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Wanderer

Review: Wanderer

Time travel puzzling at its best.

It’s been proven in many a movie and videogame that messing with time travel can lead to all sorts of convoluted narratives and weird plotlines. They can also offer some of the most novel ways to explore both history and what could have been if certain events hadn’t transpired. Wanderer most definitely drops you in the deep end of a time travel adventure that features iconic moments, people and places that aren’t quite as they should be, and it’s up to you to unravel the mess and find out how it happened in the first place. Welcome to the most gripping VR game of 2022…so far.

Wanderer

A combined effort between New Zealand-based studios M-Theory and OddBoy, Wanderer sets you on a journey that’s as puzzling as you’d expect – it is one giant brain taxing puzzle title after all! You step into the shoes of Asher Neumann who locates his grandfather’s apartment which contains a few odd trinkets, a remote control car, a lot of cockroaches, several power tools and as chance would have it a talking, flying watch. Samuel is his name and not only is he essential to unravelling this mess he also provides some welcome company along the way.

Neumann’s grandfather was involved in some murky shit but without spoiling too much of the storyline he’s given you mostly everything you need to right quite a few temporal wrongs. Right away Wanderer immerses you in the narrative of skewed timelines and tragic events that shouldn’t have happened. It’s truly engrossing and like a good book, keeps you enthralled throughout; even when the frustration kicks in trying to solve a particular puzzle.

The developers have done an exceptional job of immersing you in Wanderer. There’s lots and lots to interact with, whether it’s for fun or a crucial next step. The apartment has items like a knockoff Super Soaker and NERF gun, you can smash plates and bottles with a satisfying crack, and if you like hunting through drawers and cupboards there are plenty of those as well.

Wanderer

One disappointment that appeared right at the very start was a jump mechanic to get yourself through a window or down a ledge. It required standing in an exact spot and holding the A button-down, hardly the most involved of VR abilities. Whilst it detracts from that sense of immersion, it only appeared at the beginning of the videogame, almost like M-Theory and OddBoy decided they didn’t want it in the rest of Wanderer. All the better for it really.

As mentioned, Wanderer takes you to various times and places, inhabiting people of that time like you’re Dr. Sam Beckett from Quantum Leap. Become an astronaut during the 1969 moon landing, meet Nikola Tesla, step into WWII and more, all of which are linked in some way. Wanderer is a puzzle adventure through and through with only a few light action elements, and the puzzles really do shine; they get that grey matter working too.

Puzzle titles can fall foul of repetition, using the same base design over and over again. Wanderer’s puzzles feel continually fresh with each encounter, even when a couple are reused here and there. What it does test is your memory. Once you’ve unlocked a few timelines and collected a bunch of items, managing it all is a mission unto itself. You’ll probably find that because the apartment operates as a makeshift base, hoarding starts to become a problem as all the ancient relics and odd objects begin to collect.    

Wanderer

Helping with this process is your friendly watch, Samuel. Attached to your wrist – left or right-handed, you choose – Samuel provides a basic inventory with a maximum of five slots available. You’ll need to unlock most of these by keeping an eye out for glowing blue shards hidden amongst the environment – keep opening those drawers! – before utilising a contraption in the apartment to expand each one. It’s this same machine that gives you a chance to customise your watch by locating specific objects. It’s a tiny side feature but a fun little one when you want to take a break.

And there will be moments where you’ll need to. Wanderer packs a lot in, with stunning visuals, voice acting and some complicated puzzles. Samuel can be called upon to give you hints but there were times when he just kept repeating the same thing over and over. Not sure if it was a bug, in any case, it wasn’t helpful. Other inconsistencies also played a part in making Wanderer a less than perfect experience.

Object interaction felt haphazard at points, having to readjust grip to correctly hold an item when it snaps into your hand awkwardly. Certain objects just didn’t sit well, trying to use the bow perfectly demonstrated why the weapon can be so difficult in VR. The classic problem of invisible walls also made an appearance (or not in this case). Leaning over a table or large item pushes you away, making the remote grab ability essential. Nothing really game-breaking although an issue with the Enigma machine puzzle forced a chapter restart that meant having to replay a chunk of the game as there’s no manual saving.

Wanderer is an ambitious project and for the most part, M-Theory and OddBoy have succeeded. The single-player adventure will keep you busy for 10+ hours and you’ll want to see it through to the end. Pushing the settings to max on PC will give you a glorious game to look at, and the audio is rock solid. Yes, there are one or two unwieldy issues along the way yet they didn’t hamper the overall entertainment Wanderer provides. If you’re looking for a puzzle game to really get stuck into then definitely take a look at Wanderer.

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