Woven review for Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One

Platform: Nintendo Switch
Also on: Xbox One, PS4, PC
Publisher: Alterego Games
Developer: Alterego Games
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB: E10+

I honestly have no idea who Woven is supposed to be for.

On the one hand, it seems like it?s geared towards kids. The world is designed to look like it?s made out of fabric, ? la Yoshi?s Crafted World or Kirby?s Epic Yarn. The main character is Stuffy, a stuffed animal searching for his family and friends, who has a robotic fly sidekick named Glitch. It?s got an English narrator to explain the story, which he does so via rhyme. There?s not really anything that could be described as ?combat?, though you do occasionally encounter the odd??enemy? is probably too strong a term, so let?s say ?mildly antagonistic obstacle.? It all feels unthreatening and pleasant, which is why it almost seems like it would be suitable for very young players.

And yet, at the same time, it?s got all kinds of weird design quirks that make me think kids would hate it. The controls are odd — rather than using the face buttons, you hold down one of the shoulder buttons (left for Glitch, right for Stuffy), and then choose an action for the character to perform using the thumbstick. It makes the onscreen action seem like they?re happening at a remove from the player.

Even more annoyingly, you?re supposed to wander the world, picking up new designs and body parts and swapping them in and out, except swapping is a bit of a pain. You have to find a designated swapping station, ask Glitchy to turn it on, and then choose from the parts you?ve already uncovered. Woven doesn?t always do a great job of explaining when you?ll need to swap parts, so you?ll come across a swapping station, and then only find out you were supposed to use it, necessitating a fair amount of backtracking.

General exploration is also no fun, on account of the fact that Woven is filled with invisible walls and obstacles. You?ll constantly bump up against the edge of where you?re allowed to visit, even if you can see the world beyond where you?re trying to walk. Stuffy is also regularly stymied by plants, small inclines, and other obstacles that don?t seem like they should be all that big a deal. It?s particularly infuriating since one of the very first cutscenes of the game shows Stuffy falling from a great height and popping back up again, as the narrator helpfully informs us that Stuffy can take a big bump or two. You never get to see that skill in action, mind you, but you?re still told it?s there, which makes the invisible barriers all the more annoying.

It?s this last point that has me wondering who the intended audience of Woven is. The first two points in the ?reasons why this isn?t for young kids? — that there are lots of specialized body parts to use, and controls that don?t seem entirely intuitive — would suggest that, despite the game?s aesthetics, it?s secretly designed for older games. At yet, at the same time, the world itself — stunningly beautiful though it may be — is an absolute pain to explore, which means that even more experienced players will want to walk away well before this game is finished.


It?s really too bad, because any game that looks this cute should be incredibly easy to love. That Woven isn?t — indeed, that it becomes fairly grating pretty quickly — is a sign of just how many other problems it has. No matter how adorable the game may look, looks clearly aren?t everything.

Alterego Games provided us with a Woven Nintendo Switch code for review purposes.

Grade: C-