Over the last few years cooperative gaming has really come to the fore. Whether it be with local friends sat on a sofa, or with gamers utilising the multitude of online gaming services available, working with a mate to find success has really taken hold. But there has been one series of games that has pushed the need for cooperation to the utter limits, so much so that should you have previously tried to play Total Mayhem Games’ We Were Here or We Were Here Too as a solo player, you’d have found absolutely no joy – in fact, they are impossible to play alone. They succeeded in their missions though, pulling together like-minded puzzle fans as two friends worked together in order to find their way out of the hell that they were in. Now though comes the next game in the series, yet while We Were Here Together tries a slightly different tact, I’m not sure it’s all come off as intended.
We Were Here Together once more sees us dropped into the boots of two Antarctic explorers. Yet whilst the previous games in the series keep the two buddies separated for the most part, initially Together sees the opening throes taking place inside a small wooden cabin, as both players get the opportunity to mingle and understand the situation that they are in. It’s a set-up that comes as a bit of a shock to the system, but it is only a temporary affair, with the puzzles that lay ahead quickly seeing the duo break up onto individual pathways. And that is where the now infamous We Were Here walkie-talkies come in.
Chat and communication are vital for We Were Here Together, and the game requests you to jump out of party chat to use in-game audio to get the best out of it. This works by allowing each player to make the most of their valuable walkie-talkie, describing the scenery and smallest of details found around them, hoping that things will click as to how to progress. It is this which makes the whole affair so intriguing, and even though the ‘push-to-talk’ system has its flaws – and doesn’t necessarily need to be used if you don’t want to – it’s this which makes the whole predicament you find yourself in ever more exciting.
It’s the puzzles which are the star of the show with any We Were Here title though, and that is the case here again now. That’s not to say that there isn’t a story kicking along in the background, for there is, but for the most part it comes across as a rather confusing tale that stops, starts, and is delivered with just some basic cutscenes and autoplaying parts. Honestly, I could have done without it, especially as a strange switch mid-term saw my playing partner and I completely flip roles, bringing about even more confusion as we were left navigating rooms which made little sense or reason. And then come the end and our attempt at an escape from the haunted Castle Rock – an ending which won’t be spoiled here – the dark tale twists once more, leaving things open for the team at Total Mayhem Games to build further on the franchise.
So, the puzzles – the reason why we are here. In We Were Here Together these come in various forms, but unlike the games that have set this up, very few of them really come off in terms of sheer joy and elation. Instead, things get occasionally muddy with initial area explorations fast being overrun by trial, error, and the fluking of finding correct solutions. Without a word of a lie, after many attempts at solving a visual puzzle which requires the fiddling and placement of numerous electrical fuses, and another which revolved around the switching of proud knights, still to this day neither I nor my partner have a clue as to how they should be completed. There is absolutely nothing wrong with ensuring a bit of a test is placed in any puzzle title, but We Were Here thrives on the art of communication, and unfortunately with a couple of the puzzles found in Together, days, weeks, and months could easily have passed without success. Instead, it was all left to hitting a button multiple times in the hope that something would come off. Eventually it does.
Thankfully this is only present in a few of the multitude of taxing affairs that are included, and those that do work are a joy. Not just content with opening your eyes and taking in the delights of some visual confusion, Together also plays on the audio side of things too. You’ll find yourself attempting to read treasure maps, working with radio signals, lighting up pathways and mixing potions in order to unlock specified routes throughout We Were Here Together. And again, only by chatting things over, hitting the walkie-talkie in order to relay that information to your friend, is where this game really shines. It’s just a shame that it doesn’t come across as quite so bright when placed alongside the other games.
It’s not helped by a rather significant price increase either and, whilst the original We Were Here rocked up at cheap as chips prices, before seeing We Were Here Too double that initial market foray, once more we see a few quid chucked on top with the release of We Were Here Together. Albeit a much lengthier affair, is it worth nearly three times as much as the first game – a game that in my eyes is the best game in the series so far? No, is my frank answer to that, and I feel the raise in cash outlay may well put many off.
Thankfully it looks good, with not just well-worked environments that allow for easy recognition for what is at hand, but also rather delightful colourings and characters included for good measure. It’s sometimes been a joy to see the increase in fidelity over the previous titles, and visually everything within has been appreciated. The same goes for the audio, and that provided by We Were Here Together is nothing but superb. With defined celebration upon a puzzle being solved, and a similarly harsh bong when things are wrong, I haven’t really been able to fault the audio side of things too much – although perhaps, if being a little picky, the deliverance of the cutscenes could be a little clearer. But then, that story fails to really hit the right note throughout.
All in all though and We Were Here Together on Xbox One provides a good puzzling affair that fans of the series should consider taking in. It’s not as enthralling, engaging or even as immersive as the first title in the franchise, and the issues brought about by character switching and trial and error puzzles are a shame, but should you be able to look past those and the hefty price increase, you’ll find a decent cooperative affair that is unlike any other.