STAFF REVIEW of Wick (Xbox One)

Saturday, December 31, 2016.
by Adam Dileva

Wick Box art I mention it every time I need to review a scary game, but it needs to be repeated: I’m a wimp when it comes to horror games. With movies I have no problem watching the most disturbing, gory, or creepy films, but when it comes to games, I can barely handle them, wanting to only play in the daylight with other people around. This is somewhat funny as my 4 year old daughter was watching me play and she had no problems watching this scary game, whereas I was flinching at the jump scares.

For some reason though I still love these horror games that I can never usually finish, and if you listen to me play while streaming, you’d probably laugh. It used to be that the horror genre of games were pretty much nil aside from the Silent Hill’s and Resident Evil’s, but then along came Slenderman and Five Nights at Freddies, paving the way for smaller scary games to make their way to an audience. While each scary game is trying to be that next big hit, does Wick fit the bill or is it simply spoopy? Yes, that’s a word, look it up.

Developed by the aptly named developer Hellbent Games, Wick feels as though it’s trying to take some of the ideas from games like Slenderman and Five Nights at Freddies and mash them together for its own unique game. It may sound like a cheap way to cash on in others successes, but it tends to work and come together as its own experience, one that definitely creeped me out as I tried to survive till dawn.

Wick’s premise revolves around an urban legend that teenagers would tell each other, coaxing someone into trying it. One person is placed into a seemingly haunted forest, brought blindfolded, and dumped there without anything aside from a candle and a few matches. The goal is to simply survive until dawn without dying. Sure it’s an overused cliché trope, but for the setting of Wick it works to set the backdrop. Once you’re dumped in the forest, you take off your blindfold and must simply survive until the sun awakes. Easier said than done in these woods, as there are ghosts and other paranormal activities that seem to be trying to kill you throughout the night.

If my friends blindfolded me and dumped me in the woods, let’s just say they wouldn’t be my friends anymore, if I survived that is. You get dropped off at midnight and are told they’ll come get you at 6 AM, so you just need to survive 6 long creepy hours in the woods. While it may seem like a paper thin plotline, it serves the basic purpose of why you are where you are, and why you’re being hunted by children’s ghosts.

Wick is split into 6 different chapters, lasting between each hour from 12 AM to 6 AM. You start with a half dozen matches in your pocket and a candle, needing to simply survive until the top of the hour which acts as a checkpoint. Thankfully each hour in-game is in reality only 10 or so minutes, but don’t let that fool you, as you’re going to be hunted the whole time, scavenging for more light sources before the candle completely melts, leaving you in darkness.

Your candle won’t last long, especially when you need to run and flee from the ghosts, so you need to continuously be on the lookout for more candles to transfer your flame to. Given that you’re in a remote forest, there’s absolutely no light nearby, so you can only see a short distance in front of you with your candle lit. Luckily Wick will briefly show a shimmering glimpse of a spot in the distance where you’ll find another candle. Given that candles only last a minute or two, you need to constantly search for the next one, as you don’t want to be caught in the darkness with just a match, or worse, nothing.

While the forest itself is static and doesn’t change during the whole game, the placement of candles, and extra items to collect for backstory, are, so there’s no memorizing where to go, as it’ll be different every time you play. The only issue I have with this randomization is that it can work for or totally against you. For example, you generally want the candles spread out, so that you can run for a minute or two between each, hopefully making it to the top of the hour. I’ve had numerous playthroughs where multiple candles were maybe only 20 seconds or so from one another, resulting in me ignoring the rest of the forest. Sure, I had to loop around, but when you need to run from one of the children, you’ll get lost quickly as there’s no map of any kind.

The first ghost that you’ll deal with is a boy wearing a creepy mask that likes to jump out in front of you to scare you. You need to not get in the habit of using your sprint when it’s not needed, as you need to save it for when you’re being chased and need to make a quick getaway. It’s tempting to run when you see a candle nearby and you’re low on flame, but always be prepared to be ambushed from any direction.

Each hour will task you with trying to survive a different child hunting you, each of which needs to be dealt with slightly differently than the last. Most simply can be avoided by running away from them in the opposite direction, but there are others that you’re not able to look at, ala Slenderman, and another that will chase you as long as there is light nearby. Individually they’re not terribly difficult to deal with, but in the latter stages when you have more than one chasing you, things become much more difficult, especially with the randomization. You’ll inevitably be running away from one threat directly into another, completely by chance.

Because you’re constantly being hunted, you need to continually be moving, and generally don’t want to be caught in the dark without a light source. Given enough time you may start to learn the general layout of the forest, but with the fog and low light it’s near impossible to figure out where you are and where you’re heading, which is part of the appeal; being completely lost. From the early onset you’ll learn that Wick likes to rely on jump scares to frighten you as well. The woods sound so eerie and freaky, but when one of the children flash in front of your eyes just for a moment and scream, only to disappear, it feels a little cheap at times for the easy scares. Yes, they continually make me jump, but Wick tends to rely on them a little too much at times.

I appreciate that there’s been some effort taken into placing a story into Wick, regardless of how cliché it may be with dead children that haunt the woods, but any of the extra collectables you find along your way will help flesh out the story a little bit more, even if it is lackluster. The overacted voice acting doesn’t help things and it was only a matter of time until you hear a children’s nursery rhyme being sung creepily.

The way the menus are set, it’s clear that the console version of Wick was ported from the PC, and the controls don’t help either. Many times I needed to do a quick 180 to run away from one of the ghosts that appeared in front of me, only to turn around very sluggishly, which at times caused me to be caught and die, forcing a replay of that hour once again.

The best thing Wick has going for it is its audio, save for the poor voice acting. The forest sounds fantastic with the wind blowing through the trees, the crickets in the background, and the random footsteps and broken branch sounds that fill your ears. As soon as you hear one of the children nearby you become hyper aware, trying your hardest to focus on where to run and where to avoid. Visually it may not be stunning, but with a surround headset on, I felt immersed with the audio, listening for the smallest queues while I tried to survive the night.

As for what’s going against Wick, a few things. The sometimes sluggish controls can make for some unfair deaths, the children themselves don’t look all that scary, the unfair deaths by the ghosts spawning near you as you’re mid-animation of getting a new candle, along with a heavily reliance on jump scares are what you'll notice. None of these are deal breakers by any means, but something worth noting.

Wick does have a few things going for it, such as its creepy tone (even if it does heavily rely on jump scares), collectables for those wanting a little more substance, a generous checkpoint system after each hour, no UI which helps you immerse into the atmosphere, and great audio that will have you wondering what that sound you just heard was.

While at its core you’re simply running away from anything that spawns in front of you, riding out a clock full of jump scares, Wick still does the job at being creepy. Some playthroughs I had no problem surviving or becoming scared, while others made me jump every few minutes. Again, yes I know I’m a wimp, but Wick does a great job of immersing you into a lonely and terrifying forest, knowing you’re being hunted at every moment. While it won’t command many hours of gameplay, it’s a fun little divergence if you’re looking for something different, or even better, something to stream and show how much of a wimp you are to your Twitch followers.

Overall: 6.5 / 10
Gameplay: 6.0 / 10
Visuals: 6.0 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10


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