Starting this review is a struggle
I anticipate the following will take some time to produce as words escape me when describing Wurroom. I’m quite lucky, or perhaps it’s down to my writing experience, but I seldom have difficulty in filling a page. Whether the piece is error-free or readable is debatable, but that’s the joy of editing. My problem here is conjuring up the right description or appraisal of a game that is beyond words.
Wurroom is the result of David Lynch, Salvador Dali, Georgia O’Keeffe and the bloke who came up with Play-doh having a get-together, doing some psychedelic drug then hijacking the local merry-go-round at the park and spinning round and round until everything merges into one big gloop of an idea. Wurroom isn’t a coherent piece, it isn’t defined by any particular genre, but boy is it good.
This review really will divide people, as will the game
I’ll attempt to lay my cards out on the table and offer some sort of deciphering on my part. While I love films like Big Trouble In Little China (happy birthday, Kurt!), playing games like Tekken while listening to The Prodigy or Metallica, there’s a more anti-social part of me that listens to avant-garde music, weird black and white films (you know the type, subtitled and makes Freud look like CBeebies) and artistic games such as Vasilis, even if they don’t pan out so well. Wurroom is a Marmite of a game; you’ll either love it or hate it. I’m in the first camp.
So what’s it all about?
When you begin, there’s no explanation on how to play, just a note that this is playable in handheld mode only. That becomes apparent immediately as you use the touchscreen to interact with the puzzles and objects that fill the screen. Almost immediately you’ll think this is weird and hate it, or think it’s weird and love it, but perhaps don’t know why. In some respects, Wurroom reminds me of a Terry Gilliam animated segment from Monty Python’s Flying Circus; only instead of 2D art, it’s made out of plasticine – as if Aardman had some leftovers and said: “go to town!”. None of this is explaining what the game is about, but as I said, it’s hard to define.
Another way at looking at Wurroom is it is 100% a visual piece and no doubt how the classic 16-bit beat ’em up, Clayfighter, could have been with the right technology. The animation and art style here is stunning and from my perspective, gets full marks got the presentation. But as I have used one too many disclaimers, I like weird stuff and while it’s gorgeous to look at and interpret in a way that can be as subjective as a horoscope, how does the game play?
On-screen will be a series of 3D objects, and you touch different parts of the screen for the shapes to morph into something completely different. It’s never evident what the objective is in each scene, but the opening scene was perhaps the most intuitive. You’re presented with a statue, a shovel laying in the ground. Using your finger to drag the shovel, you bury it into the forehead of the figure, unleashing further manifestations from the ground. It doesn’t make sense, but it doesn’t have to, but when trying to sell you the game as an experience, it’s hardly shooting fish in a barrel. This is perhaps what will determine if you’re likely to follow up any interested in Wurroom as it’s not particularly playable; instead, it’s like an interactive art installation: absolutely stunning aesthetics, high concept but as a game… well, it does lack in that area as the goals aren’t straightforward to follow. In many of the game’s settings, it can get to the stage where you randomly tap the screen waiting for something to happen. When it does happen, it’s not clear what transpired or why, but like a lucid dream that you can perhaps breakdown into a meaning that resonates with you. If you’re willing to, that is.
Since juggling with ways to explain the game, I read up on the promotional material on the eShop to get some pointers, and then it becomes clear: even the developers state that this isn’t a game and that it’s an experience. In that case, Wurroom has served its purpose and ticks the boxes in all areas, but even though it can do that, is it a title I can recommend to go out and buy? At the time of writing, Wurroom is currently available on the UK Nintendo eShop for 89p, where it’s free to play on Steam. Is it worth the 89p, or perhaps donating as suggested on the developer’s Steam page? Absolutely. In my opinion, it’s well worth the money for the visuals alone. Each scene is made out of plasticine then scanned in with various clickable points. The soundtrack can’t be ignored either; featuring some genuinely amazing background tracks that set the tone throughout, Wurroom is a fantastic art piece, regardless of whether or not it’s a conventional game you can expect to play on your Switch.
One thing worth mentioning though is the duration. It takes 10 – 15 minutes to finish the game, so that would indicate the price model. However, I’ve always thought the suggested length of a game depends on the person as I easily spent the same amount of time on the first couple of scenes, just taking it all in. Would I go back and repeat play? Yes, of course, and have. Back in my youth, I made a handful of animated projects from computer animation to claymation, and I recall spending a good couple of weeks making a piece that lasted only a few seconds. The process is so painstakingly slow with very little to show for it, so I can’t even fathom how long this took to make, but the craftsmanship that went into it is unquestionable. Still, with Wurroom the visuals have an immediate impact, and I could happily revisit this world, again and again, regardless of my input levels.
As I’ve touched upon time and time again, Wurroom isn’t a game but an experience. It’s well worth the small asking price or donation, should you opt for the Steam version, but don’t expect to be challenged or have much influence in the outcome of the game. If you want to get lost in the creative world of some truly talented artists and dive a little deeper into your imagination, then watch the trailer at the very least. That will be the catalyst, whether this is the title for you.
Review code provided
Platform: Nintendo, Steam
Release Date: 01/04/2020
No. of Players: 1
Category: Adventure, Other, Puzzle
Developer: Michael Rfdshir and Serge Bulat
Publisher: Sometimes You
Download link: eShop