When I heard that ARTEFrance were publishing another gorgeous-looking game, The Wanderer: Frankenstein’s Creature, on the Nintendo Switch, and a retelling of Frankenstein no less, I was really super excited. I’m a big fan of some other games ARTEFrance have published, namely Bury Me, My Love and Type:Rider, both of which you should definitely check out. They have a true eye for games that are not only wonderful to experience visually and aurally, but that can also be touching and educational too.
I’ll admit though that I was sadly a bit disappointed by The Wanderer: Frankenstein’s Creature, which is their latest publication, developed by La Belle Games. So let’s go into details about why this game didn’t quite hit the spot for me.
In terms of storytelling and style, this game is absolutely flawless. There is no doubting that. It’s a short game, which you’ll complete within maybe 2 hours max, but it tells a great story in this short period of time. And reader, I am absolutely a sucker for a good visual novel, so I had no problems with the very lite level of interactivity in the game. The narrative is a compelling, haunting and emotional one, and one that we all know to some extent: it’s that of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, which was published all the way back in 1818, over two centuries ago, and still holds huge sway over the world today.
The subject matter is a great one, and the game succeeds in retelling this story with flair, depicting the creature’s efforts to be loved in a world that is terrified of him, and his desperate efforts to find his creator. The story is at times happy, but often quickly turning heartbreaking, and the player truly feels for the creature. The choices you make as you play the game can alter his fate and lead to multiple different endings.
The watercolour paintings used to tell the story are undoubtedly the highlight of the game. The colour palettes are beautiful and the style is breathtaking. If anyone ever asks for evidence that games can indeed be counted as art, this is the game to show them. There’s no doubt that the developers of this game are talented artists. It’s a lovely game to look at.
Soundwise too, The Wanderer is a triumph. The classical music pairs so flawlessly with the watercolour art, and the sound effects are subtle but effective, and often harrowing in the darker moments of the game.
So storytelling, artistic direction, sound, the whole concept of the game – those are all great. No problems there. It’s the more technical parts that let this otherwise admirable game down. And they let it down too much for it to be readily forgivable.
As I’ve mentioned already, the gameplay is simple. It’s been described as a walking simulator and has minimal interactive elements. There are some puzzle type sections like memory and rhythm games, but other than that you’ll mostly be traversing landscapes, interacting with items and people on occasions, and selecting dialogue options. I love lots of games in this vein, so this is fine. If you’re not into that sort of thing, you might find it boring.
No, the problem is that this game is very very buggy to the point that it sometimes seemed almost unplayable. I did, with some determination, make it to the end. This issue doesn’t surprise me, sadly: Bury Me, My Love, another game published by ARTEFrance, is also notoriously buggy on the Nintendo Switch; I repeatedly couldn’t get it to even start, but luckily I’d already completed it by this point.
The Wanderer was similar. It locked up on a few occasions, and given that the game only seems to autosave at the beginning of sections and not continuously, I had to repeat some areas up to three times when I was particularly unlucky. This is the sort of immersion breaking bugginess that is so so so frustrating.
The movement is also not ideal, to put it kindly. It’s designed in such a way that it’s meant to help guide you in some way depending on the level you’re on, but it didn’t come across this way when I played it. The movement was erratic and unpredictable, and sometimes I found myself unable to get the necessary part of the level I needed to access because of this. Before you ask, yes I did try all of the following: restarting the game, trying different joycons, taking my headphones out, etc etc.
This only really seemed to be much of an issue in environments with more complex layouts: if there was just a continuous road to follow, it was fine. But navigating town centres and narrow staircases often took me far longer than it should have. A patch would be much appreciated. I would love to try it out again without these frustrations, because the game clearly has a lot going for it.
To wrap up, The Wanderer: Frankenstein’s Creature is a game with a touching story and gorgeous artistic direction that just falls a little flat because of its clunkiness and bugginess. With its current issues, I would not hesitate to say it’s overpriced. Perfected, it would be worth every penny. Hopefully the developers might get a patch out at some point – fingers crossed – and we can enjoy it in all of its intended glory.
You can pick up the awesome soundtrack from composer Alex Burnett via this link if you want to listen to more.
The Wanderer: Frankenstein’s Creature is available for Nintendo Switch, Android, iOS, PC, Linux and Mac.