A Fairy tale Journey into the world of Howl (Nintendo Switch) Review
Throughout our childhood we often read books about folktale stories such as The Three Little Pigs or Red Riding Hood, but how often do we hear these kinds of stories in video games? I had the chance to play and check out a game from Publisher Astragon Entertainment developed by Mi’pu’mi Games Howl a puzzle tactical strategy game that is filled with beautiful vibrant watercolor art style and storytelling. This is a game that surprised me, because of the puzzle concept that was mixed with strategy elements and with a unique art style called “Living Ink”.
Story & Gameplay
As we dive into Howl we experience the game as a folklore tale that follows the journey of a young deaf prophetess who is immune to an acoustic plague that is going around that turns humans into beasts through howls that also show a prophecy that will hopefully end the curse and reveal the fate of her brother in this beautiful storytelling tale.
The game has a unique approach to storytelling that as you go on your journey throughout the world map to search for answers. There are beasts and puzzle encounters throughout each level of the map and you will have to solve each level to unlock more of the story. As you progress through each level, the story is narrated in a unique way that talks about the young prophet’s memories or thoughts throughout the perilous journey. The unique art style that the game portrays is done in the most beautiful way that it is almost like each level is a watercolor picture that comes alive, and this art style of “Living Ink” is something you don’t see in many other games and this approach fits so perfectly in the style of folktale storytelling.
Howl is a turn-based tactical battle that looks and feels like you playing chess/puzzles but with a twist, all the pieces are moving at the same time. Players are expected to predict which way to go, and the path of strangers they encounter or beast they will have to fight, Each turn or movement have consequences, and will need to plan out each turn to survive. This is a fantastic gameplay mechanic that will challenge players to think and plan to complete the level along with each level’s requirements. It can be tough especially since you are limited in what actions you have and also sometimes you won’t know which way the beast will move especially when you have dozens of beasts moving all around on a small grid-based map with only one objective in your mind to find the exit, or clear out the beasts, or rescue as many survivors you can before they turn into beasts. There is a mode in the game that makes it easier for players who don’t like the challenge of prediction which is called “assist mode” and that shows the path of the beasts for every grid box movement they do.
The world map for Howl features a bunch of optional locations where players can get more skulls and upgrade points to invest in getting more skills and movement slots. Such skills are versatile push which is by far my favorite when used properly against multiple beasts, and the majority of these skills can be upgraded into more powerful forms. It isn’t a lot of grinding but it is enough for players to still enjoy the game and don’t have to invest too much time to unlock everything and become all-powerful.
Controls, Graphics & Audio
The Controls for Howl wasn’t too hard, and the tutorial helped me a lot to understand how to play, and it felt smooth. One of the unique features I fell in love with is the graphics of the game which was created using “Living Ink”, a fluid, a dynamic watercolor art style that illustrates the story throughout your playthrough, and of course the artwork of the game goes so well with the melancholic soundtrack that is befitting when it comes to fairy tale story.
As I wrap up the review I can say Howl is a game that is both challenging and beautiful in its way, the artwork of the game caught my eye because I love how the art style is linked to storytelling and that it is done in a unique approach of folklore tale. The turn-based tactical combat puzzles make me feel like I am playing chess and that every level gets tougher and tougher, I love games that feature both puzzle and strategy at the same because it does make you think a lot. This is an indie game that I can say can be enjoyable by many gamers and it is a game you don’t have to invest so much time into it, at close I can say between 5-6 hours long. It is a beautiful concept of strategy and storytelling, and if you want there is a demo for this game is which also available on Nintendo Switch and PC, so players can get a chance to play and check this game before purchasing it.
Howl is currently available for Nintendo Switch and PC. PlayStation®5 and Xbox Series X|S will follow in 2024.