“A knotty puzzle may hold a scientist up for a century, when it may be that a colleague has the solution already and is not even aware of the puzzle that it might solve.” – Isaac Asimov
Developer: Punk Notion
Released: 4th March 2020
Price: £11.39 (PC), £16.49 (Xbox)
Weakless is a short and relaxing puzzle-adventure game set in a beautiful organic environment. The player adopts the role of two carefree, wooden creatures called Weavelings, one of which is deaf, the other blind. However, the characters find strengths in their weaknesses and collaboration is the key to solving unique puzzles and saving their world.
The two characters are seemingly nameless, they are not mentioned specifically in the game and are only referred to as ‘Deaf’ and ‘Blind’ on the game’s social media and store pages, somewhat insensitively defining them by their respective disabilities.
Deaf is an artist and while they can view the world in all it’s vibrancy there is no ambient or diegetic sound when playing in this role and too much light can render Deaf helpless. Alternatively, Blind is a musician, they can hear everything but only perceive the world via sound, represented in monochrome white and grey. Whilst the area of ‘visibility’ increases with sound, too much noise can also totally debilitate this character. Both of these incapacitations result in the character freezing up and the player becoming victim to a bright white screen that is visually painful to the point of inducing a headache.
Each character has unique abilities that are in line with their various physical attributes. Deaf is the smaller of the characters and has a large and very cumbersome biolumenscent bulb attached to a branch atop its head. They can use the bulb to make plants grow and activate artefacts, Deaf can also climb and often leads their companion. Blind has a staff they can use to tap the ground, increasing their perception range, but also on artefacts to create sounds and help solve puzzles. As the taller and stronger of the characters, Blind can also move heavy objects.
Players can only take on the role of one character at a time, and cannot benefit from both sight and sound simultaneously. This means that they are subject to the same limitations as Blind and Deaf, highlighting the need for collaboration.
Weakless’ gameplay is fairly minimal and has little to no difficulty curve with even the puzzles at the end of the game not managing to provide much of a challenge. Most puzzles involve switching between characters in order to get a complete understanding of the environment and then to work together, usually creating paths and access points for each other. It is possible to die in the game but these instances are rare, highly avoidable and largely unpunishing.
There were a few technical issues with the game that really served to hinder enjoyment including several ‘fatal error’ crashes, reloading due to characters being stuck in the environment, irreparably high mouse sensitivity and Steam achievements triggering inaccurately. In addition to this, the in-game options were lacking, most notably the inability to turn off the very heavy motion blur which worked in tandem with the mouse sensitivity to create an unpleasant visual experience and some very blurry screenshots.
Narrative and Styling
Weakless oversells itself in terms of narrative with claims that the two weavelings must protect the village and civilization by restoring the steady flow of resin, the life energy for every living creature and in turn, save the land from the advancing rot. There is no text or dialogue in the game and the story is communicated mainly through the environment and puzzles. However, it only really becomes apparent in the later stages and is not necessarily deductible without some prior knowledge of the title.
The game is stylistically very striking and the artwork and music are without a doubt the highlights of the game. The natural yet unfamiliar environments that’ Deaf sees are colourful and beautifully lit and the music, composed on instruments such as the marimba, rav vast and udu is light, jovial and calming. Similarly, the sound effects are atmospheric and add a real sense of ambience. The only downside is the inability to experience all of these positive elements simultaneously.
Weakless is a serene and relaxing experience with a disappointingly vague narrative and fairly minimal mechanics. Its visuals and soundtrack are the game’s best features with the style of gameplay allowing the player to enjoy these at a leisurely pace. The cute characters and simple puzzles give the game a very casual feel, making it easy to play but unfortunately, much harder to get immersed in. Weakless was an enjoyable experience overall but the short playtime of around 3-5 hours and technical issues mean that the price tag is a bit too steep. With that in mind, I’d recommend it cautiously, and definitely on sale.