Woven is a fantastic puzzle game that kept me enthralled for hours with it’s clever puzzles and calming narration.
Woven is a relaxing adventure puzzle game developed by Alterego Games and published by StickyLock Studios. The small but dedicated development team attempted a kickstarter campaign in 2016 which unfortunately wasn’t successful. Kickstarter is an all or nothing campaign but being determined and confident in their product, the team at Alterego Games forged on with development, eventually finding StickyLock Studios who helped with marketing the game. Woven was finally released on November 15, 2019 on Steam, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch.
In Woven you explore a completely woollen and hand-stitched world where stuffed animals once lived in peace. A colourful world of vast woolen landscapes, stitched together rocks and trees where much is not as it seems. In the game you play as Stuffy who starts as a knitted elephant and after falling down a cliff, limp your way to find a friend in Glitch, a mechanical bee-like creature. You come across a machine that Glitch can operate which restitches Stuffy’s form and fixes his bad leg. You then search for hidden secrets and customise your character with different animal shapes to solve puzzles. It is an epic adventure with two very unlikely heroes and a story narrated in rhyme.
Woven plays like part adventure, part platform and part point-and-click, and would put me into a relaxed mood with the soothing music and the calming voice of the narrator. Whilst the visual style of the woolen landscapes and cute-looking Stuffy initially made the game feel catered for children, some of the puzzles had me, a 38 year-old seasoned gamer, scratching my head wondering what to do. Even when I would get stuck on a puzzle, the game’s music and aesthetics kept me calm and allowed me to think about the scene I was in and how I could manipulate it, then the solution would present itself. The narrator talks in rhyme and often, right as a thought popped into my head such as “how amazing does this scene look”, the narrator would then chime in with a similar comment. It happened more times than I could count, the cheeky devil. I found this help me connect to the area I was in, rather than just a programmed sequence of expressions on a random loop.
The machine that initially fixed Stuffy’s bad leg enables manipulation via a knitter and patcher customisation of Stuffy and it’s body parts, giving me memories of playing 2008’s Spore. Whilst you can’t freely mold Stuffy as much as in Spore, you slowly find machines that can unlock different animal blueprints and each animal has unique abilities attached to their limbs. You can mix and match limbs depending on the nearby puzzles. The first new arm blueprint gives you a push ability, able to move a boulder from blocking your path. The first feet modification allows you to stomp the ground, opening up a flower to reveal it’s coloured stitching pattern inside. If you happen to stumble on a puzzle that requires a certain ability, there will always be a machine nearby, you may need to search around to find it.
Spread throughout the world of Woven are patches of coloured stitching which Glitch can scan and add to your collection. Head back to a stitching machine and you can have alot of fun playing around with colours, textures and patterns for Stuffy and to alter limb abilities required to tackle puzzles nearby. Not only are the colours for your personal customisation, some puzzles actually require Stuffy to be a certain colour, to either appease a giant grumpy snake, or to camouflage with the environment to sneak past a nasty mechanical creature. One thing here’s that’s a bit annoying is once you select a colour, there’s no way to unselect it without exiting the customisation.
Animal blueprints you can unlock range from a cow, a cat and a frog, to a rhino, a bird or a monkey, plus more. As you progress through the game, these animal blueprints will have different abilities attached to their limbs. Instead of feet that can stomp, it can swapped out for a jump ability. Whereas an arm that can push objects can later pick up items or give Stuffy the ability to fly over the land and even shallow water. Some of the modifications in later stages actually have combinations of skills on each limb. For example, you could use a left arm that has push and pick up, and on the right arm have flight. It makes Stuffy really versatile and able to tackle multiple puzzles without having to constantly find a changing machine. I loved this progression through the game where the gameplay loop changed but didn’t make it cumbersome or a chore.
Woven starts off relatively linearly as you learn the mechanics of the puzzles and using Glitch to activate machines but then the world opens for you to freely explore. As you progress, you’ll discover some of Glitch’s memories and it can light up dark caves revealing painted artwork on the cave walls that tell a story of the lands you’re in. The wide open plains look amazing and climbing on top of a mountain enables you to see right off into the distance, often planning the path you might take to get through a challenge or how to get to the end of that area.
Woven consists of five land zones to explore, each with unique colouring, shapes and landscapes, as well as increasingly more difficult puzzles requiring alternate thinking at times. One example is a woollen apple falls from a tree into a running stream. Beavers have set up a wood dam down stream which catches the apple but a pesky warthog ate it before I got there. I worked out that I had to beat the warthog to the apple before he could eat it. Another puzzle involves finding a machine that blasts a horn. In the distance, a whale is swimming around the ocean. When the horn blows, the whale jumps high out of the water and splashes down, shaking the ground. Blow the horn and make the whale jump in a certain spot will make a mountain rumble and a large rock will fall, creating a rocky bridge for you to cross.
In a few areas, I had to backtrack a fair way due to not having unlocked a particular new ability. I had missed finding a blueprint machine to unlock a new animal with the required ability, but also in the process found some colour patterns that I missed scanning too so that was a bonus. It’s here that I would have found an in-game map useful. I do see how this would take away alot of the challenge of exploring as much of the land so can see why there’s isn’t one.
I later came across a particular puzzle that had a bird protecting an item I needed to collect. If I got too close, it would sqwark loudly and square Stuffy back along the path. I found a way to get the bird to fly to another nest and while thinking about how to proceed next, I realised that the music had increased in speed and then the bird flew back blocking the path. I worked out that I had to spook the bird away and then quickly run to the next before the bird flew back. It’s these subtle little prompts that you need to pay attention to. It’s like the game wants to challenge you, but also doesn’t want you to fail so offers subtle hints. It’s these clever game designs that I loved all throughout the game.
My only gripes with the game are very minor. Each world has a number of patterns for your to discover, however no way to track how many you’ve collected until you collect the next one. This is similar with no tracking of blueprints, caves or glitch memories found. This becomes a gripe when you leave one world and enter the next as there’s nothing to prompt you with how many collections you have to go. Once in the next world, there’s no way to return. For the completionist in me, I was disappointed in myself for missing some patterns even though I was thorough, but then we don’t have the ability to go back to get them.
Overall Woven is a fantastic puzzle game that kept me enthralled for hours with it’s clever puzzles and calming narration. The music was great too, fitting the mood and feel of the various areas. There is a story to tell in Woven, even if you don’t find all of Glitch’s memories. The puzzles are a good progressive challenge as you go through the five lands, and I was always stopping to take in the amazing woolen landscapes. I recommend this game for any puzzle game fans and it’s appropriate for kids to play too.
This review was completed with a Steam code provided for review purposes. Woven is available now on all platform as is AUD$35.95 on Steam.