Woven is a new indie game developed by Alterego Games and published by StickyLock Studios, released on November 15th. This game is incredibly easy for me to review because it somehow manages to be a combination of calm, engaging, and colorful: everything I could hope for in a video game. Woven focuses on a plushie character named Stuffy and his metal sidekick, Glitch. These two characters take on a woven world together, gathering materials that change Stuffy into other plushie forms, giving him the unique abilities he needs to advance throughout this universe.
In our modern age where realistic, almost life-like graphics are taking over, it seems that attitudes towards indie games are sometimes too harsh. I personally love the early 2000s gaming era, so when I see games that mimic that time frame, I go for them. Playing Woven makes me think of my favorite childhood games, but with a graphical revamp. Just because this game’s characters do not look like they may pop out of the television and come to life does not indicate this game’s status or the developer’s talent.
This review is for the PS4 version, but you can find Woven on Steam for $16.99.
This is largely a story-driven game, so spoiling the plot is not something that piques my interest. However, there are some things I can tell you without ruining the game. First off, the majority of our knowledge comes from a nameless narrator. Through him, we learn that the main character is a woven, plushie character who goes by the name Stuffy. He meets his metal firefly friend, Glitch, and they explore the world together. Stuffy doesn’t seem to know what he’s doing. He’s a simple creature, just wandering aimlessly around the world. Glitch’s main concern, for whatever reason, is reaching their planet’s moon. Stuffy is a bit of a coward, but he overcomes his fears to join Glitch in reaching this goal. The two are unsure of Glitch’s past, as Glitch can’t seem to remember anything, so they search for clues to his origin.
The story narrator speaks in a simple rhyming scheme. The dialogue isn’t quite something you’d read in a college English class, but it’s often more complex than simple children’s rhymes. Both the narrator in combination with Stuffy’s innocence reminds me of Winnie the Pooh, which is a wonderful thing in my opinion. The nameless narrator helps you solve puzzles by tossing out riddles and explaining what’s going on around you. According to the narrator, the once peaceful world is now crawling with metal creatures, some of which are causing chaos. Your woven plushie character, Stuffy, and his companion Glitch discover more about these mysteries along the way.
The gameplay in Woven is actually very smooth, giving your plushie character lots of freedom to move around and explore new lands. By holding L2, you choose from an array of controls for your partner, Glitch, and by holding R2, you can choose actions for Stuffy. Stuffy’s actions vary according to what woven plushie character form he is in. By collecting blueprints from giant metal machines, you are able to change Stuffy’s form. You do this by visiting evenly distributed sewing machines located throughout the lands. Additionally, you can change his patterns and colors by collecting patterns that are scattered throughout the worlds as well.
Often, you must change Stuffy’s pattern in order to proceed and complete puzzles in the game. This isn’t inconvenient because the developers scatter enough machines to keep you from running backward for hours trying to find a sewing machine. There are certain places where your woven plushie character must jump. In order to do so, he cannot have stomping elephant feet. Instead, he needs deer feet, which you can apply at the sewing machine. Each body part of your woven plushie character comes with its own special ability. Some abilities are present in multiple designs, but certain designs come with brand new abilities. These puzzles aren’t so simple that you get bored, but they are certainly doable.
The only major disappointment I have is that this game does not have a world map. Aside from that, there are a few minor glitches and uncomfortable gameplay aspects, but nothing game-breaking. For example, sometimes when walking between two objects, Stuffy gets caught on invisible barriers. Additionally, you’ll occasionally walk through or see through an object that you’re not meant to. But this really isn’t anything worth complaining about. I encounter these things in Spyro Reignited Trilogy more often than in Woven. Generally speaking, the gameplay is simple and enjoyable. I never catch myself growing impatient when playing this game.
The graphics are a wonderful aspect of Woven. My favorite thing about the visual detail is that the entire world looks like it is made of yarn. Saying that this world is knit is no joke. Each animal, every single tree, and even the ground itself is literally woven. Not only that, but there is a large variety of colors and patterns. While you do see repeating designs, they balance out well. Nothing feels misplaced or overdone. The lands have an almost whimsical feel that blends well with its nature themes. There are lots of greens and browns, as well as bright pinks and blues that really pop when strewn through the natural world. While Woven is no Breath of the Wild, it certainly has strong competition with other indie games like Woodle Tree. The textures of your plushie character and the world around it really display the developer’s abilities.
The lighting is even and looks realistic. There are points when you can tell that it’s getting darker or a cloud is covering the sun. I feel that is a very positive, minor detail that many developers may overlook. The light that emits from Glitch’s flashlight is also realistic, glowing vibrantly, peeping out like sunlight. In terms of graphics, I’ll admit that when I first saw this game, I thought it would be one of two things: creepy like Five Nights at Freddy’s, or adorable and wholesome like Winnie the Pooh meets a modern-day Croc. Thankfully, this game is definitely the latter. Some may claim it’s lacking or barren, but I don’t believe so. Woven is a world for plushie characters, not an attempt at recreating the earth’s largest national forest.
Thanks to a comment, I now know that the composer’s name is Vortigon, and their music is available to stream on SoundCloud. Vortigon’s soundtrack for Woven is incredibly calming and easy on the ears. I kept the game on pause while doing homework because the music is just so soft and pleasant. Given that this is a family-friendly game, the music could have been obnoxious or cheesy, so I am pleasantly surprised they did not go in that direction. In all honesty, this is the type of music I could meditate to.
There are four different sound options available in Woven. You can change the master volume, the music, the narration, and the gameplay sound effects. You can basically cater it to your own liking. Personally, I found the game’s audio settings are perfect as they are, but it’s still cool to have that option. The music is obviously my favorite audio aspect, but the narration and sound effects are important too. The narrator sounds both intelligent and wholesome. The narrator has a nice, calming voice, which is very similar to the soundtrack. On top of that, the sound effects are mostly relaxing as well. For example, there are birds chirping and squirrels barking, making it really feel like you’re submerged in nature.
This game has wonderful audio aspects. While no one actually talks in Woven except for the narrator, your plushie character sometimes sings to animals, which is adorable, of course. The narrator sounds very poetic in his rhymes. He guides your plushie character with a gentle voice, detailing the woven world with a mellow tone. There is also a nice wind sound effect that blends well with the music. I know this is a broad claim, but overall, both the graphics and the audio are pretty much flawless in Woven. I believe the developers did exceptionally well in this department.