Semla and the Wisp
Switch version tested
Review code provided
A young girl is plagued with nightmares filled with guillotines, killer clowns, and angry crows. The only thing to get her through it is a wisp of light. Selma and the Wisp is a horror puzzle game out on the Nintendo Switch by developer Toucan Studio.
The game begins with Selma following the wisp to escape monsters under her bed, leading her into 10 chapters of darkness and terror. The player controls the wisp, a floating ball of light, and wherever the wisp goes, Selma will follow. The goal is to guide her and keep her safe in the low-poly side scroller world full of dangers. You’ll have to get her to run, jump and climb to safety. This isn’t too hard since she follows you mindlessly. If you go above a ladder, she will climb it. If you go to a moving swing, she will jump onto it. Sometimes she’ll make a short or far jump and fall to her death. You don’t really always have control of her actions, so you’ll likely see her do plenty of things that cause a game over. This ends up feeling messy and frustrating.
You are able to command her to stay put when needed, which is important as everything in this game is about timing. Timing Selma’s movements are key to keeping her alive. Think swinging axe moving at set intervals. The entire game is basically that dressed up as different things. While playing, you’ll also have to continue to collect small orbs of light that give you energy, as your energy slowly depletes with time and eventually burns out your light. You can also explode the wisp to interact with objects in the environment such as a lever to start a machine, or buttons to open a door. This expels energy faster, so use it wisely.
Selma will also get scared if you get too far away from her. This will start to quickly drain her heart, and when that’s empty, she dies. Being in close proximity with her will fill it back up. Anything else in the world will be a one hit kill to her. So don’t let her get too close to anything that moves. Sometimes there will be items you need to pick up in order to progress. Usually, this item is in an obvious location. Key sitting conveniently next to a lock door kind of ordeal. No real problem solving here, but it adds another gameplay element.
The game feels eerie, with low-lit levels paired with moody and tense music setting a type of scary movie atmosphere. It works pretty well. The graphics have a low poly style, even though not fantastic, it helps in delivering with the spooky theme. There are even some fun easter eggs within the game, with references to classics like Super Mario or The Never Ending Story. Since there’s no real story to the game, finding these became a nice driving force to complete the levels.
Selma and the Wisp is a short horror game with a strong art direction but has disastrous controls to go along with it. The game being so central on timing hinders the ability to truly enjoy the experience. Sometimes it’s nice to stop and smell the roses.
TBG Score: 5.5/10
Platform: Steam, Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 31/05/2019
No. of Players: 1
Category: Adventure, Platformer, Puzzle
Developer: Toucan Studio
Publisher: Ultimate Games
Download link: eShop