Night Whisper Lane Review (iOS)
Night Whisper Lane is a joke — and I don’t mean that in a bad way. A game like this is difficult to review, since it’s so willfully archaic, goofy, and willing to throwback to point-and-clicks of yore. It’s entertaining for sure, but so dependent upon the games from which it draws inspiration that it doesn’t really have a personality of its own.
Read our full Night Whisper Lane review after the break.
You play as Victor, a Bible-quoting, earring’d badass with a southern accent who — for no real reason other than he’s a Bible-quoting, earring’d badass with a southern accent — enters a house on Night Whisper Lane. The house, Victor quickly discovers, is being haunted by a ‘redheaded woman with demonic eyes.’ Inexplicably, there are a number of other people stalking about the house either trying to kill or escape from the redheaded woman (most of whom die horribly moments after Victor meets them).
If this all sounds ridiculous it’s because it is, but intentionally so. The story is a virtual non-entity, an excuse to have you enter the house and walk around the spooky and ridiculously boobytrapped house. There isn’t much to it, but what’s here is fun. Point-and-click is a bit of dated genre at this point — although Silent Hill: Shattered Memories begs to differ — but if you played any old Sierra or LucasArts horror adventures — The 7th Guest, Phantasmagoria, Maniac Mansion, etc… come to mind — you’ll know the general premise. It’s obvious from the get-go that EPX Games, Night Whisper Lane’s developer, truly loves these classic spookfests.
The gameplay works fine, but there’s almost nothing to it. Whenever you enter a new room the items you’ll need are telegraphed. There’s virtually no exploration; they might as well have an arrow with the note “You’re going to need this” pointing at them. In fact, the game punishes curiosity. Since most of the necessary items are so obvious, exploring the room usually just means you’ll find a boobytrap and get attacked (holy hell are there a lot of snakes in the house on Night Whisper Lane) or die viciously (stay away from those bloody windows). I never had an issue with touch detection or anything in the way of glitches; for such a low-budget product the gameplay is nicely polished.
Point-and-clicking isn’t the only thing you’ll be doing on Night Whisper Lane. Every so often Victor has to do battle with the redheaded woman in an RPG-style battle. Again, everything here works well, but it’s pretty thin. The tide of battle is based 100% on the finite resources — weapons and health items — you’ve managed to amass from exploring the house. That means battles go one of two ways: 1) Victor has collected enough weapons to beat the redheaded woman. Victor wins. 2) Victor has not collected enough weapons to beat the redheaded woman. Victor loses. I wish there was more of an element of uncertainty, a special attack, a basic low-damage attack, an opportunity to collect more resources during battle, or some other option that would make the battles more exciting and varied.
What it comes down to is this: Night Whisper Lane has a great premise, a nicely spooky atmosphere, and some solid-if-too-basic gameplay. But it’s too thin: the gameplay and narrative need to be fleshed out. It’s a little too dependent on the thrills of classic point-and-clicks. Goofiness only gets you so far.
AUDIO – Sound design is, like the gameplay, serviceable but not great. Creepy, ambient noises and some off-kilter piano notes follow Victor through the house, most of which are effectively unsettling. Voice acting is amateurish, but that’s certainly in keeping with the goofy, B-movie-style writing and story. Despite its obvious neophytic recordings, it’s nice that EXP Games went the extra mile and had the game fully voiced at all. That’s a definite plus in an indie iOS game.
GRAPHICS – Visually, Night Whisper Lane’s low budget really shows through. The rooms and halls of the house are pretty basic, but there’s nice variety to them: bedrooms, bathrooms, a kitchen, a home theatre, an attic, and a lot more; the house is far bigger than it initially seems. Character models are, being kind, stiff. In fact, they’re exactly that: character models. They do almost nothing in the way of action or motion. For example, when a character dies you’ll hear a scream, and they’ll be on the ground in the next frame.
+ Fun, creepy atmosphere
+ Fully-voiced with some creepy sound design
+ Solid gameplay template
– Shallow battle system
– Amateurish (however intentional) audio-visual presentation
There’s fun to be had Night Whisper Lane; I just wish there was more. Slinking through the rooms of the house gave me a nostalgic flashback to my time freaking myself out in the dark on my dad’s clunky old office computer. I doubt Night Whisper Lane will begin a resurgence of classic point-and-click horrors, but I find its premise mighty appealing. I hope with the release of subsequent scenarios EPX will hone their craft and deliver something a little longer, more original, and a little more distinctive because I am totally willing to point, click, and die some more.