and small confined spaces to venture through, you may be worried that the control setup is complicated, and you are left to work out how to control puzzles as well as solving them. Fortunately, it’s all pretty easy to master. The movement response is accurate, and not too sensitive. All actions are mapped to their own buttons, so once you know the basics, all you have to do is concentrate on talking to your partner, and solving the problems in front of you. When an item can be used a silhouette of it can be seen on the screen, this helps to reduce confusion, and makes it more obvious where objects can be used. With very little hand holding, this gave a welcome relief to what could sometimes be a challenging, yet fun gaming experience.
With an awful lot of puzzles to work through, each with varying levels of difficulty, a gamble when it comes to gaming partner, if you are matching up with a random person that is, and a beautiful world to explore. This game has a lot to offer to make you want to keep playing, and to want to return to try again. In my first session I managed 3 hours, and I hardly scratched the surface, this is probably due to my puzzle solving inefficiency, than the length of the game. I would say that a veteran of the genre, who has a good partner should complete this in under 10 hours. Everyone else will be looking at between 10 and 12 hours. If you want all of the achievements you’ll be lucky to unlock them in one playthrough, as most hide behind the secret achievement screen.
Once you overcome the restriction of a playing partner, and getting to grips with the communication mechanics, you’ll find that you will become absorbed in the gaming world. The approach that the developers have taken to solving problems is both unique and fun. The amazing audio, and crisp graphics transport you to the Antarctic, where the loneliness and eerie silence will play tricks on your mind. Would I recommend this title? I absolutely would, with so many positives the few negatives are far outweighed, if you do buy this, I believe you will have hours of brain punishing challenges ahead of you. Grab a friend, and your best winter jacket, you’re about to start an adventure that is as beautiful as it is dangerous.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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We Were Here Together Review
Gameplay - 7/10
Graphics - 7/10
Sound - 8/10
Replay Value - 7/10
Work together to solve the puzzles that block your path in this Antarctic adventure. Great communication is key, so grab your Walkie Talkie, and a friend, it’s time to overcome those frozen challenges.
- Beautiful and atmospheric audio.
- Challenging puzzles for the most part.
- Unusual communication mechanic.
- The team work is rewarding, and builds bonds.
- Finding a playing partner can be difficult.
- Puzzles become unnecessarily easy at the end.
- Communication mechanic does take time to get used to.