Waking the Glares - Chapters I & II feels like a good first try, but the soft, soothing music and pleasant voice acting weren't enough. The series could grow, as Wisefool Studios gains more experience and support from the community; sadly, though, these are steep requirements for players that already have a score of immersive, truly fascinating walking simulators from which to choose, not to mention puzzle games that actually require deep contemplation.
Waking the Glares – Chapters I & II
Waking the Glares - Chapters I & II is an adventure title from Wisefool Studio that promises an atmospheric experience with a poignant narrative and engaging story, but it falls short of the mark: it's a walking simulator with an interactive environment, and items scattered around the locations act like puzzle pieces which progress the story. Often, it's as simple as finding the one object you can interact with and placing it in the only slot missing a component; I rarely had more than one item at a time in my possession, and that doesn’t merit an inventory feature.
Welcome to Dawnfall's Strange Life
Spawning into the game as our vague protagonist, Dawnfall, I encountered huge drifts of snow and a howling wind. Walking down the street, I approached an enormous house, its shutters banging violently in the breeze, which created an ominous scene. Unfortunately, gaining entrance to the building left me deflated, as the interior lacked any of the unnerving elements the packaging had suggested. The pleasantly decorated rooms provided a fair amount of detail -- including odd touches, like books nailed to the wall -- but the giant tree sprouting through the middle of the home demanded attention. Within my first five minutes of gameplay, I managed to break into this house, flood its basement, loot various tools from their storage spots, and rummage through sheet-covered furniture. Rather than leaving a note that began with, "Dear Residents, I apologize…" I progressed to what seemed to be a surreal plane of existence between story Chapters.
That first exploration went exceedingly fast, so I entered the second Chapter with hopes of a longer duration. Luckily, my optimism paid off; however, although I spent the bulk of my time in this new location, it took me less than two hours to defeat both sections of Waking the Glares: Chapters I & II. This completion time includes a touchy, delicate puzzle solution which left me floundering for 30 minutes until I tried my original guess for the third time. These kinds of technical hiccups are beyond frustrating to me, especially when it a single instance can account for 25% of my total gameplay.
Wait, We’re at Chapter II Already?!
Still, the second Chapter features a French theme, though an exact geographic location isn't declared. The clever locale is made even more impressive by its occupants: Everyone is an artists' mannequin, the sort of blocky, posable figurines you see in hobby stores and drawing classes. Some adorned themselves with top hats and monocles, and others sported jewelry or mustaches. For some inexplicable reason, I was tasked by the voiced-over Narrator to find four items, each outlined on a list that I could refer to, if I forgot. Locating the objects wasn't difficult, and other than the particularly infuriating lock mechanism "puzzle," I was able to overcome obstacles with rapidity and ease. As I checked-off items the environment, or at least the behavior of its people, would change; this made the gameplay feel more on rails than I prefer for my adventure titles, dipping more into the realm of walking-sim with a scavenger hunt.
Waking the Glares ended with a plot twist and a cliffhanger, one that left me intrigued to see how the story would play out. However, according to the Steam page, subsequent chapters of this game aren't guaranteed, and "the complete adventure is intended to be made of seven different chapters, and their release will depend on the first release success." Plus, each new installment is supposed to be a stand-alone experience with a thread of connection. The combination is something that leaves me wary of pursuing additional serial chapters, especially paired with the super brief playtime that I had with both Chapters I and II.
As far as functionality, Waking the Glares has some issues. I found the menu to be very imprecise, especially upon exiting a saved game. While in Windowed Mode I experienced a lot of clipping and graphical twitchiness, and even in Fullscreen I had poor performance and noticeable lag, though the lightning and details were greatly improved. Also, the included subtitles sprawled off the visible screen area, cutting off parts of sentences and distracting me from what was interesting about the cryptic messages.
Honestly, I have no idea what's going on in the overarching storyline of Waking the Glares. The plot felt convoluted and vague, to the point that my enjoyment was wholly dependent on the lackluster puzzles and somewhat exotic locales. The hints towards the next chapter's theme left me wanting more, so that's certainly a point in its favor, but I wouldn't invest a lot of money in figuring out what happens next. This title lacks polish and finesse, and there is a certain clunkiness to controls which require highlighting an object and clicking a particular mouse button to interact with it.
Chapters I and II feel like a good first try, and I think there is potential for the series to grow as Wisefool Studios gains more experience and support from the community. Sadly, those are steep requirements from players that already have a score of immersive, truly fascinating walking simulators from which to choose, not to mention puzzle games that actually require deep contemplation. The soft, soothing music and pleasant voice acting weren't enough to smooth my ruffled feathers: if you are interested in Waking the Glares - Chapters I & II, purchase it on sale.