The co-op focused developers Total Mayhem Games have returned with yet another addition to their We Were Here series in the form of We Were Here Forever. Since the inaugural We Were Here outing, each of the puzzling adventures have increased in both scope and price, without really reaching their full potential. Could We Were Here Forever buck the trend by turning a good concept into a great experience, or is it destined to just be pretty decent forever?
Before delving into the core offering, I feel I must first stress that We Were Here Forever is totally co-op focused and communication is essential. Without a second player, who also owns the game, there’s absolutely nothing for you to do. There is matchmaking included to help find a partner, but roping in a friend is the best way to enjoy proceedings. Now, let’s see if it’s worth doing so.
In We Were Here Forever, you’ll find yourself in the role of one of two explorers who’ve been trapped within the kingdom of Castle Rock. It’s a familiar setup for veterans of the We Were Here series, where the ultimate aim is to escape. That’s easier said than done with a mischievous Jester toying with your lives at every opportunity; posing puzzles and hazards to overcome as you seek an exit once and for all. Failing to do so could leave you imprisoned indefinitely.
There’s undoubtedly a real effort to inject more of a narrative into this particular instalment, and everything appears creepier than previous outings. However not much of the tale being told actually sinks in. It attempts to throw pieces of lore your way regarding the original residents of Castle Rock and the events leading to it becoming a rather cursed place for subsequent adventurers. The problem is, such efforts are made either during times in which your focus is on problem-solving, or the storytelling lines of dialogue are delivered cryptically. So, while the idea is appreciated, the execution leaves you a tad bewildered on the whole.
As far as gameplay is concerned, there’s a short and enlightening tutorial that covers all the basics fairly well. Essentially, progression through the adventure is made by solving puzzles within different locations and traversing the land of Castle Rock in order to acquire certain items required to leave. Upon entering an area, both players must put their heads together to initially understand what the problem is, before then figuring out the solution, which consistently gives the old grey matter a good workout.
Due to the two protagonists generally – but not always – being separated, communicating via an in-game walkie-talkie is going to be at the forefront of everything you do here. With clear indicators showing when the other player is sending a transmission, it’s a much improved system to avoid and although a bit gimmicky, it adds some credibility to the situation. If you think it’s an unnecessary activity however, nothing stops you from firing up party chat instead.
The variety of the problems faced is by far the biggest strength of We Were Here Forever as it not only presents fresh concepts, but also brings new flavour to the classics. For example, two sections are influenced by Pipe Mania games yet are quite dissimilar; in one you’re sharing a selection of different sized pipes trying to transfer energy across multiple circuits, while for another it’s to help navigate your partner through an underwater labyrinth. Other, more simplistic challenges involve merely sharing symbols and deciphering codes explained in books at hand.
There are also different situations which slightly alter the approach taken as both explorers are actively working simultaneously and against the clock. A potion making affair akin to the frantic Overcooked! is a test of how you handle pressure and conjure up an efficient plan. You can’t knock the concept, or the way it’s set up, but my god it’s stressful and could put strain on your friendship.
Amongst the cleverest of ideas though are those during a trippy couple of segments suitably fitting with the trickster that is the Jester. Expect portals, a maze-like route and a scene of upside-down rooms that wouldn’t look out of place in the Inception – it’s very cool. A personal favourite of all the puzzling throughout uses sounds as well as images, which must be conveyed to the partner. Mimicking the strange noises to each other and hearing questions like “Is it a happy whale or a sad one?”, creates fun memories.
In such moments, both players are equally important in the solving of the puzzle. That’s not always the case however, and on occasion the heavy weight of a conundrum is left on the shoulders of a single person. Although rare, it’s a bit of a lull for the non-participating entity sitting twiddling their thumbs. A handful of puzzles also don’t quite make sense; even after completing them, the solution is a fluke. Don’t expect any help from the in-game hints either, which are about as useful as a chocolate fireguard and offer nothing that may aid you in piecing things together.
Unfortunately, there are a couple of other issues including the wildly inconsistent auto-saving in place. It’s never obvious as to when a checkpoint has been reached, leading to the unnecessary replaying of sections. Furthermore, there’s too much filler in-between areas and it can take an age for lifts of all types to get you to your destination. Now imagine it didn’t save properly and you have to endure the journey again… it’s torture.
We Were Here Forever is the biggest game of the series so far, and it’s pretty good without reaching the upper echelons of its genre. Sure, the story isn’t going to put you on tenterhooks, but the ingenuity of the puzzling more than makes up for its shortcomings in that department. The variety is terrific and the sense of achievement gained from solving problems through teamwork is the best kind. Just be aware of the frustration and bewilderment caused on occasion.
Ultimately, We Were Here Forever is just as good as its predecessors and is a decent candidate for co-op enthusiasts to consider.
We Were Here Forever is on the Xbox Store