There are times when I wish that I could just vanish and reappear in a whole new world full of people that don’t know me – even better if it’s a world that doesn’t face the current struggles that ours burdens us with. This sort of escapist fantasy is what makes me enjoy games so much, honestly, as life becomes a struggle from time to time – but there is obviously always an upside. Once you hit rock bottom, it can only go up, right?
Developer: Caligari Games Publisher: WhisperGames Genre: Indie, 2D, Point & Click, Adventure Release Date: September 15th, 2022 Reviewed on: PC Available on: PC, Switch, XB1, PS4 Copy was provided by the developer/publisher.
A game that sort of plays with that idea is Whateverland. After a burglary went wrong, the main character Vincent gets transported into the titular land where nobody ever ages and where people are turned into their true form once they give in to their vices. To return to his original world, Vincent has to find seven pieces of an ancient spell to summon the witch/goddess Beatrice whose necklace he tried to steal… and to do so, you either help others and try to change for the better – or you only care about yourself and steal, trick and deceive.
Whateverland is a journey through some sort of purgatory that Vincent, a sarcastic and egocentric burglar and thief, finds himself in. Accompanied by the Shakespearean-looking ghost Nick, Vincent makes his way through the world and either helps others or he doesn’t bother. The gameplay is non-linear. You can go anywhere at any time and make progress on different quests simultaneously. Catch lost rabbits, sort fish, tattoo a mermaid, or cook some ramen – the choice is yours… in terms of whether you wanna do it or when you wanna do it.
The puzzles and quests can be rather obtuse at times. Despite having the option to highlight the options available to you via a button press, I found myself often wondering what I’m exactly supposed to do at certain points in time. You have an inventory where you store items you found but you can’t interact with them and the world – something that I’ve seen often in other Point & Click games.
I don’t want to compare Whateverland to other PnC games, though. After all, I haven’t played too many. The ones I’ve played were great – and thus, I’m not exactly sure what standard would be fair over here. One thing, however, that I do know is that Whateverland has an interesting premise and that it’s a bit rough around the edges.
A welcome addition to the control scheme is that you can double-click to run. You also don’t have to traverse the same areas over and over again as you simply click onto the map and “fast-travel” to the various areas. Something I wish was different, though, is the fact that you have to close objects you’ve interacted with in order to click on something else. At the same time, the game is riddled with some bugs here and there that I found rather annoying. All of this, though, is nothing that can’t be ironed out with a patch or two.
The puzzles that you encounter aren’t the hardest in the world, even for a PnC newbie like me. Most of the time, you’ll try to distract someone in order to get an item and give it to someone else. Other times, you may sort fish, tattoo a mermaid, edit a novel or pick a lick in order to get what you want. At all times, you have the lengthy but “good” choice of actually helping people – or the “bad” choice that is often quicker where you simply steal stuff from people without any regard to their wishes.
Despite being a newbie to the genre, I do know, however, that characters are everything. The puzzles can be easy or hard but what makes a Point ‘n Click adventure actually “good” is interesting characters – and Whateverland has plenty of them!
I don’t like Vincent as a character but I love this touch of “gay” that his relationship with Nick has. Similarly, the world features a wide cast of peculiar and quirky figures that are trapped in this world. Their own stories were entertaining to me for the most part.
Eventually, though, I realised just how shallow some characters are. Once you exhaust their dialogue options, they’re just there… not really adding anything to the world… and that’s a shame. I would have loved to know more about Poe – who apparently is trapped in this world – or the lady at the Ramen shop but they just don’t really go anywhere at any given time.
And well, you also have to fight in turn-based minigames named “Bell and Bones”, an odd mix of chess and basketball, to become the best “Bell and Bone”-r in Whateverland – and to also get the final piece of the spell. This minigame isn’t explained particularly well but once you get it, it’s fairly easy. Even when you’re stuck, though, you can still instantly win any given round with the use of golden yarn, a resource you find scattered throughout the world, practically skipping this entirely if it’s not up your alley.
Overall, I feel conflicted about this game. The overarching story is interesting but it falls apart at one point. The individual characters’ plots are entertaining but the characters themselves are shallow. The minigames and puzzles are varied and add more layers to the game but they can be rather obtuse and the lack of help or explanations really hurts the game.
Vincent will encounter many characters that tell you about them owning a piece of the spell… and every time there is a but, just like with this conclusion here. The stellar voice acting, the charming hand-drawn art style, and the amazing soundtrack are good and all… but I’m not sure if they’re enough to save the game.
I had fun until a certain point, and then I just got more and more frustrated with certain mechanics and the state of the game being rather unpolished… I don’t think that any of this is unfixable but it will take a lot of work before it is polished enough to really shine. Whateverland is probably a gem… but at the moment, it just feels too rough around its edges and it’s a bit of a shame.