It’s a tired old adage these days. You’ll find it in various different forms on many motivational posters but the sentiment is always the same. “What you do is who you are”, “It’s what you do, not what you say you’ll do, that matters”, etc etc etc. Essentially, these phrases all boil down to the fact that “your actions define you”. That’s a sentiment that ‘Whateverland’, a new point and click adventure from Caligari Games, takes beyond just internal moral character.
In Whateverland, you play as a morally grey character called Vincent. The game opens as we find Vincent, a talented thief, putting his skills to the test as he attempts to steal some jewellery. Unfortunately for Vincent, the house he’s currently trying to burgle is owned by someone you certainly don’t want to cross. Beatrice, an ancient and powerful witch, finds Vincent with his hand in the proverbial cookie jar. The witch has a particular punishment for those that cross her and with a touch of magic, she enacts her revenge – She sends Vincent to the titular Whateverland.
Vincent wakes up confused in a pile of dirty and broken items, kind of like a rubbish dump. After working with a quirky scientist and chatting to a poetic talking crow, Vincent meets Nick. A mildly grating but strangely endearing writer, Nick acts as a guide to Whateverland. He explains that this is a weird pocket dimension where the Witch Beatrice disposes of people and things that she wants to make disappear.
I Spell Trouble Ahead
This prison has certain peculiar effects on its captors. People can’t die and the don’t age, but they can change. You see, if the people trapped here give into the worst elements of themselves, their physical attributes start to change. Nick, for example, is turning into a ghost. Both of his legs have taken a spectral form, enabling him to fly. You’ll meet a whole host of characters throughout Whateverland that are showing the signs of this change.
Within the first half an hour of Whateverland, Nick explains to Vincent that there is potentially a way out of this dimensional prison. Years ago, Beatrix gave the first captors here a spell which could summon her to the prison. Over time though, because of arguments, this spell had been torn into 7 pieces, each of which was now owned by a resident of Whateverland. Nick’s plan is simple: obtain all 7 pieces of the spell, recite it and ask Beatrix to let them out. Vincent is of course on board with this.
So, the pair set off to liberate the spell pieces from their owners by any means necessary. For Vincent, that might mean putting his particular set of skills to good use.
Witch Way Is The Right Way?
Each at their own unique location, the 7 spell pieces are owned by 8 people (1 piece is owned by a pair of twins). You can travel to each locale, speak to the cast of characters there and decide on what to do bext. There’s a consistent element of choice throughout Whateverland which offers two paths through the game.
Firstly, Vincent could do what he does best. He could steal his way through the game. Utilising a set of thief’s tools, he can find where the piece of the spell is at each location and simply take it. Of course, this being Whateverland, this may have… unforeseen circumstances.
Alternatively, Vincent could talk to the characters of Whateverland, befriend them and see if there’s anything he could do for them that’ll allow them to part ways with their piece of the spell. This path through the game is much longer and can be winding, but it’s surely the right thing to do?
These two paths are clearly labelled throughout the game. Options during dialogue that are following a nefarious, thievery path are labelled with a moon. The more morally ‘good’ options are labelled with a sun symbol.
The Thief of Time…
Your experience of Whateverland will be coloured by which of the two paths you decide to go down. If you choose the morally ‘good’ path, this game feels very much like a traditional point and click adventure. You’ll go around each setting, clicking on things to pick them up, using them in other places and conversing with characters to achieve your goal. There’s no massive leaps of logic here and the solutions to the over arching issues at hand are often straightforward. Maybe a little too straight forward at times.
This is offset by a series of self contained puzzles you’ll find in almost every path to the 7 pieces. A hand full of these are twists on classics; For Example, in one you’re sorting fish which drop onto the screen into two bins – one to keep, one to toss away – as quickly as possible. Others are really tricky; in one, you’ll be placing limited pieces of pipe down on a blue print in order to construct an air conditioning route to each room – but you’ve only got a certainly number of joints and turns. A few of them don’t do a good enough job of explaining their objective; In one puzzle, you’ve got to turn TV dishes green, but it’s not explicitly stated that you have to link them up in a circuit.
While their quality does vary, these puzzles do an excellent job of breaking up the perpetual fetch quest structure from the rest of the “morally good” path. Character after character will say to Vincent “I would help you BUT…” before making demands. Whateverland does this so much that it regularly points out how everyone wants something of Vincent. The puzzles certainly help stagger this out.
As does the mini-game Bell and Bones which eventually plays an important part of the story. This hex-grid bound table top game is played by characters throughout Whateverland. It involves moving 4 little creatures around on a board while trying to have your own creature bring a bell to the opponents goal while protecting your own. This game isn’t all that fun unfortunately. It’s clunky, confusing and thankfully almost entirely skippable.
If you decide to play to Vincent’s morally questionable strengths of thievery, Whateverland takes a very different feel. Sure, you’ll still be visiting each location and talking to some characters but rather than asking about their wants and needs, you’ll be querying where they keep the spell piece. More often than not, these quest lines will end in a good ol’ bit of burglary.
These act as a forensic breakdown of a puzzle-box item. Using Vincent’s set of burglary tools, you’ll have to examine and interact with a safe or locked object in order to crack it. The 4 tools at your disposal have different effects on different parts of the object you’re trying to crack. This can take “crack” quite literally sometimes as you hammer away at objects to break them. For example, when trying to break into a saxophone case, you’ll see a glass panel to smash. Using a hook to pull out a label will reveal the order in which the saxophone keys need to be pressed. It’s like playing with several LeMarchand boxes, each with a unique solution.
Some of these can be a touch frustrating. They’re often highly dependent on a bit of trial and error as you try out each tool on notable features. It’s quite a hands off experience in this regard with no hints or tips on what to do. On the other hand, when you do manage to crack the safe, there’s often a sense of combined relief and pride.
This Is My United State of Whateverland
The two branches through Whateverland mean that chapters of this game have multiple different solutions. I have to commend this game for managing to thread this together in a comprehensible way. Tracked via some decent menus and a diary, you can see where you are up to with each quest line and which direction you’re taking it.
As you might have guessed by now, the way you choose to guide Vincent will determine what kind of ending you get. I won’t spoil them here but having seen both, they’re not entirely worth replaying the game for. The journey, cracking safes or helping others, is far more interesting than the destination.
That journey is filled with charming and offbeat characters no matter which way you play Whateverland. That primary hook of having people evolve into their personality traits within this magical land is utilised everywhere for throwaway gags to important plot points. The titular location and its quirky inhabitants, each of which have a story to tell, are fascinating to get to know and are the real star of this game.
On Unstable Whatever…ground
It’s a shame that there’s a few rough edges and bugs in Whateverland that sours some parts of the game, in particular the last few hours. In one part of the game, Nick helped me enter a room by causing a distraction. Upon entering the target room, I could still hear Nick commenting on things I was clicking on despite him being locked out of the room. It also appears like I couldn’t click on the object to progress which soft locked my save game, forcing me to revert to a previous save (I’ve since repeated this section and been able to progress without issue).
The last chapter of the game feels really unstable at times. I was able to walk through walls which I definitely shouldn’t have been able to do. By interacting with a character, they will repeat an action which also duplicates quest items too. It feels like the last hour of the game struggles under the weight of the converging threads made before it.
Thankfully, Whateverland sticks the landing. Regardless of the ending you choose, the game puts a satisfying bow on the story and justifies everything you’ll have been through up to that point. It stumbles along the way, more than a few times, but in the end Whateverland turns into yet another charming entry in a genre that’s really blossoming in 2022.
You likely won’t want to replay it to see the multiple endings, but for a single play through, Whateverland is a charming, charismatic if rough around the edges point and click adventure. It stumbles a number of times before the credits roll but with multiple solutions to puzzles and quirky characters to get to know, this game is a perfectly fine way to spend a few evenings.
Whateverland is available now on PC via Steam.
Developer: Caligari Games
Publisher: Caligari Games / WhisperGames
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.
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