Wenjia: Ori and the subpar forest

Thanks to CV19, I had to buy animal crossing digitally, which meant a lot of Nintendo coins I could use to get something for free. I’m a sucker for indie platforming games (I did 100% Poi) so when I saw this on the Nintendo Switch e-shop’s new release section, I had to give it a try.

The first thing you’ll notice is the beautiful hand drawn backgrounds. They’re the most beautiful part of this game. The soundtrack is a close second, although it’s your typical wistful indie fare. At one point in the game, the player character sits and enjoys a beautiful venue with a vocal song. The second thing you’ll notice is that this is a poor man’s Ori and the Blind Forest. From the aesthetic to the failed attempt at a much deeper story to the player character being a white cute small mammal, this game has its inspiration on its sleeve. Will it tide over those who won’t have Ori and the Will of the Wisps on switch for goodness knows how long? It’s not even two hours of gameplay so no. Alright, so will it be a fun little distraction, then?

Wenjia is a game developed by Chinese studio Lioriver Studios who are brand new to the indie scene and a very small crew. In this game you play as Wenjia the cat spirit. The English translation is a bit poor so the story specifics are hard to follow, but basically you’re here to save small bunny creatures called elves from a magma cave where a creature is trying to kill them for some reason. There’s something about a human city and a child, but the English in this game is quite bad so what’s going on there I couldn’t tell you. The game doesn’t throw any twists or surprises. There’s only two areas of the game, the above world where the elves live and the magma underground where a bunch of elves are trapped.

The main gimmick of the game is the ability to switch between the energy world and the spirit world at will. One is more vibrant in color and the other more mysterious. Neither has a bearing on anything beyond puzzles. And it gets to be predictable. Can’t see anything to help you progress? Probably need to switch to the other world. The second half of the game becomes more fun as the game really plays with this mechanic, but it leaves you wishing the whole game was like this and the few moments of fun are brief. This game is also reminiscent of games like Limbo where dying over and over is part of the game. This can be frustrating in a few key sections where there’s a lot of cheap ways to mess up and no check point in sight.

Nearly all the platforms are thin ethereal white lines or white orbs. I’m sure it was intended to give things a mystical quality, but really it just looks lazy especially with backgrounds and models this good looking. The controls are smooth, simple, and I never had complaints. I never felt the controls were why I died. The quality of the platforming puzzles vary wildly throughout the game, but it’s never too challenging to the point you don’t want to continue. No, what almost made me give up was how monotonous the levels were and how much I just did not care.

Look, it’s obvious a lot of time and passion went into this vaguely original game, but that alone can’t sell a game. At $7.99 on e-shops, it’s just not worth that price. The unlockable skins looked cute, but I had no desire to go back and use them and even less desire to get all the collectibles. If you really love indie platformers and NEED this to complete your collection, then by all means, but wait until the price is next to nothing. Everyone else, skip this. You’re not missing anything.

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