Welcome to Whateverland – the magical prison created by the ancient witch Beatrice to hold those who wrong (or even just annoy) her. As a professional thief, the job should have been easy. All you had to do was steal something precious from an old woman. Unfortunately for you, you’re now the newest resident of Whateverland instead. However, you’ve just made your first friend, Nick, and he has an idea on how to get out…
The unique mechanic in Whateverland is that you can choose who you’ll be and how you’ll behave. Feeling helpful? Wanting to tell a character to buzz off because you don’t feel like doing their tasks? Have at it! Of course there are consequences for all our decisions as well. When you open your journal, you’ll see the different paths you could have taken (or can take in a future attempt). Given the linear nature to a lot of puzzle games, I liked this both because it makes the gameplay a little more fun, and it actually gives some replayability to a genre that often requires you to wait a long time before a game can feel new again.
The gameplay itself is simple enough – click on items or people and choose from the options to talk, look, or grab. Most of the puzzles are also fairly straightforward – you’ll talk to someone, find that they need something, and go to a location to collect it and fulfill their request. I did notice some strange details, like the wrong names showing up on items (ie. “*Francois* Bookshelf” in Lily’s room), but the mechanisms seemed to work smoothly most of the time. I do wish that if you couldn’t talk to a character, the talk button wouldn’t show – I kept trying to talk to Nick to see if we could interact again, but nothing would happen. Occasionally I also noticed that the hint button brought up objects that I couldn’t interact with at all.
Because trying to combine items with people or objects that did not work didn’t give any kind of message, it was just difficult sometimes to tell if things were working correctly or not. Additionally, when I opened inventory, mousing over or clicking on my items didn’t seem to tell me what I was holding on to, which made inventory juggling a little awkward unless you focused on one small thing at a time. When you have point and click mechanics, it’s incredibly important that they feel smooth, quick, and complete, and never confusing.
Where it was a lot of fun was the mini-games. From a 2D computer beat-em-up adventure to a Simon Says ramen recipe, these little moments added something new and fun to an otherwise basic adventure game. I enjoyed most of the games and while the instructions weren’t the best, they were often easy enough to figure out how to play with some trial and error at most.
I often make it a point not to talk about audio or visuals unless they really stand out, because at the end of the day they’re the cherry on top of the gameplay experience. Whateverland has full voice acting, but the sound design is a bit strange, with some sounds and voices being very loud, while with the same settings I could barely hear the main character speaking. It was genuinely distracting to have the volume jump so much, so I finally turned voices down completely and stuck with reading the dialogue, which felt a lot better, especially considering the voice acting also varied wildly in how natural it sounded.
Overall, Whateverland does have some promise – the minigames are fun, the story is different, and being able to choose your approach case by case is really interesting. However, it’s held back but an unpolished UI and mechanics, and doesn’t benefit from its rather jumpy sound design. It’s by no means a bad game – just one I might hold off on recommending unless some polishing is done later on. The Caligari Games team has already been clear in devlogs that they plan to stay involved with polishing and updating according to player response, so I look forward to seeing how things shape up as time goes by!
Interested in trying out Whateverland for yourself? You can find both a free prologue and a demo on Steam right now, or find the full release available tomorrow, September 15th!