We were here, Forever Review. Teamwork makes the dream work.

It is cold outside in the snow, my partner is out there, stuck, alone, lost. I am in here but even though I am shielded from the cold, I am not sure I am better off. Trapped with all these spooky mannequin bodies and heads and now way out. I push the button on my 2-way radio and speak into it. "Hey , are you ok? I am stuck inside..over"
The reply takes but a moment but in my mind it takes a life time , then it is there " yeah I am ok, anything in there that can help us?"  We both look around and discover we can send those freaky heads to each other using a mechanism in the wall. A strange voice thunders a poem through the air with each head. Now the work begins to figure out what to do with them and unlock their secrets. And of course, find a way out of here.

Developed as part of a student project while studying at the "Hogeschool Rotterdam " (University of Applied Sciences). The first "We were here" game was submitted as a student entry at the Independent Games Festival and won the Indigo showcase "Best Indie Game Award" The game was released for free on Steam in February 2017 and from there on build a cult following of gamers who were intrigued by the co-op puzzle room challenges the game had to offer as well as its story line and world building. 

This week the fourth entry in the series is released "We were here Forever". It continues the mysterious story about a mad king and his manipulative Jester who seem to take pleasure in trapping innocent travelers in their castle. In the past 3 games some people made it out , while others stayed trapped behind. Sometimes by choice, sometimes not, but either way they were imprisoned nonetheless. This new adventure aims to look at those left behind, what become of them did they find their own way out?  It also sheds some more light on the dark story of the king who had gone mad after losing his heirs. What does he want, what is his motivation and who is really pulling the strings?  These are just some of the questions the community has had since the very beginning of the series. But most importantly, is there a true way out and away from the terror of Castle Rock. Bringing over 12 hours of gameplay and a new graphical overhaul this is the biggest "we were here" adventure yet.

For those unfamiliar with the series, "We Were Here, forever" is a co-operative game where two players work together to solve a series of puzzles in order to escape their captor.  Often this happens separated in different rooms with only their own senses, their wits and a walkie-talkie to communicate. Being able to describe what you see around you is going to be crucial to success.

The game play in first person view and the controls are straight forward. you can move, jump, duck and interact with your surroundings when prompted. A small inventory window shows what you have available, and you can easy switch between your items such as keys, maps, levers, etc. don't worry the inventory never gets very large and most items are used in the puzzle area that you are in at that moment. Early on you also get a torch you can use at any time, and in the other hand you always carry your walkie-talkie which you can use with a quick click of a button (In my case right mouse button). Do not forget to release the button in order to hear your partner though. OVER!. 

You move through area to area. Each room or area consists out of a large puzzles that can stretch across very large or multiple rooms. Each of you has one part of the information in most cases and through description and communication you work to put the clues together and figure out how to solve the puzzle. Remember earlier I said it is important to communicate? At one point me and my wife were playing and our puzzle showed a constantly changing series of pictures of sea-shells. However we did not know the name for each and long descriptions would take to long to pass on in time before they would change again and the mechanism reset. With me behind the door not able to see them, it was time to agree on what shell looked like what. First a long description, test and verify then soon we knew what to say. Then followed a long and tedious trial and error to figure out the puzzle which in our case resulted with my wife yelled descriptions "long, leaf , bubble, snail, poop .. poop ..poop .poop" over the radio for the next hour as I missed my queues over and over again. If anyone would have walked into the house they would have been very confused by the conversation we were having. We did get it in the end though with a little persistence and the puzzle finally clicking it was actually a singe.

In a later puzzle that takes place in an amazing water biome, trapped in a bathysphere we needed to communicate with a monstrous sea creature. This involved me mimicking the sounds like a lunatic to my wife who then had to find the response symbols, based Soley on my imitations. I felt like Dory speaking Whale in Finding Nemo, much confusion and fun ensued.

These are just a few examples, there will be many more of these complex moments throughout the adventure where you will have to describe objects, observe changes in the environment, memorize patterns and share clues.

It goes without saying that a puzzle game, especially of this escape room variety stands of falls with its puzzles. It is important to find that balance in difficulty level that makes the puzzle a challenge without being frustratingly hard. Originality is important as well. Early in the series there were some puzzles that were clearly derived from known riddles and other stories, but with each new chapter they have become more intricate, original and fit better with the story. The fact this is a two-player coop does add a wild card to the puzzle problem because one player might be able to decipher the solution in seconds if seeing all the parts of the problem, but they only see one, the partner has the job to properly relay the missing information.
With "We were here, together", Total Mayhem Games has really upped the ante and brought some mind-blowing puzzles with a great atmosphere. Each puzzle was fun to undertake and with each aha discovery you never felt cheated. It is hard to divulge deeper because it would bring spoilers that would ruin your experience with the game so I will avoid going into further detail but will tell you to expect to leave the castle and explore new areas and biomes in this game bringing you more of the world outside of Castle Rock. These new areas allow for new and elaborate multipart puzzles that will require some big brain thinking of you and your partner. The game comes with over 22 new puzzles to sink your teeth in and we loved every moment of it.

In terms of presentation of the world and the puzzles we are seeing a big upgrade for the "we were here" franchise with the release of Forever. Even though the art style largely remains its cartoony look there has been a big engine overhaul with a great lighting system, more detail in surroundings and a bright color pallet for the puzzles contrasting with the gloom castle and other areas they are located in. You can see in the trailer below and the screenshots in this game how well the developers build an atmospheric world to navigate. 
Our preview build had a few loading stutters but other than that ran smoothly at all times with a great framerate and excellent visuals. Between some puzzles you get put through a cutscene to drive the story forward and raise the stakes of your escape attempts. In order areas the story is told to you while you play. The great voice acting adds to the atmosphere and emersion as well as a great soundtrack that builds up in tense moments and kind of retreats in other areas such as a music box melody or a fanfare to hail your achievements. The sound of gears falling into place, doors unlocking or stone grinding etc. are often big indicators if you successfully put a puzzle together and the sound design team has done a solid job with its foley and sfx implementation to make it all feel real. In a certain level I was being haunted by spirits taunting me and warning me to leave and they were loud enough in my headset to both get the creeps and to feel like yelling in my radio to talk to my wife as I felt they were overbearing me. It was a fun way to add a level of difficulty to the communication aspect of the game.  

There is plenty of visual candy in the game not only from a graphics perspective but also from the included details that build out the world and lore far beyond what the series has done before. If you just care about the puzzles, you are fine ignoring them, but it is fun to see the added detail from lore books, clues, voice lines and the environment. Slowly we are starting to see a fallen society, a strange culture and a tainted history of the main antagonists in the story. the main characters are still unanimous beings with snow goggles and a large hood allowing you to project yourself into them as opposed to play someone else which works really well in the game and I am glad there is no further exposition there. 

"We were here, Forever" is a big leap for the series and is expertly executed in every detail. The love of the game by the developers and the embrace for and by the fans of the series is felt throughout the game. The big graphical update allowing for more details and bigger levels makes for great atmosphere and fantastic puzzles. The sound design and soundtrack are on point, accompanied with great voice acting to build a great soundscape that helps drive the narrative of the game between and during the puzzles. The use of the two-way radio in the game gives an extra dimension to the gameplay and it is highly recommended though it can be tough to remember to use that push to talk button or to let it go and hear your partner. Let me also say DO NOT peek at your partners screen, play back-to-back or preferable with someone in a different room or location to get the best experience. After you solve it all you can come back to the game and switch positions and see the puzzle from the other perspective, which is a nice touch, but likely puzzles will still be easier since you both know what needs to happen.  But at over 12 hours, or longer if you like me fail to see an important clue, and over 22 puzzles "We were here, forever" offers an experience that will keep you talking about it for a long time after.  If you enjoy puzzles, escape rooms or co-operative games then this is a must play. Good luck on your journey through Castle Rock, you are going to need it. 

Game: We were here Forever
Publisher: Total Mayhem Games
Developer: Total Mayhem Games
Release Date: May 10th, 2022
Platforms: PC (Steam and Epic) Consoles coming soon.
Review Platform: PC, Steam
ESRB: N/A (Geeks rating E10+)

About the writer: DadGeek (Rob) is the co-founder of GeeksVsGeeks. He is a product of the eighties and never let go of his geek interest and hobbies no matter how often someone told him to stop. His love for gaming and all things geeks has been part of his parenting style and permeates throughout the whole family. A family of Geeks vs Geeks 


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