Review of We Were Here for the PS4
By: Brendan "B.J." Muller

We Were Here is a hugely successful indie game that was released back in 2017. It's a first-person adventure game that features a variety of puzzles to solve as you and 1 friend traverse a castle in search of a way out. Yes, you read that correctly, it's co-operative! Let's look at the minds behind the game.

The Total Mayhem Games Studio is a lot like The Mighty Ducks Movie…only, minus the drunk driving and court ordered community service. There is also no seething hatred for children and definitely no ice hockey. What I meant by "the same" was both teams were made up of a small group of people who through hard work and dedication were able to achieve something great. The studio was formed by 15 students who met at the University of Applied Sciences in Rotterdam. We Were Here was a student entrant for the Independent Games Festival 2018 and won the Best Indie Game Award in 2017.

We Were Here was a 14-week passion project that turned out to have over 1 million downloads. The game was originally released for free on Steam on PC in February 2017. It was later released on Xbox in 2019 and PlayStation in 2020. The idea behind the game was to connect people through a series of obstacles and puzzles and to create an intimate interactive experience during a time of physical separation and loneliness. Although you rarely see each others' characters in game and your only form of communication is the use of walkie talkies, the game was able to create a great sense of comradery by having players rely on one another to describe everything they see very vividly, whether it be the setting around them or the details and pieces of an intricate puzzle. The game also comes accompanied by a story which, if you follow and immerse yourself in the narrative, really lends itself to the companionship of this co-op gem.

The story takes place during a snowstorm, and your characters are forced to take shelter in what appears to be an abandoned castle aptly named "Castle Rock". Upon entering, the 2 characters get separated and the goal of the game is born; reunite and escape. The dark abandoned halls contain you; the clues and mysteries beckon you to reveal the truth of times long passed. What happened here? Where is everyone? But most importantly…How do we escape?

Due to the game relying heavily on the analysis of the physical environment and the objects within it, it would stand to reason that the developers would put an emphasis on graphics and other visual elements such as lighting and textures. Having said that, I think they nailed it.

The environment was meant to feel bleak and helpless, so the lack of any other living beings or vegetation was a good call. The lighting was dim in parts, and nonexistent in others due to it being an element of a puzzle, but at no point should you be left in the dark (see what I did there?) when it comes to being able to make out details or traverse the environment. The graphics themselves were quite simple, not super high poly, but not clunky. The textures were pretty and consistent.

In games, immersion is very important, so making sure there isn't a disconnect between textures, models, story elements, accuracy, continuity etc. is very critical and these guys did a great job with that. The entire experience feels like you are turning pages of the same book until you reach the end.

Overall, the game was a great success, and I can see why. There is a very real want and need for more co-op content. There are entire generations of gamers that grew up on "couch co-op" and would love to see it make a prominent resurgence. The Total Mayhem Games Studio has no intention of stopping here, as there are already multiple sequels for "We Were Here" either already released or slated for the near future. If you like critical thinking and are a fan of the escape room scene, this series is a perfect fit! Do yourself a favour and download it, you won't regret it.

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