There seems to be an uptick in 2D platformers featuring stunning, ethereal visuals and minimal narrative details this generation that can most likely be attributed to the unbridled success of Ori and the Blind Forest. For players looking to experience another platformer with that same look and feel, Dilemma Studio and E-Home Entertainment have offered up Wenjia. Wenjia begins rather abruptly as it loads, throwing the player into a cut scene with dialogue that begins part way through the narrator’s introduction to the story. It’s a jarring way to start the game, and can make following the story a little more difficult. Narrative wise, Wenjia is the story of a forest spirit – represented as a glowing, almost ghostly, cat – who has been summoned to stop the destruction on the world. It’s not anything earth shattering or different from anything we’ve seen before, but it’s also not particularly a negative.
Wenjia’s story is a little hit or miss, and it is entirely possible to play through the story and get very little additional narrative beyond the initial and end cutscenes. Fragments of the game’s plot are tucked away inside of challenge arenas that players must complete in order to access. These challenge arenas are hidden throughout the main campaign levels, often behind shadowed coves or pushed down into various pits that you might initially think are simply death traps. If you are unfortunate enough to complete the game without actually finding all of the story fragments you can breathe a sigh of relief as there is a chapter select option though you wouldn’t be blamed for being unable to find it, as the menu simply says “Load” rather than “chapter select”.
Chapter select, or rather “Load”, also comes in handy when it comes to collecting the energy orbs scattered around the worlds. Like the challenge levels, some of these orbs are in plain sight while others are tucked up in shadowy corners. While you are generally encouraged to collect them, doing so does not result in any kind of reward. There are no upgrades or skills available in Wenjia, and the orbs are more of just a thing to make levels a little more difficult if you’re attempting to collect them rather than having any sort of value.
As a platformer, Wenjia is a fairly solid experience. Players guide their little spirit cat to the right, jumping pits, climbing platforms (obviously), and avoiding spikes. But there is one interesting mechanic that makes the gameplay stand out. That mechanic is the ability to shift between two versions of the world on the fly by simply pressing LB. Swapping between the different views of the world allows players to change the platforming by creating routes that wouldn’t otherwise be there. In some instances this creates mushroom platforms, introduce wind to help the character float, or show glowing boxes that allow the character to essentially ‘blink’ from one area to another. Wenjia goes out of it’s way to push players to utilize this world switching mechanic to overcome the pitfalls of the world, such as when you need to flicker between the worlds quickly to float and fall around spikes. It’s perfectly feasible to do this to get through the levels, but it is also a shining of example of Wenjia’s shortcoming when it comes to responsiveness. There are a lot of frustrating scenarios that will require players to swap scenes and then jump or double jump quickly, only to discover that pressing the button has done absolutely nothing for you and your seemingly crystal cat has burst on spikes. Lather, rinse, repeat.
While the controls are frustratingly unresponsive and stiff, Wenjia does try to take the sting out by having frequent checkpoints so that death is a mere inconvenience before you attempt a run again. Even with frequent deaths and restarts, as well as taking your good old sweet time to track down challenge arenas and looking for collectible orbs it is entirely possible to complete Wenjia’s campaign in under an hour and a half. If you forgo the effort to find the collectibles, Wenjia is merely an hour of average gameplay set among some incredible art with a soothing, albeit slightly repetitive soundtrack.