Despite being available as far back as 2016 on Steam, Selma and the Wisp completely passed me by. The issue of discoverability on digital storefronts is a huge problem – and is one I’ve discussed before. Steam, with a seemingly eternal flood of games, is the storefront that perhaps has the biggest problem with keeping titles visible, especially smaller, independent games.
Perhaps it doesn’t help that Selma and the Wisp has a superficial resemblance to a number of dark indie platformers (Limbo, despite its black and white look, is the one that most immediately springs to mind). There’s a key difference with Selma and the Wisp, however; for most of the running time you’ll be controlling the Wisp, rather than Selma – who is the character you’d perhaps assume would be the controllable protagonist.
There’s little in the way of preamble here; Selma is a small child, alone and afraid of the dark. It’s with good reason – there appears to be a real monster under her bed. As the monster tries to attack, the Wisp saves her – and they set off on a dark and dangerous adventure together, to conquer the darkness.
As mentioned, you’ll be controlling the Wisp. You’ll need to stay close to Selma; stray too far and she becomes increasingly frightened to the point where you’ll fail the level – a heart meter on the right side of the screen shows how close you are to this happening. The Wisp has a health meter of sorts too, in the form of a light bar; the more this drops, the less light the Wisp emits – and if the Wisp’s light goes out entirely, it’s Game Over. The Wisp’s light can be damaged by physical objects as well as by using its explosion power or by being underwater, as just a few examples.
The Wisp can pick up objects to assist with basic environmental puzzles; the solutions to which aren’t always immediately apparent, but which are – usually – relatively straightforward to complete.
The main bulk of the game, however, will see you coaxing Selma to jump over gaps, climb ropes or holding her still while danger momentarily passes. Your explosion power can manipulate objects in the game’s dark, foreboding world, which can assist Selma in passing otherwise obstructed sections of the game.
There’s a real beauty to the game’s lo-fi, deliberately stylised visuals. The sound – both music and effects – are well suited to the dark atmosphere.
Though the game takes a little getting used to – particularly because you aren’t directly in control of Selma – it doesn’t take a long time to get your head around the concept or to actually succeed in getting Selma through the world. You’ll die – sometimes repeatedly, at the same points – but the checkpoints are generous and I didn’t find that I was stuck in any single section for very long. Though there’s a real darkness on the surface of Selma and the Wisp – and it does seem at first that it’s going to be a really tough challenge – it’s actually a lot more forgiving than you’d expect. With ten chapters that are likely to last you for no more than 3-4 hours at most, it’s also a pretty short game.
That’s my only real complaint here: Selma and the Wisp is a pretty short-lived experience. It doesn’t outstay its welcome, however, remaining compelling throughout.
Selma and the Wisp is a nicely designed game which, despite having somewhat derivative – but at the same time, gorgeous – visuals, is a challenging but fair platformer. The somewhat original twist of the player not being in direct control of the main character (mostly!) does set it apart, however – and it will hopefully find the audience it deserves on Switch.
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