For every triple-A blockbusting title that arrives into the gaming world, you can bet your bottom dollar there will be a multitude of seriously cheap throw away affairs that will vie for just a few minutes of your time.
That is the case with the arrival of We Were Here on Xbox One as the team at Total Mayhem Games not only launch it on console in the middle of one of the busiest times in the gaming calendar, and not only slap a cheap price tag on it, but also see it included as a free giveaway game via the Xbox Games With Gold scheme. It seems a crazy way for any form of profit to be made from this delightful two player cooperative affair, but without that low price and initial free nature, this is a gaming experience that would be swamped by nearly everything else. And you know what? That would be a huge shame as even though the entire game can see a conclusion reached in less than half an hour, it’s a rather brilliant 30 minutes full of clever puzzling ideas.
We Were Here sees two Antarctic explorers becoming trapped in a castle, left to fend for themselves in an attempt to get out again. After being split up and placed in totally separate parts of the world, the journey will begin, pushing you through seven cleverly created, occasionally random, escape styled rooms.
Communication is the be-all and end-all of your time with We Were Here and within just a few seconds will see both players stumble upon a walkie talkie, with this providing the only means of communication. In a nice touch the game will request you to ensure you are out of any party chat that you may well decide to utilise, and instead by holding the relevant controller button will be able to push-to-talk, describing the world you are in to your partner, all whilst listening in to what they have discovered. It’s a novel idea and one that should be embraced, but the push-to-talk nature does occasionally come with issues, with you never sure whether your partner has heard your cries for help. You should at least try this communication method initially though, but just be aware that in order to ensure less anxiety, the option to hop back into the standard party chat is always there as a backup.
Without spoiling how We Were Here works, without this communication, you’ll find yourself stuck forever more, and only by working together will you be able to solve the puzzles within. See, some of these rooms will require you to describe paintings, match up hieroglyphics, move pieces on a chess board, wander a maze of gates and levers, or even interact with a stage play. Each of these rooms brings a totally different skill set to the table, and they all work as intended, with button prompts precise and accurate.
Whilst ‘dying’ is indeed a possibility, with the chills of the Antarctic taking hold should you dare take too long with specific puzzles, for the most part We Were Here is a relatively relaxed affair, just leaving two cooperative players to get on with working out their course of action.
And even as you find your way through the madness, joining up again to make an escape, once each puzzle has been completed, there is still a chance for a tad of replayability, flying through it the next time round as the chance arises for each player to partake in matters as either the more active Explorer, or as the brains behind the salvation in the Librarian.
For the low asking price – and that’s without even considering the Games With Gold launch – this ensures that We Were Here comes across as a delightful puzzler that really should be taken in. Yes the visual representation of these escape rooms is nothing special, the audio is on the lower side of what you should expect from a game of this era, and you’ll obviously need to have a willing partner available – there is no single player gameplay included and running the gauntlet of public matchmaking with strangers is probably not worth the hassle – but, once you find yourself involved, the whole intrigue factor takes hold. In fact, I’ve massively enjoyed playing through We Were Here on Xbox One a few times, trying to crack the puzzles as both the Explorer and Librarian, perfecting each riddle in the process all in order to take home the simple Xbox One achievements.
Admittedly once those cheevos have been mopped up, there is nothing left from what is included in We Were Here and there is absolutely no reason to play through things a third or fourth time, but if this short experience is only able to do one thing, then that is to set things up nicely for the upcoming We Were Here Too.
For the asking price you could do a whole ton worse than to grab a mate and enjoy an hour or so with We Were Here on Xbox One, particularly if you’re down for some cooperative escape room action.