Given the state of the world, I wonder how many of us would react if we were suddenly transported to a Wonderland-like realm, condemned by our own personal hubris to never see the Earth again. For Vincent, that’s exactly what happens after he attempts to burgle the potential goddess and probable witch named Beatrice, who has quite a vindictive streak. But is the game more of a prison for Vincent or for the player?
The overarching plot of Whateverland is interesting and what initially attracted me to the game. Vincent, accompanied by the Shakespearean-esque writer Nick, attempt to gather all seven parts of a spell they need to summon Beatrice and escape from Whateverland. In order to gather these pieces, Vincent and Nick have to help or hinder the other inhabitants of Whateverland, and you can choose to keep Vincent on the path of cat burglar and criminal working for his own ends, or you can choose to spend your time helping others so they’ll willingly give you the pieces of the spell.
Unfortunately, once the game starts getting into the nitty-gritty of the plot, it all falls apart rather spectacularly. While the individual stories of the owners of the spell pieces are interesting, they’re all glossed over in a shallow manner and we get no time to really get to know any of them. Perhaps the most egregious of these is one character who committed atrocious crimes when he was on Earth and, while you barely have a minute to process the drastic change in tone, are then shot back to “Well he’s okay now he understands what happened.” I was left sitting there absolutely gobsmacked, and while I don't want to get into exact spoilers, the tonal whiplash just about cracked my skull open.
The characters, like their stories, are also incredibly shallow, but all are entertaining. Whateverland does have some clever writing sprinkled throughout, with funny one-liners and exchanges between characters, noticeably between Nick and Vincent. The initial antagonist in Whateverland, Harold, also gets some bizarrely amusing quips that are mainly attributed to him being rather out of his mind. Vincent and Nick themselves are the most well-developed characters, with Vincent’s humor and sarcasm coming across no matter which path you lead him down. Nick, on the other hand, perfectly plays a struggling writer who thinks he is an amazing person and is full of himself, but also self-aware of that fact. The fact that there is also some very light but very amusing gay subtext to their relationship is also very adorable.
Unfortunately, the puzzles in Whateverland are about as nonsensical as you’d expect. Most of them don’t contain clear instructions and are thus frustrating if not downright impossible to solve, like the book editing one, and even for those that do contain instructions, they’re not set up in a consistently logical manner. The mini-game, Bell and Bones, is the most egregious violation of this rule, and though it purports to be fun and strategic, if it weren’t for the yarn balls that let you skip the game I might have chucked my laptop out the window in frustration. Considering it's supposed to be a simple board game - think a dummied down version of Chess mixed with Basketball - It’s poorly designed and not well executed on several levels.
Unusually for a point-and-click game, you can’t use your inventory to interact with the world around you, and once you bring up a menu by clicking on something, you must specifically click the back button to get out of it, rather than just clicking off of the menu. While these are certainly little frustrations, they add up by the time you’ve tried to use things from your inventory several times to give to people or gotten stuck in a menu more than once. Most particularly, the lack of inventory puzzles wouldn’t seem like such a chore if they replaced that system with something better or at least unique.
Whateverland is also filled with bugs galore, from some puzzles and dialogue not triggering correctly, to lines missing voiceover to icons not changing and counting correctly. It felt messy and unpolished on several levels, which only exacerbated the rest of the game’s problems.
The one saving grace of Whateverland is the art and sound design, though even they come with caveats. The art is interesting and vaguely gothic in places, with all the characters having heavy eyeliner and sporting strange face designs and a brightly cartoonish world with a cloak of darkness over it. Nothing in Whateverland is perfect, with windows not matching up, uneven lines, and crookedly placed items everywhere, but that in itself brings a sense of art that meshes it all together and underlines Whateverland as a place for misfits.
The music contributes to that as well, with a fondness for jazz and strange and eclectic instruments twisting together into haunting melodies. Unfortunately, the voice acting is a crapshoot. Some of the actors sound like they’re not native English speakers, which would be fine, if it weren’t apparent that certain lines contain more focus on saying the words right than on actually acting them out. The volume for the voiceover lines also changes seemingly at random throughout the game and I had to keep adjusting my volume to compensate. However, Nick and Vincent’s voices in particular grew on me throughout the game, both being particularly good with sly remarks and petty aside jabs at each other.
Whateverland Review | Final Thoughts
Overall, Whateverland is an unfortunate mess. With a solid premise and interesting protagonists, this should have been an easy hit, but no amount of clever quips can make up for poorly designed puzzles and shallow characters. It could, potentially, be possible to salvage the game with updates, but there’s a long way to go.
TechRaptor reviewed Whateverland on PC with a copy provided by the developer.
- Quirky Art Style and Character Designs
- Great Soundtrack
- Terrible Puzzle Design With Few Instructions
- Bugs Galore
- Shallow Characters