Outsider Games’ Wailing Heights is a goofy, horror-themed musical adventure game packed with personality and charm. Following an ingenious BBC-esque memorial montage, you find yourself, Frances Finkelstein, manager of the legendary yet recently deceased The Deadbeats, in the titular town, trapped in a legal bind as a living person in the land of the dead.
After being introduced to Soul Ghoulman, your rapping ghost lawyer, you are given a musical possession wheel by some strange ceiling dwelling creature. This unique mechanic, which allows you to possess Wailing Heights’ citizens by finding out their name along with something they love and something they hate, is central to the game’s lyrical puzzles.
Reuniting The Deadbeats acts as your main goal as you explore the town, tracking down band members and solving their possession puzzles to add them to your roster. From a hipster vampire who loves illicit garlic but hates good reviews to a zombie soul-singer that loves fame but hates being photographed, each character is offbeat and the solution to possessing them is usually obscure.
Finding these solutions can consist of some trial and error, often requiring you to find the right order to questions with a specific character. On occasion I found myself wondering around the town until I happened to stumble upon a clue or item that let me progress.
Split into three acts, the majority of the game takes place in act two. At this point in the game, several puzzles all run parallel and keeping track of what’s what can be confusing. An objective or hint system would be helpful to remove some of the frustration and add direction to these disparate puzzle elements.
Additionally, having to be stood directly next to another character to possess them can also become a bit tedious, especially during these moments of trial and error. Travelling across town to switch character can be a little long-winded when you are in the flow of solving a puzzle. An on the fly character switching mechanic would solve this pacing issue. Despite these hindrances, the puzzle solutions are always gratifying and the process of solving them is consistently enjoyable and rewarding.
The game’s comic book art style brings a huge amount of personality to its world and characters. The layout of the town feels like a layered pop-up book, while cutscenes, including each character’s backstory, played out in a motion comic. The choice to use a different artist for each character’s comic really pays off with each feeling distinct and unique, while remaining cohesive.
Goofy puns and dad jokes are plentiful throughout your romp in the afterlife, and a general sense of quintessentially British silliness coats every inch of Wailing Heights. The hammy voice acting, delivered with an array of comically over-the-top regional accents, adds to the games constantly entertaining absurdity.
A diverse soundtrack of original music written specifically for the game by an array of musicians is by far Wailing Heights’ best feature. An adventure game built around music both in theme and mechanics would be nothing without a strong set of songs, and thankfully The Deadbeats deliver.
From Soul’s Scottish ghost rap to Fang’s angsty acoustic ballads and Ada Z’s groovy zombie soul songs, every track is suitably cheesy yet clever lyrics and impassioned performances ensure these tracks stay with you.
Wailing Heights’ lovingly crafted art-design and stellar original soundtrack exemplify the passion Outsider Games have put into this project. Despite minor issues, this brief jaunt through the afterlife to reunite your group of supernatural bandmates is fun, goofy, original and always endearing.
Wailing Heights PS4 Review
With lovingly crafted art-design and a stellar soundtrack, Outsider Games' Wailing Heights is an entertaining, although brief, musical romp through the afterlife. With an original puzzle mechanic which allows you to posses the towns residents, a thoroughly silly sense of humour and a huge amount of charm, this is the ideal game to while away a rainy afternoon and put you in the mood for Halloween.
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Reviewed using base PS4.