There’s something about asymmetric buddy-style puzzle platformers that is immediately captivating to me. Games like Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons and Trine (and even Head Over Heels on the Commodore 64 depending on the length and might of your neckbeard) tend to strike a chord with me as I love the notion of puzzles being overcome by several heroes becoming greater than the sum of their parts. Punk Notion’s Weakless attempts to channel this fairly well-trodden formula in a cautionary tale of the plundering of the natural world, and while it succeeds in creating an interesting dynamic and beautiful world, some largely toothless puzzle design make this more of a stroll in the woods than man versus wild.
Kick out the jams
In Weakless you play as two Weavelings, small wooden creatures who live in harmony with nature and love a good jam session. In a twist that sets up the buddy dynamic throughout the game, one of the Weavelings is blind, and the other is deaf. Switching between the two reveals their different perspectives, with our blind protagonist’s world being largely monochromatic and illuminated mostly by the tap of his staff, and the deaf Weaveling’s being rich in colour and light but mostly devoid of sound. Our two hapless Weavelings are thrust into the world beyond their village after a calamitous force known as the rot poisons the resin at the source of the villagers’ prosperity, and the two must venture through the perilous wilds and discover what has become of the lands around them, and maybe find a way of stemming the tide of rot which grips their home. Weakless largely lets its environment to do the storytelling, and there really isn’t much in the way of exposition (except for tidbits in achievement descriptions, Hidetaka Miyazaki approves), so paying attention to wall paintings and even the deaf Weaveling’s drawings helps fill in the blanks.
Paint me like one of your French girls
It doesn’t matter if it’s black and white
Weakless really is quite a striking game visually, with superbly lush foliage and soft lighting making it feel like you’re traipsing through some sort of lost fairy tale
The deaf and blind mechanic is a great concept that ought to feed into some interesting puzzles and emotional themes, but while there are a handful of genuinely tender moments between the pair, Weakless never fully harnesses its unique premise. Puzzles are largely garden variety (pun intended) and often riff on similar mechanics that don’t evolve to any great extent. But while the goal of getting from A to B isn’t as mentally taxing as a title like The Talos Principle, there is a gentle rhythm to the progression through the world that I found meditative, and I was compelled to press on if only to experience the beautiful environments. Weakless really is quite a striking game visually, with superbly lush foliage and soft lighting making it feel like you’re traipsing through some sort of lost fairytale. This was probably my favourite part of Weakless, and one of the driving forces behind my desire to discover more of its world. I was a bit disappointed when the game ended abruptly after only a few hours, and I feel the climax was a bit muted, but on the balance of things I enjoyed the time I spent in Weakless’ ailing world.
For those looking for a challenge in their puzzle platformers, Weakless’ gameplay is unlikely to test your ability to think laterally. But if you’re looking for a three-hour walk through some gorgeous environments with gentle puzzling elements then this game may have you covered. It’s a pity the developers couldn’t fully capitalise on the interesting premise they established between our deaf and blind heroes, but Weakless has an undeniable charm that I’m sure many will be drawn to.
Reviewed on Xbox One | Review code supplied by publisher