Selma and the Wisp is a 2D platformer published by Ultimate Games and developed by Toucan Studio. The game had previously released on Steam back in 2016 but today I’m taking a look at the Nintendo Switch version which was released in May 2019. I’ve recently treated myself to a new Switch so I decided to take a look at some of the indies which I’ve missed out on, due to being primarily a PS4 gamer up until now.
So, just who are the titular Selma and the Wisp? Selma is a child who, just like any other young person, wakes up in the middle of the night, frightened by all the things that go bump in the unknown darkness. The wisp, a floating glowing orb, is a guardian whose sole job is to keep Selma safe against all the dangers that pose a threat to her throughout our nightly adventure. After our young protagonist awakens, she follows the Wisp into the wardrobe where instead of Narnia, you’re both transported into a gloomy, dangerous world where everything seems to be out to hurt her!
Your task, as the role of the Wisp, is to ensure no harm comes to Selma as you guide her through the night, a task which is easier said than done!
Selma and the Wisp is highly reminiscent of the gameplay from Limbo, a 2D platformer game packed with puzzles and obstacles to figure out along the way. However, the games are visually very different from each other as Selma and the Wisp is more colourful and detailed at times (even with its low-poly aesthetics) and a lot less Film-Noir and Macabre.
The game itself is comprised of ten chapters followed by a final chapter in which you overcome some trials and tribulations, there isn’t really much of an epilogue. Each chapter is short enough to enjoy, and not overwhelm a player, but the puzzles add a certain difficulty spike at times. However, there’s an abundance of checkpoints along the way so Selma’s death usually won’t result in any loss of progress, you’ll restart pretty much next to the puzzle.
The concept of the game is fairly simplistic, you control the Wisp around the screen and Selma follows it automatically – as long as nothing stops her or gets in the way. Interestingly, both the Wisp and Selma have energy bars of their own, the Wisp’s gauge is a blue bar at to the top right and Selma’s is a human heart in the top left corner. As you control and use the Wisp’s abilities (explosions or commanding Selma to stay) you’ll continuously deplete energy which can be regained via energy balls that are scattered throughout the stages (certain environmental conditions will also affect energy depletion).
Although continually draining energy resources are sometimes a pain to manage, you don’t really have to worry whilst playing Selma and the Wisp. Not only are they littered everywhere, but there’s also strategically placed ‘safe zones’ which are marked by a blue aura where the Wisp restores all of its energy that was lost previously. As for Selma, to keep with the theme of the game (being lost, afraid and alone), her energy depletes when you leave her by herself in the dark for too long or when scary events occur.
The puzzles are clearly the meat of the game, offering you some challenges as you try to guide scared Selma to safety. I personally thought they offered a good variety of difficulties even though none of them should really take too long to overcome, keeping the flow of the game running at a decent pace. With nothing being too overly difficult, and a short complete time, Selma and the Wisp makes for a perfect afternoon game.
The puzzles themselves vary between a number of styles such as building parts, switches, environmental destruction, mazes, obstacles, movable objects, and more. Also, for those out there who aren’t very good at the puzzles, the solutions to some of them are beginner-friendly as the game sometimes shows hints as to where an explosion is needed – without giving away all the fun of working it out for yourself.
Platformers are a tried and true genre, every gamer knows what this genre will entail – Selma and the Wisp tries to redefine that with how the developers deviate from the typical formula. Though there are difficult traps and segments, with the shortness of this game and how it’s executed, it’s great for newcomers. This comes from the fact that because you control the Wisp, you remove all the complicated platforming, the difficult jumps, precise timing and all of the things which comes with a typical platformer.
So, although Selma will do the jumps and move by herself, this also acts as a double-edged sword, unfortunately. Yes, it removes what was stated previously, but it introduces the following issues:
1. The platforming itself – Sometimes Selma will descend stairs instead of climbing a platform, for example. There have been times where I spent over a minute trying to get her to climb a platform.
2. Footing – As you have no control over Selma, she’ll sometimes fall off ledges, fall through ropes or floors, and some quirky unexpected deaths also occurred.
3. Planning – Sometimes puzzles or levels need you to go further to take a look or plan ahead. Although you can tell Selma to stay, sometimes she’ll still try and follow you through dangers and end up going the wrong way due to not listening to your command.
Besides the technical issues and frustrations, which were introduced by this game’s mechanics, I personally had an issue with a few of the other design choices and mechanics in Selma and the Wisp. It is understandable that the game should be dark to set the ambience, but at times I missed passages, platforms, even puzzle components due to not being able to see them due to the game being pitch black sometimes. Also, I found some of the puzzle elements to be a little tedious and frustrating.
Toucan Studio’s Selma and the Wisp is a beautiful game to look at and is very ambitious in its design. With the total playtime for myself being around the 2h mark, the puzzles being moderately difficult at times, and the redefined take on platforming, I’d say you get a rather enjoyable game for the price, albeit with some rough edges which need a bit of polishing. If you want a cheap game with a new take on platforming and something you can finish in an afternoon, Selma and the Wisp could be for you.
Selma and the Wisp£8.99
- - Beautiful aesthetics
- - Redefined platforming mechanics
- - Puzzles with varying difficulties
- - Plenty of variety in the puzzles
- - Selma's AI isn't the best at times
- - Due to the above, some of the platforming aspects can be frustrating
- - Parts of the game are too dark and hard to see, especially in portable mode