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Review: Selma and the Wisp (Steam) (A)waking Nightmare

Selma and the Wisp is described on its Steam page as “an astonishing platform game with a particularly eerie feel to it. Densely packed with logical puzzles and unexpected obstacles, the game incorporates innovative gameplay, low-poly models and an spectacular animations.”  While I would say that is a fairly accurate description, I’d say it would be more apt to simply say that you spend the game wandering through Selma’s nightmares with only a floating ball of light (wisp) as your guide, hope, and possible salvation. Your crutch, if you will. This was a pretty enjoyable game that for me weighed in at about two and a half hours with 100% achievements.Selma and the Wisp-TiCGN

Story

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The story in Selma and the Wisp is pretty straight forward. You, playing as Selma, are terrified of the dark and the nightmares you are sure to have. Your mother puts you to bed and you fall asleep only to be awakened by a monster under the bed. Your night light releases the wisp, who is your only source of illumination in a world of darkness and dread. The two of you travel through your nightmares and hope to live through the night and see the sunrise (the story isn’t actually that distinct, but I think that was the overall goal….to simply survive your nightmares and wake up in the morning).

Overall, the story is sparse and much is left to your interpretation. Still, it is decent enough for what it is. 7 out of 10.

Gameplay

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The gameplay in Selma and the Wisp is pretty well done and executed. Although I found the controls to be a little stiff at times, I think this was done intentionally to heighten tension in the game. I encountered zero technical issues playing at max settings on my mid-range computer, so that also was a nice surprise.

The actual gameplay is 2-D scroller with some puzzles and light platforming. You control the Wisp through most of the game and as the Wisp, you will guide Selma throughout the ten chapters. Your actual abilities are pretty simple. By virtue of being a floating ball of light, you provide simple illumination for Selma. A failure to do so will result in her having a heart attack and dying. However, you constantly lose energy as well so you must refill by picking up smaller glowing balls of light throughout, which serve to refill your counter (we’ll call it your health bar since for all intents and purposes, that is its purpose). You can also create explosions with your body, which of course consume more of your energy.

You will see some variation of this screen many, many times, lol
You will see some variation of this screen many, many times, lol

The explosions are integral in Selma and the Wisp to solving quite a few of the puzzles as they help to move objects, activate switches, scare off enemies, and otherwise interact with objects throughout the game. Just about every puzzle in the game with only a handful of exceptions are solved in this manner. Just remember though – your explosions drain your health bar faster and once you run out, Selma will die. Fortunately, the checkpoint system in the game is very forgiving, starting at the beginning of each puzzle or chapter depending on your progress. This is particularly helpful since you will definitely die often while playing. I think my death count was right around 50 or so in my playthrough.

You do play as Selma in the final chapter, and that is where I found the bulk of the story to be revealed. While playing as Selma, you can simply walk, jump, and climb with the occasional addition of activating an object to solve a puzzle. The only negative aspect of the gameplay was actually in this section. There was a minor jumping puzzle that I found to be particularly annoying, and it probably took me 15 or 20 tries to manage it.

There really wasn’t much else to the gameplay. What Selma and the Wisp does, it does well. Not to perfection, but it was certainly above average in its application. 8.5 out of 10.

Graphics

The graphics in Selma and the Wisp were the highlight of the game. They did a fantastic job with this aspect of things. I will simply let my screenshots do the talking for me here. 9.5 out of 10

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Sound

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The audio in Selma and the Wisp was all ambient noise and atmospheric sounds. I can’t say that it really stood out, but it did serve to help with immersion, and I felt they did a good job with it despite nothing really standing out. 7.5 out of 10

Verdict

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Selma and the Wisp does oppressive atmosphere with a sense of wonder in excellent fashion. The game was engaging and I never felt myself getting bored. Aside from the one puzzle I mentioned earlier, I never felt myself getting frustrated despite dying a lot. Typically, one death serves as exploration and the rest are simply you making mistakes that are avoidable. I dont mind that at all. There was also a particularly devious haunted house puzzle that I thought to be the highlight of the puzzle experience. The journey was interesting throughout with the different scenes and set pieces. Selma and the Wisp was a fun adventure that I hope many people will have a chance to partake in.

8.1 Wisps leading Selma through a nightmare world that only a demented child could dream up out of 10 possible with one final advisory:beware the killer whale.

 

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