App Reviewed on: iPad Pro
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Games come in all shapes and sizes, and some you may not recognise as a game at all. Only When Howling is classified as an interactive art piece and while it may not be a game to some of you, it's all about the experience.
It's a tricky one to get your head around for sure, but it's got something relatable about it that draws you in. Unfortunately, it's not much fun so it is a bit of a hard one to mark.
Howling at the moon
Only When Howling follows the story of three different people: a little girl, a middle-aged man, and an old woman. Between them they share a strange connection and desire to escape their own reality in one way or another – a feature that triggers once their heads crack open like an old chest.
That sounds ominous, but by opening their minds the characters unleash the wonders within. Whether it's looking at a little girl who loves nature or a man who wished he'd done something different with his life, there's plenty to grasp and dissect.
In a way, that's the biggest 'gaming' element. There's very little text to guide you through, the barest pieces only just giving you an idea of what's going on, and the mechanics are up to you to figure out.
Tapping the screen at certain places reveals different sections to explore and open up more parts to the story.
It has a pleasant art style and a relaxing soundtrack to accompany you on your journey, and despite its busy illustrations it encourages you to ask questions instead of distracting you from the - er - plot.
It's this that some people will find most maddening. Only When Howling doesn't give you clean cut answers that summarise everything you're experiencing. It leaves things open-ended, allowing you to make your own assumptions and to contemplate the true meanings long after you've completed it.
If you're not the most patient or open-minded person, you won't find anything to like here. The same goes for if you're after a game with non-stop action, engaging story, or intense RPG gameplay.
Similar to Florence it's a short game, running at about 30 minutes long, with very little actual interaction. Unlike Florence it lacks more compelling or clever puzzles and though it has a story to tell it's not the most engaging thing.
Even with such a short runtime I grew tired of the simplistic charade quickly. Just as I worked through a little bit of the final character's story my game crashed and I found it very difficult to gather the enthusiasm to dive back in. Especially since the game reset to the beginning and I had to play it through again.
So, yes, it's an interactive art piece and it does make you think about what's going on. Once finished, however, it's something that's rather easily forgotten which is a real shame.
Only When Howling knows what it is, what it wants to convey, and won't hold your hand through it. You might love it and you might hate it. It's a metaphorical Marmite title on the App Store for sure.