The medium of gaming allows us to be transported to all sorts of places we would never have thought were possible to venture to otherwise. As a result, I’ve been to LEGO-filled vibrant lands, and have traversed across an entire Solar System in Destiny; not to mention everything in between. But now it’s time to visit the wonderfully woollen world of Woven on Xbox One for a textile-centric adventure that’ll hopefully draw in kids and grown-ups alike. Is it a brilliantly knitted together experience for everyone to enjoy though, or does the magic of Woven soon begin to unravel?
Whilst there’s no doubt Woven is a game that plays out like no other, the experience doesn’t come without a few loose stitches which could see your enjoyment levels simmer.
Upon beginning the adventure, we are immediately introduced to a stuffed animal, Stuffy, who’s a little worse for wear and in need of patching up. Soon enough, Stuffy stumbles across a firefly named Glitch, which is made out of metal and can operate knitting machinery capable of manipulating woollen entities. These two characters are brought together by chance, with no memory of how they came to be. They sense that there’s a higher purpose in store for them and that’s to put an end to a great threat looming over the world; a world which is being unravelled by a selection of mechanical beasts. The ultimate aim is to reach ‘the moon’, for that is where the answers lay.
The story is told by a fantastic narrator speaking sentences in rhymes – some might say it’s reminiscent of The Gruffalo – and he truly captivates the audience in doing so, alongside the fittingly relaxing background sounds. Children will love this approach, whereas adults are more likely to grow sceptical of the narrative’s substance after a while. You see, Glitch can remember bits and pieces by finding fairly well-hidden memory machines, but for the most part the narration during these segments is pretty vague. Many words are spoken, that is true, however you’ll generally be left without much of a clue. Still, there’s a nice little flourishing friendship to admire here between two characters seemingly bereft of much in common, and that conveys a positive message.
Woven puts a hefty effort into encouraging exploration through the lovely looking woolly 3D environments on offer, ranging from the countryside and the jungle to the beach and a desert-like area. Taking in the surroundings and seeking out places off the beaten track really stretches each of the five levels to last well over an hour, without feeling like a drag. There will be obstacles though, and these are overcome by solving different kinds of puzzles including those which require Stuffy to look a certain way or use specific abilities.
Customising Stuffy comes in two main forms; the animal type and the patches used to make up the design. Starting out as an elephant with the ability to stomp, more animal blueprints have to be acquired throughout, some of which are vital in order to access certain areas and make progression. To unlock these, you must search for special machines and complete a rhythmic mini-game involving the moving of the pincer like arms into position to follow a pattern of dots. It’s not the most exciting activity and does become repetitive, but hitting enough dots successfully will garner the option to change Stuffy – or merely parts of Stuffy – into a rhino, a monkey, a deer and so much more. Only then can you enable abilities to allow actions such as jumping in specific spots, the art of button pressing, and the chance to fly – more like a close-to-the-ground hover in truth.
As for the design patches featuring colours and patterns, and well, there are loads to find, which can be added to your inventory by Glitch scanning them. You might have to scan a flower, a sneaky patch on the wall or even one of the few animals roaming around. The colours cover a wide spectrum, with the likes of coral, khaki, lime and sky blue alongside some garish, but funky patterns. It’s great fun to experiment with multi-coloured limbs from different animals, which is possible at a knitting station.
The slight irritation comes when you’re ill-equipped for the task at hand, meaning back-tracking to the nearest knitting machine, which is a bit of a nuisance. For example, reaching a method of transportation that needs a delicate touch or coming across a not-so-friendly snake that needs you to wear a special pattern. When you’re already retracing steps to unearth the secrets held by the memories, as well as gathering more designs and blueprints, it’d be kinder to be able to customise on the fly.
Away from the rhythmic blueprint machine puzzles and customisation based conundrums, the other problem solving predicaments are infrequent. Some of the highlights include a tile-based stomping puzzle concept that’s akin to the classic Pipe Mania, and then there’s the remembering and matching of symbols. Nothing too adventurous it has to be said, which is a shame really as it would have been good to have more variety, especially in the unlocking blueprints rhythm tasks.
Overall, Woven is best described as a gaming experience that caters for a wide audience, but as a result, hinders itself a tad. There’s a lovely world and rhyming tale that kids will adore, whilst grown-ups can embrace the collectible element. The puzzles could do with being more interesting, however the whole idea involving using Stuffy’s patterns as solutions is pretty neat. However, back-tracking does become a chore at times, yet one thing everyone will agree on is the superb narrator who brings every moment to life.
If you’ve got children, then Woven is a very viable option to satisfy their sense of wonderment, if not then there are better puzzling adventures available for your money.