Published on January 6th, 2024 | by Gareth Newnham
Summary: Idiosyncratic, compelling and creative, Whateverland is a one trip this stranger in strange land would heartily recommend.
Stranger in a Strange Land
Whateverland is a decidedly French point-and-click adventure (Yes, I know the devs are Russian), bursting with charm, that is bound to relieve your sense of endless ennui, if only for a few hours.
Players take on the role of Vincent, a career criminal that gets sucked into the strange purgatorial Whateverland after unwittingly attempting to steal a diamond from an ancient and powerful witch called Beatrice, who banishes Vincent to a realm of her own creation inhabited by the unfortunate souls that have wronged her in some way.
To leave Whateverland, Vincent needs to collect seven items to cast a spell to summon Beatrice and hopefully convince her to let him go. However, how you go about collecting these items is entirely up to you. On the one hand, you can get them by making the lives of the lost souls stuck in Whateverland a little better, by cooking them some top-notch ramen, or by fixing their air conditioning. Alternatively, you can lie, cheat, and steal your way through the game. Who needs character development and self-improvement when being a selfish ass will get the job done, right?
The rub is that how you make your way through Whateverland and interact with its inhabitants changes the course of not only the story and the game’s ending but also how the other denizens of the metaphorical ship of lost souls react to you, so you might be able to cheat your way through one puzzle only to have the next lost soul see you coming.
Much like real life, it’s a lot easier to be helpful than it is to be a jerk. As a result, helping out the citizens of Whateverland is often a lot more straightforward than trying to dupe them out of their spell fragment, with the good run mostly featuring puzzles that, although fun, aren’t all too taxing. Meanwhile, a more devious run is a lot harder to accomplish, gives you very few pointers, and amps up the difficulty of the puzzles. (It’s a lot easier to do someone a favor than break into their safe, almost as if there’s some moral lesson at play here)
The best part of Whateverland, though, is its cast of quirky characters. Vincent is guided through Whateverland by Nick, a ghostly apparition that has been stuck in Whateverland for quite some time and explains that being there too long warps your soul, and with it you’re physical self becomes more twisted and strange as time goes on. This results in some great character designs, including a salty old fishing merman who wants some new tattoos, a raven with more than a passing resemblance to Edgar Alan Poe, and a talking dog. Because every great game needs a talking dog, and this one is also a butler to a pair of needy twins.
Likewise, the script is sharp, witty, and very funny, in particular, the back and forth between Nick and Vincent as they make their world through the decaying wonderland evolved with your decisions in a natural way, and their relationship and the conversations they have, especially towards the end of the game vary wildly depending on whether you decided to opt for a good or bad run.
The only downside to Whateverland is one quest line that demands that you play and win games of Bell and Bones, a strange sport made up by the captives of the pocket dimension to pass the time. Yes, you can cheat your through it if you want to. But I wasn’t a fan, and when I was trying to do a clean run, it felt like more messing about than I was in the mood for.
Whateverland is a charming adventure game that doesn’t outstay its welcome, packed full of memorable characters and challenging yet fun puzzles that allow the player to make their way through the weird and wonderful world in whatever way they see fit.