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Camp W Review

Psyop’s Camp W is a genuinely endearing tale about a dissatisfied young witch that makes his (or her — you decide) way to a summer camp for humans. You, the witch, will find a myriad of colorful characters and a mediocre mystery awaiting you there. Camp W is notable for its hand-illustrated art, which, when paired with its authentically good dialogue, is by far this indie’s strongest appeal.

The Witching Realm

Choose and name your character at the first, and then be thrust into the Witching Realm as either a little boy or a little girl, deeply unimpressed by their mother’s lack of appreciation for summertime fun. For the sake of this review, we’ll call the main character Lil, which is the feminine preset of your character. Every year Lil is trapped by her overachieving mother during the summer, doomed to study and miss out on typical sun-soaked shenanigans.

This year? This year is different. This year Lil discovers a portal to the human realm, on the other side of which is a summer camp with an unpronounceable name. Her resulting attachment to the camp and its inhabitants shapes the course of her summer irrevocably and launches her into an adventure she never expected. Your adventure, really.

Visual Novel “Gameplay”

There are two gameplay mechanics at work in Camp W. One is the ability to cast spells, which happens only on rails, and the second is the ability to make decisions. Casting spells requires you to trace an outline in Lil’s Grimoire, her witching book that contains story markers and magic. The only way to fail this is to trace a little outside of the lines given, and you don’t get to choose what spell you cast. You have unlimited opportunities and an unlimited amount of time to succeed.

Decisions revolve around what characters you get to know more. What characters you get to know more determines who your closest friend is by the end of the storyline and what sorts of camp badges you’ll receive. Multiple playthroughs will earn you multiple badges and different sets of friends, but that’s not much incentive to try the storyline over and over again.

A Forgivably Small Title

It’s noteworthy that Camp W has a low price point, as it helps to illuminate the limitations that the studio might have had regarding polish and scope. Though the storyline is simple and endearing enough, the ending comes after potentially less than two hours of gameplay. There’s no voice acting whatsoever, and there’s basically no event customization with the character illustrations. A great deal of imagination is required on the player’s part to really envision some of the more striking scenes, which is a shame, because with art as good as Camp W’s, more is better.

For the most part, character creation and consistency is excellent. However, the title as a whole would have benefited from placing its constructions in a greater variety of situations for players to enjoy viewing their interactions in, and from an expansion of the spell mechanic which is interesting, but wholly under-utilized. The ending comes rather abruptly, and a longer play-out of final events would help to ease players more satisfactorily out of the story.

A Magically Nostalgic Venture

Summer camps are a childhood mainstay, and Camp W taps into that sweet nostalgia with its keen nose for genuine friendship and fun. It’s a cheerful indie that offers a little slice of that bizarre camp life in all its often-icky, sometimes-violent, and always-memorable glory, with a dash of magic just to spice things up a bit. Camp W might play itself for you, but its trip down memory lane is spellbinding.

6

The Verdict: Good

Camp W’s blend of imaginative summertime nostalgia, witty dialogue, and hand-crafted art makes for a visual novel experience that’s well-suited for a Saturday morning cartoon. The strong lack of actual gameplay will turn some players off, but for those that enjoy letting the game itself take the lead, it’s a charmer.

Taryn Ziegler
Written by
July 27, 2018
Published in Adventure

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Taryn is a digital content strategist with an avid appetite for literature and gaming. She graduated from the University of Washington Bothell with a degree in Culture, Literature, and the Arts, and since then has been engaged in copywriting for businesses from AutoNation to DirtFish Rally School. While she'll happily play most games set in front of her, Taryn heartily prefers a good ol' turn-based strategy RPG, such as Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia and Divinity: Original Sin.

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