Weakless is a simple puzzle game that has players traverse through their home region to save the almighty tree of life. Each character played is an outcast of their society. One is deaf and the other is blind. Both must work together to reach the tree in order to save it from resin which seems to act more like molten lava. In fact, it is so disastrous that it has ravaged much of the Weavelings home region.
After finishing the game, I found myself enjoying the short experience, but it does have some minor points that I’ll cover below.
Weakless has very little controls to work with, and even though I received a copy of the game on PC, I used a controller to play the entire game. Players first have to know that this is a puzzle game very similar in style to The Witness, where they can move, interact with certain objects, but cannot do much else. Depending on the object, the player can only interact with the objects using one of the characters. For example, certain puzzles require the blind one to move a pillar so that the deaf one can reach another location. (And before anyone makes the assumption, I am not calling either character the blind one and the deaf one to be heartless, I distinguish the characters this way because neither is given a name!) The blind one can also interact with various musical instruments that are strewn about the area. Another predominant feature that the blind character has, is the ability to echo-locate through use of its staff. The object not only serves as a walking stick, but as a way to solve music-based puzzles.
The character that is deaf can use his plant light orb to ‘power’ the plants so that they move out of the way of the blind one’s path. Through the course of the game, this character often sits down to draw or paint. It is also capable of climbing onto planks. That said, if players climb up onto these planks, they cannot go back down.
My previous point leads to one of my issues with the Weakless. While it never explicitly tells players where to go or what to do, except in the guise of paintings on the walls, the story has only one direction. There is no way to kill your character by falling off an edge, nor does entering an area that you cannot go backwards mean you’re stuck. Any side paths will either lead to an instrument for the blind character or a bench for the deaf character to draw. In fact, the game is so linear that it ends up being a short game because there is nothing else to do!
Now, there are side areas that I missed when playing through Weakless, I don’t feel like it’s worth going back for another playthrough to find the other musical instruments or painting areas since there isn’t much purpose to their existence. Yes it does show that these two characters have some depth to them, but we are given little else after the first couple of instances. Sadly, those elements are placed in the game for achievement hunters and not for anything else, which is unfortunate really.
And on the topic of those musical instruments you can find, let’s talk about music.
Music and Audio
When I think about the music, I find myself rather conflicted. On one hand, the music consists of drums and wind instruments, but no string which gives it a tribal feel – something that is also shown at the beginning of the game during the ceremony. On the other hand, I find that the music can be disjointed and doesn’t mix well – even though tribal music doesn’t always have the same elements as modern day music does.
So let’s talk about tribal music a bit. When I think of that style, I think of music that unites a group of people together in a more cathartic way. In other words, I think back to times when slavery was still prevalent in society. And entertainment was sought in the form of music during the times when opposition came at a hefty cost. In Brazil, enslaved citizens learned a ‘dance’ known as Capoeira. This dance style was actually used as a way to mask the fact that it was a martial arts style. At the time, people would be deemed criminals if they practiced this ‘dance’ style. Not only is the Capoeira a style of martial arts but it hinged upon constant movement, unpredictability, and movement that flowed with the musical accompaniment. The music itself is played a huge role in this style of martial arts.
Anyways, today, the Capoeira is mostly a dance movement that focuses less on its martial arts component. The music in Capoeira is fluid and unpredictable but is composed in a way that works extremely well together which is why I’m using it as an example of when music works and when music doesn’t. There are points during gameplay where I felt like Weakless’ music, while it has moments of fluidity, sometimes has a disjointed accompaniment. However, oddly enough, the music only seemed to fail me when players used the musical instruments. The ambient music would set the tone of the game and the musical instruments would be thrown overtop with no rhyme or reason. And while it would make sense that the deaf character would not know the proper time to join in, the blind character most like would because it has heightened senses. I can’t help but be bothered by the fact that the blind character didn’t go a little crazy if its musical timing was off to the rest of the environments timing – but that is just the musician in me being picky.
Now, I know that it sounds like the music to the game is a hot mess, but it isn’t. In fact, many of the ambient sounds and music used in the game fit extremely well. I quite liked the journey and found it interesting. On top of that, I think it’s extremely awesome that the developers paid attention to the fact that hearing people and non-hearing people would perceive sound differently.
At several points during gameplay, I appreciated the musical puzzles, and the use of the staff to echo-locate the character’s position. Overall, while music bothered me at certain times, I know that the composer talked a bit about the soundtrack in a developer blog post which can be found here.
I’ve read a number of reviews that said things like Weakless was too short or that it was too linear. There have been other people who expressed their dislike for the game because they didn’t understand the point or perhaps didn’t finish the story, but I think Weakless’ experience was fantastic.
Since puzzle games that don’t necessarily have a straight-forward story tend to be my bread and butter, I walked into Weakless with an open mind. The whole idea behind the characters was to understand the struggle, to put yourselves in the shoes of characters who did not start as friends. These two weavelings were strangers to each other and they bonded because they were both outcasts. They bonded out of the need of survival, and I believe that Weakless’ purpose was to show that even with the characters differences or flaws that the weavelings can co-exist amicably. Players that took the time to make it to the end of the story saw that the two weavelings saved their tribes great tree of life – which to them is important and is perhaps seen as a deity. I also believe that this is the reason the developers chose to create a tribalesque sound for the game.
Players that jumped into Weakless for anything other than a slightly abstract story missed the comparison that the game makes to real life. Sure, the puzzles could be more complicated. But overall, the goal wasn’t to make Weakless a tough puzzle game, it was to show how anyone can overcome their challenges if they work together. While the game could have stood for a lot more in the way of player to character connection, I believe the game was pretty well done.