The origins of Frankenstein came about when a young author – Mary Shelley – responded to a challenge from Lord Byron and her husband Percy Shelly to come up with the best ghost story. Eventually, that idea morphed into that of a young doctor, Dr. Frankenstein, and his experiment to animate a collection of dead bodies. It worked, but the doctor was terrified, ashamed by his creation and fled the city. The creature – alone and afraid – left in search of its master. The Wanderer: Frankenstein’s Creature takes this premise, puts you in the shoes of the creature and follows on with some of the beats of the novel. Let us delve further in.
The storytelling and writing are a massive boon for The Wanderer: Frankenstein’s Creature. Following the structure of the novel, the game takes you on the journey through the eyes of the creature itself. We see it being shunned by other humans for being the devil himself. We see him take a life accidentally, and make choices about whether to flee or fight. We see him befriend a poor family for a year, helping them from the shadows, finding food and resources, only to be banished when he reveals himself. It’s a story about humanity, kindness, and discovery.
The game does a great job of putting you through the eyes of the creature, telling the story well. It is also able to provide a very neat surprise towards the end of the game, one that questions the whole validity of stories and how we create characters. That was something that I particularly enjoyed.
The gameplay itself weaves in and out of the story from the very origins; when the creature awakens and moves through the laboratory he was born in, everything is white. This is because he can’t comprehend what he is seeing, hearing, and smelling. As you move around though, bits of the scenery start to appear; colours and matter slowly emerge as the creature discovers this world – along with you at the same time. Soon you’re out in the countryside with the world fully in view and then it’s just a matter of discovering areas, moving the character around the space.
The creature can interact with certain objects and there are some interesting puzzles to work out. For instance, there is an engaging safe puzzle in which you get given a clue and have to discover names from famous pieces of literature, using what you learn to select the answer required. There are some other great sequences too – one which involves a small town that is having a costume carnival; it’s here where the creature pretends to be in fancy dress, whilst other opportunities let you play an organ, enabling people to dance as you work a rhythm mini-game. There are nice little touches like this through all the levels of The Wanderer and it’s these which make it an enjoyable adventure. There are many varied and different environments as well, but at its heart, The Wanderer: Frankenstein’s Creature is a narrative adventure rather than an action-oriented one.
It works well too and whilst the gameplay was first honed for mobile and PC, it has come to console via a decent translation; the mechanics all work well and it’s an easy game to play, thanks to simple controls and ideas that have a complex thematic attached to them. My only criticism is that in the opening moments, as you wander around in the void, trying to build the world around you, things are a tad frustrating. It wouldn’t surprise if some would give up with The Wanderer during these early moments – and that would be a tragedy.
The visual design employs a watercolor approach and it must be said that this is bold and beautiful in its concept. The designers have built their level design with inspiration from those 19th-century romantic paintings of the time – and you can tell that there has been a tremendous amount of research and inspiration. It pays off brilliantly and I’ve loved travelling around this world, exploring the detail and how it truly complements the story throughout.
Audio wise and Alex Burnett has composed the excellent soundtrack for The Wanderer: Frankenstein’s Creature and this is one of those good ones; you know, one of those which you’ll want to instantly add to your Spotify library. There are some great tracks included, with them capable of creating a beautiful atmosphere throughout. There is no voiceover though, and this feels a shame as it may well have been able to add an extra dimension to the story.
The Wanderer: Frankenstein’s Creature has done pretty well on the awards front elsewhere, receiving critical acclaim when it released on other formats. It’s easy to see why too – I’ve loved what has been created here and the integration of the Mary Shelly Frankenstein story has been an inspired choice, especially putting you on a journey through the eyes of the creature. The visuals are wonderful, as is the atmospheric soundtrack. Admittedly, some may find the simplicity of the gameplay not to be for them and it can feel at times like a ‘walking sim‘, but for others – me included – Frankenstein’s Creature is a hit and I can’t wait to see more literary adaptations or inspirations come to the gaming world.
The Wanderer: Frankenstein’s Creature is available from the Xbox Store