Reviewing indie games is like sticking your hand in a haystack and hoping you found something decent in it. There are just so many games releasing that many are just overlooked, with just a few being recognised as the needles they want to find. If you are in bad luck you might even find something that makes you gag as you play it. Selma and the Wisp is trying to be that popular needle, but it did make us gag just a bit as wel.
In this game you play as Selma who needs to traverse in the darkness of her nightmares guided by a little magical firefly. This principle is well thought out, but moderately implemented. Along the way in your dreams, which are divided into 11 chapters, you encounter scary obstacles. Your heartbeat is calm until scary moments happen and you can’t bear it anymore, because Selma is afraid in the dark. For example, leave your Selma in the dark for too long, your heart rate rises and you die, or you could come across a guillotine that beheads you and so on. The Wisp not only provides you with light, it is literally your beacon. You follow this like a moth on a flame and this also determines your actions. You walk, climb and jump in the direction where the Wisp is located. You also need to activate certain elements in time with small explosions that you can trigger. This can be a switch or a chain that you have to break. All of these elements offer a wide variety of gameplay methods for us to play with.
If there is one thing that we are very disappointed in, then it is the fact that Selma and the Wisp has no precise controls. The Wisp is a bit too floaty and the game (or Selma) does not always respond to where you are. This is also reinforced because collision detection needs to be very precise in certain places. For example, it has happened several times that you die due to bad positioning of your Wisp. The puzzles are also usually a matter of trial and error. Trying things out, dying and again. There is therefore no challenge whatsoever. What is also not included is consistency in the obstacles. In the beginning, fire is your enemy and in the end you can just walk through it like it never mattered at all, completely counter-intuitive while not explaining why. It probably is because Selma tries to conquer her fears, but it has been told quite poorly. Just running from left to right to complete the level is the only challenge you get in a game that you can complete in three hours.
Graphically the game is quite good looking. It has its own visual style and that is always nice. The game might not throw all kinds of effects at you, but the fog and light effects are atmospheric and emphasize the oppressive dreams that you have. The levels are generally quite dark and this means that the game is not pleasant for on the road in too much daylight. You miss obstacles, you can overlook complete items or you simply cannot see where you need to go. Unfortunately, the mobile option is therefore only pleasant for moderate light. I did caught the makers hiding some nice easter eggs in it as a tribute like Super Mario Bros., Jaws and The Neverending Story. The game sadly lacks a memorable soundtrack, it could have been nice if you could think of the musical tunes as you try to sleep yourself after you’ve beaten the game.
This game fits in with the list of Limbo, Braid and Fez. They are games with their own identity in the platform genre and they also share the fact that they are Indies. However, it does stop there just because the game is trying too hard. Selma and the Wisp is too simple, because it offers no challenge at all. The only difficulty it brings is frustration due to the bad controls. Moreover, the game was released three years ago on Steam and you can say that we are dealing here with a chewed down portion of bits and bytes. This is a clique of ones and zeros that you heat up in the microwave within thirty seconds and finish in one minute. And that is sadly something we do not wanted to say in the end when we booted up Selma and the Wisp for the first time.
Selma and the Wisp has a promising look but falls short due to its lacklustre controls and dumbed down puzzles. Maybe the visual style can win you over to try this game anyway, but we would recommend other games in the same genre first.