Toucan studio is based in Poland and recently brought us their first game which is inspired by such titles as Limbo or Badlands. The player follows Selma who is accompanied by Wisp – an atmospheric ghost light seen by travellers at night. The mechanism reminds me a little bit of Child of light – a girl which has a faithful firefly following around and helping to overcome challenges. The system in this game is slightly different since it is more Selma following the Wisp here rather than the other way around.
The developers came up with an innovative co-dependent controlling system which allows the movement of both characters simultaneously just by using a mouse. By moving the mouse, you control the Wisp, Selma automatically follows. Jumping, climbing and all other extra motion is automatic too. This makes it really comfy for lazy players however Selma can end up in dangerous situations. Luckily you can command her to stop by clicking the right mouse button. The left button serves for making Wisp explode. This ability can collapse terrain, put mechanisms to work or blow up gasoline barrels. Poor Selma actually has to face dangers which are quite real compared to the dreamy adventure of the Toddler from Among the Sleep for example.
Selma and the Wisp poses a lot of challenges across ten levels each of which is set in a different environment. There are outdoor locations such as caves, a graveyard, a creepy amusement park and you will even have a chance to fly in a hot air balloon. Staying alive is trickier than it seems. Selma can obviously be killed by falling rocks, shotguns or monsters. Apart from that, her life is drained quite fast when she gets too far away from Wisp. Therefore if Wisp has to turn on some mechanism or gets stuck, the way back to Selma has to be as fast as possible. Wisp’s energy decreases constantly at a relatively slow pace, blasting consumes a bigger chunk of its energy bar. Small portions can be replenished by collecting energy beads which either float randomly in the air, point Selma in the right direction or even form threatening messages such as “RUN” or “CRY.”
Selma and the Wisp has a fairly unsettling atmosphere and a dark vibe to it. The low-poly design is simple yet looks smart and excellent animations make the game visually pleasant. Graphics are sometimes overlapping text, for example when the menu is opened they prevent from reading instructions. However this only happened in the initial phase and apart from that there were no other bugs or performance issues.
One thing the game is somewhat lacking is a story. Selma starts off from a room which is supposedly located at her home. After something disturbs her peace, she follows Wisp into her wardrobe and beyond to a strange world. However we do not know where they are headed and what their goal is. But the visuals are so compelling that you will simply want to follow Selma around even without knowing much of her background.
The game is fairly difficult and you will often have to use intuition to solve puzzles or overcome obstacles in order to make progress. At certain points there is a hint of where you can use the explosion feature but apart from that you will be on your own. As Wisp loses energy, the surroundings become gradually darker which constantly pushes the player to move fast and find new orbs to replenish some energy. However there is an obstacle or a trap waiting behind every corner which means you have to think fast too. Sometimes the time slows down to give the player more time for a decision (for example when riding a high speed rollercoaster) but otherwise the game calls for fast thinking and action.
Once you enter a puzzle, there are just seconds to figure out what has to be done. While being far from Wisp decreases Selma’s health only gradually, injuries mean instant death. You will probably die a lot but luckily there are plenty of checkpoints and the reload is really fast. Upon dying you will receive sarcastic funny messages such as “You can’t play when she’s dead,” “Death please consider my age,” or “You’re hurting my body!” Selma really dies in brutal ways. She can drown, burn to death or get crushed by vehicles. Toucan Studio did a great job on balancing the macabre themes out with humour which still makes the game look dark but also funny.
One of the downsides is probably length. Depending on how much you die and get stuck on puzzles, the gameplay takes something between 90 minutes and three hours. Overall Selma and the Wisp is a nice platform experience which delivers a number of surprises. Except for the last chapter, not controlling the main character was a nice innovation and the visuals are really worth playing this game. We would recommend Selma and the Wisp to anyone who feels like spending the evening with a casual game.