STAFF REVIEW of We Were Here Too (Xbox One)

Tuesday, October 22, 2019.
by Adam Dileva

We Were Here Too Box art Have you ever wanted to test your true friendship with someone? Think you and them have amazing communication? We Were Here Too will prove to you how terrible your communication is and surely test the bonds of your friendship. I used to think Mario Kart was the game that did this previously, but after spending a few curse filled hours attempting to solve puzzles in We Were Here Too with a good buddy, we surely put our friendship to the test, and almost didn’t pass.

The Premise of We Were Here Too (WWHT) is very similar to the first entry in the series; a two player cooperative puzzle adventure where you’re stuck in a castle, split up with only a radio to communicate with one another and need to help each other escape an abandoned castle.

We Were Here Too opens with a cutscene showing a group of adventurers traversing through a blizzard. They get split up and find themselves reaching for a castle in the distance for safety. They arrive but realize shortly after that they are split up into different areas of the castle. With only their radios for communication, they’ll need to help each other escape, but doing so will be anything but easy.

Played in first person, We Were Here Too is a forced cooperative puzzle adventure where you’ll need to communicate with another player, online (sorry, no local co-op) to escape a variety of rooms and solve puzzles along the way. Until the very end, you’ll be separated, unable to see what the other player sees; this is where your handy radio comes into play.

Communication will need to be constant, clear and concise if you want to not only get out of this dungeon together, but spare your actual friendship as well. Controls are quite simplistic, as you move and look around with the sticks, interact with ‘A’, and ‘Left Bumper’ for your one-way radio. Since you and your friend are separated and can’t see one another, each will have a specific role to play in every puzzle.

Every puzzle requires some immense cooperation, and since you only have a radio to communicate with, you better hope that you can describe the smallest details you see as good as you think you can. I’ll let you know right now, it’s a lot harder than you’d expect. For example, I’ll be locked in room A with a bunch of symbols on the wall. You, in room B, will have some sort of puzzle to solve, but won’t have any clue how. This is where I describe what I see in my room, hopefully properly, allowing you to figure out a solution to escape. Once you solve the puzzle, we both get to move onto another room separately. The puzzles are much more complex than that, but that’s the general idea of the gameplay structure.

Puzzles become increasingly more difficult as you progress, with the last handful becoming borderline infuriating. One in particular had me trying to go up a spiral staircase, but being blocked by a locked gate. The only thing I could see was a picture on the wall of a cross with different shapes in each quadrant, as if you unfolded a cube. My friend, had a room full of cubes and needed to match the one I was describing and put it on a pedestal. If he got it right, the gate opened and I walked up the stairs and we attempted the next one. Oh, what I didn’t mention is that the stairs were slowly retracting into the wall, so if he didn’t solve it in time I would fall into the lava below and we’d have to restart. To make it more chaotic, if he chose the wrong cube, a handful of stairs would retract at once, so you can start to see how vital key and important your communication will be.

Another puzzle that almost broke us was me having to navigate a circular maze of sorts. I had to reach a specific marker on the ground before the puzzle reset, and since it’s played in first person, I was essentially running it blind. My friend had a vantage point from up above though, so he had to quickly guide and direct me of which way to go and what marker I needed to get to next. I will say, we did have to cheat for this one and co-stream, as I simply couldn’t do it with his poor directions. Things become frantic and once frustration sets in, as communication drops as well. Most puzzles seem to be randomized every time you die as well, so there’s no simply looking up a walkthrough of solutions, only how to arrive to the solutions themselves is key.

You each have a one way radio, and WWHT suggests playing without party chat that has open mics. Playing properly with in-game voice, each person can talk, but only one at a time, indicated by the light on your walkie. If your light is on, that means your partner is talking. If you don’t let go of your radio button, neither of you will hear each other. This means you need to start to respect when each other is talking, taking turns and listening. Yes, you could use party chat, Skype or whatever form of communication, but We Were Here Too truly is meant to be experienced this way, and is better for it.

Having to explain what certain shapes and symbols looks like seems easy, but having to actually do so, and with a timer on some puzzles, is much more difficult than you would initially expect. For example, one room had me locked in with a bunch of weapons on a rack and armored knights not holding anything. He had to explain what knight was holding which weapon in which hands, all while the room was closing in on him, close to crushing him. I had to not only follow his orders and what he was communicating, but also reverse the crushing wall every so often with the turn of a wheel. Again, communication is key, and without it, you won’t even pass the first puzzle in the 3-4 hour adventure.

Can you cheat by sending pictures to one another, or in my case, streaming your game so each other can see what you see? Absolutely. Do I suggest it? Absolutely not. This really was a last ditch effort to try and reach the end when we only had a few puzzles left, but it kills the importance of communication, which is what WWHT is based upon. Yes, you’re going to swear at one another, more than once, but when you do finally escape, I guarantee your communication between one another will be better for it.

As for its visual and audio, it’s a mixed bag. Visually, the castle and environments look great. The castle has that dark, gloomy and spooky vibe to it and the puzzle symbols can be clearly read and interpreted. As for the character models and animations themselves, when you do finally see one another, they are a lot left to be desired. Yes, I know it’s a small indie game, so it’s hard to hold it against it, but it looks very stiff and out of place once you do finally get to be in the same room together. Audio is quite decent overall, with the castle having spooky sounds and many audio cues to tell you if you’ve solved a puzzle or done something right or incorrect.

The main problem with We Were Here Too is that there’s virtually no replay value. Yes, you could play through twice to see and try the other half of each puzzle, but it’s akin to seeing the main plot twist in Fight Club or Sixth Sense, you simply can’t recreate that magic you experience the first time around. Once you realize there’s a ‘secret’ ending, you could justify the second playthrough, though hopefully your communication has improved since your first outing.

If you’re a puzzler fan and have a friend that is also like minded, then We Were Here Too should be absolutely on your radar, as this sequel will put your puzzle solving, and friendship, to the test. Given that We Were Here Too is relatively cheap, even though it has a short playtime and not much replayability, I did quite enjoy my time with it. I certainly learned that me and by buddy have to work on our communication and that if we somehow got into a situation like this in real life, we’d have absolutely no chance of survival or I’d leave him behind and save myself, which I’m OK with.

Overall: 8.0 / 10
Gameplay: 8.0 / 10
Visuals: 7.0 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10


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