Whateverland is one of the more memorable point-and-click adventures I’ve played in some time, a big part of which is its streamlined structure and brisk pacing that makes it rewarding for those with limited patience or time for the genre.
You play as Vincent – a seemingly unflappable thief with a deadpan disposition – who makes the mistake of trying to steal a necklace from what he thought was just an old lady. Turns out Beatrice is a centuries-old witch who warns that his future choices will have further consequences before banishing him to the titular Whateverland.
It’s a bizarre and timeless prison in a parallel dimension, full of humans banished for slighting Beatrice or seeking her aid to flee from their pasts. No one can die, many are slowly changing into forms that represent their fears or vices, some are making the best of it, others falling into despair, and no one has ever escaped.
After the brief tutorial sees Vincent assist an unhinged inventor, meet a pretentious raven poet, and free half-ghost companion Nick, he’s free to explore Whateverland at his own pace. His quest? To find seven fragments of a scroll that, once reassembled, will allow him to summon Beatrice and hopefully negotiate his freedom.
How you achieve that goal is through a mix of traditional point-and-click dialogue investigations, use-item-on-object puzzling, plentiful minigames, and a somewhat transparent morality system that ensures there are at least two solutions to any problem. The overall tone is often humorous, but Vincent’s responses can display his compassionate side or pure self-interest. Naturally, your choices affect the ending you receive.
You can quickly flit between locations from the map screen and each scenario has a similar structure: you chat with the person with the scroll fragment, they want something from you first, and then you decide on your approach. You can take the path of least resistance by discovering clues and dialogue choices that’ll allow you to distract or incapacitate targets, before stealing the fragment. Alternatively, you can take a few extra steps to try to resolve each target’s dilemma and have them willingly offer up the fragment as a reward.
Progression is formulaic but Whateverland has its quirky setting and diverse cast to keep things fresh. You’ll encounter two sisters caught in an eternal squabble, a popular club owner who has never found true love, a despondent noble and his disgruntled manservant, a depressed teenager who needs to remember his past to move past it, and a hundred-year-old Geisha desperate for a decent bowl of ramen.
Given the genre and setting, no situation is straightforward, and they all feature unique minigames or lockpicking challenges. You’ll reroute ducting and radio waves, compose a jazz quartet, play an isometric Wolfenstein clone, and tattoo a Merman. Failure is rarely punished but sometimes leads to another branching solution path.
The one clunky and oft-criticised minigame is “Bell & Bones” – think a turn-based, grid-based football/netball hybrid – but aside from one inconsequential late-game match, you can now find simple collectibles to skip the rest entirely.
On that note, Whateverland is designed to keep you moving forward. You’ll need to travel between locations at times, but most areas only have three or four rooms, with anywhere from one to three significant characters. You can highlight hotspots and access tutorial panels; there’s a journal that tracks your progress and even highlights alternate paths; while rare keys allow you to entirely bypass a lock-picking minigame.
My only gameplay gripes were a few cluttered interaction icons and some puzzles clearly designed around dragging-and-dropping with a mouse rather than a thumbstick.
Whateverland looks and plays great on the Nintendo Switch, with near-instant load times when jumping between locations to solve puzzles or just want to tackle another if you’re stumped. The visual style feels suitably indie, with exaggerated, angular comic-style designs, striking use of colour, and limited but expressive animations. That said, I found the music and voice work did the heavy lifting.
I can’t speak for all the localisation efforts, but the voice actors in the English-language version sound like a mix of native and second-language speakers. Each felt like a great fit for the personality they portray, providing a mix of accents with some weird pronunciation or accentuation befitting the disjointed dimension. Vincent was a particular highlight, given the need for both selfish and selfless replies, and many observations or responses smartly reveal more about his past. Eddie the raven poet was another, providing increasingly ominous and foreshadowing poems each time you recover a scroll fragment.
Who is it for?
Overall, Whateverland is a solid addition to the indie point-and-click library on consoles and I’d recommend it to anyone who likes the idea of point-and-click adventures but doesn’t get on with games that feature wilfully opaque systems, convoluted puzzle solutions, and too much backtracking. For its 4-ish hour playtime – which you can double if you want to explore other puzzle solutions – it keeps you moving forward with streamlined mechanics, diverse minigames, and an eclectic cast.
Now that said, I’d be remiss not to highlight some questionable writing in the finale that grossly oversimplifies the idea of people needing to help themselves where mental health issues like depression and addiction are concerned. I don’t know if it reflects the developer’s beliefs or if something was lost in translation, but it felt at odds with the thoughtful dialogue on the compassionate path.
Whateverland was reviewed on Nintendo Switch using a code provided to gameblur by the publisher. It is also available on PC (since 2022), Xbox One/Series S|X, and PS4/PS5.
Whateverland (Nintendo Switch) ReviewWhateverland (Nintendo Switch) Review
- Streamlined mechanics and brisk pacing for a point-and-click adventure
- Multiple puzzle solutions and plentiful minigames keep things fresh
- Stylish visuals and entertaining voice work
- Some puzzles feel clunky using a gamepad instead of mouse
- Some dubious writing around mental health issues