As we’ve mentioned a few times, not every game has to be the pinnacle of innovation or offer hundreds of hours of gameplay to be good. Let’s not get it twisted, we’re not encouraging offering players less value for their money, but there’s something to be said for inexpensive titles with a limited scope that effectively do what they’re aiming to do. Puzzle-adventure Howl is a great example of this, offering an interesting concept and a simple yet elegant way of interacting with it without reaching further than its grasp.
There’s been a lycanthropy outbreak! Worse, it’s audio lycanthropy: those infected with the Howl become ravenous beasts who themselves Howl, turning anyone who hears it into beasts themselves. That’s not a great recipe for a peaceful society, and it’s pretty hard to escape from sound-werewolves if you’re capable of hearing. Fortunately for her, our heroine, the Prophet, is not. Born deaf and armed with a crossbow and deadly magic, the Prophet is uniquely well-suited to traversing a realm beset by the Howl.
The Prophet’s journey takes the form of a series of predictive turn-based puzzles. Your goal in each is typically to get from one end of an area to the other without getting eaten by beasts. To do so, you’ll queue up several actions and see how they play out all at once. The idea is to correctly predict how the beasts will react to your moves before you make them, keeping in mind how they typically behave. Beasts react to a particular set of rules, so you can generally get an idea of what’s going to happen on a turn if you think ahead.
You’re usually outnumbered, but you’re also smarter than the opposition. Set things up just right and they’ll step right into your shots, fall for your magic attacks, open pathways for you and so on. Just finishing a level might not be enough, though, and you can earn greater accolades by defeating all the beasts in an area or getting to the exit quickly. You can take the rewards you earn, such as beast skulls, to shrines on the world map in order to upgrade the Prophet’s abilities. This can allow you to plot out more moves at once, learn new magic spells and so on. It’s an addictive little loop that’s well-suited for quick play sessions when you don’t have a lot of time to spare.
Howl’s also a fascinating game from a graphical perspective. It’s got an artistic feel that calls to mind ancient art and this is a great match with the stop-motion feel of its gameplay. Cyberpunk 2077 this one ain’t, but Cyberpunk also won’t run on a Wal-Mart PC, and that’s likely all you need to enjoy Howl.
Howl is a quick-and-dirty puzzle adventure that’ll sate both your desire for beast-hunting and brain-busting. It’s reminiscent of classic Windows “coffee break” games, allowing you to stretch your mental legs a little between work sessions. Combine that with the ability to play on the go via Switch, Steam Deck or what have you and you’ve got a pretty solid time-killer.