The world of the nightmare and that of dreams coming to life and trying to kill you is as old as time itself. In games and films, the dream sequence is the ideal opportunity for the creator to have a field day with breaking reality and introducing us things that the protagonist is scared of the most. In Selma and the Wisp you never get introduced to the real world at all, but rather you’re thrown straight into the land of the sandman; and that of nightmares. But will this new game keep you awake at night, or does it let you gently see things through?
In Selma and the Wisp you play the titular role, a little girl called Selma who is in her bedroom and can’t get to sleep because she is scared of what lies beneath her bed. Led by a magical ball of light – a Wisp – Selma leaves her bedroom through her wardrobe and then travels across a fantasy land of nightmares and dreams. That’s about all the story there is here in regards to the setup, but it manages to do a nice job of simply putting you out there on the journey.
Selma and the Wisp is a sidescrolling action platformer but with a big difference. Instead of controlling the girl you actually control the little ball of energy – the Wisp. As you move the Wisp around her, Selma will follow, jumping obstacles with the right timing as you push the Wisp in the direction of travel. Selma can even climb ropes and ladders to get onto the next level of her journey, and out of the nightmare. But what’s more, the Wisp can also freeze Selma at any point, and this mechanic lets you check out the way ahead, searching down obstacles or being able to utilise a specific action without Selma following and getting killed.
The Wisp can perform several different actions, but mainly it delivers a burst of energy, indicated by a helpful marker on the screen, that opens doorways, blows up entrances or creates pathways by displacing objects on the map. And along those same lines you will also stumble upon many items that can be picked up, allowing the Wisp to use them. For example, there might be a car that is blocking your way, so finding the key to it, before using said key, will see the car trundle off into the night. It’s a basic bit of object management, however it works well enough and is very easy to implement.
Your main job as the Wisp is to stop Selma dying due to obstacles or falling. Of course, you – and her – will die a lot, but that’s mostly due to the nature of a game from this genre. Thankfully the checkpoints are pretty forgiving though and even after you’ve progressed a fair old bit, and you are left to replay larger sections after dying, you don’t ever find yourself having to travel back too far. However it’s not just the obstacles that Selma needs to keep an eye out for and in this nightmarish world she finds her fear level constantly rises; to a point where a heart on-screen fills up with blood and she dies. To stop this rising you have to collect small balls of energy that are dotted around the levels – it is these which keep the fear at bay. If you thought that was bad enough, should you as the Wisp travel too far away from Selma then she will have a bit of a meltdown and there is a danger she will die of fright if you don’t get back to her quickly.
The gameplay throughout Selma and the Wisp works very well and as an overall experience it gives you a unique piece of gameplay with a rather short running time – it’s certainly under 2 hours. There are however moments where things go a little awry and even though the levels are well designed and hugely creative, the accuracy of controlling Selma can get pretty frustrating, especially when in the climbing and jumping sections.
Accompanying the gameplay and the visuals that bring things together are decent enough for a game of this genre and type. The colours are lovely in fact, with some brilliantly realised scenes that play out. I have to admit to loving the fairground section, and as you reach the latter stages things more than ramp up in regards to the brilliant nightmare sequences. The soundtrack works well too – subtly coinciding with the action nicely. There are little screams and sobs from Selma herself that are a bit disturbing especially where she dies or when the fear becomes too much, but again these fit well with the tone of the game.
Selma and the Wisp is a relatively cheap game and that ensures it is completely accurate for what you get. It’s an enjoyable platformer that will take you a couple of hours to complete. The gameplay itself is unique, the visuals are decent and the sound works well without being spectacular, and it’s just the accuracy in the latter levels that see annoyances come about, mostly when Selma just won’t do what you want her to do. If you’re after a nice little treat for a good price though, then it may well be worth you heading into Selma’s dreamworld. Just try to not scream too loudly.