As a big fan of Animal Crossing and other games which enslave you to strange animals, I was immediately interested in Lovely Weather We’re Having, the new game from developer Julian Glander.
The game opens unceremoniously, with players finding themselves – and their dog – outside what is presumably their house, and given no direction. This is, of course, the point: The game is described as being a “goal-free explorer,” much like Proteus. While we’re on the comparison, I do feel the game could have benefited from more music, as the trailer has some absolutely lovely music that I never heard in the game itself. Games like LWWH need music, even if they’re not as music-focused as Proteus, because it can do a lot to add tone and smooth out some of the more awkward bits of gameplay that can occur. Being enslaved to Tom Nook would have been considerably less charming without the wonderfully idyllic soundtrack of Animal Crossing.
Easily the coolest bit of techno-magic that LWWH pulls off is its ability to draw down local weather forecasts to choose the in-game weather. Sunny outside? Sunny in the game. Cloudy outside? Cloudy in the game. Sunny again? For four weeks? You get the idea. It’s very cool, and the entirety of the world changes based on the relatively large amount of variables. The game looks at four different times of day, the temperature, and the kind of precipitation to determine what all is different about the game. The colors change very dramatically, and every character has something different to say in different weather.
Much like Animal Crossing, the game drops players into a world that doesn’t bother explaining its backstory. Indeed, with LWWH, most of what you find in the game seems intentionally obtuse. All of the characters are weird, which is fine, and some of them are actually…ominous. And that’s weird in a way that is confusing. Personally, I didn’t know what to do with some of the vaguely threatening or creepy things that people said to me. The sea monster, who is, all-told, a pretty cool dude, accused me of trying to boil the ocean so I could eat him. In fairness, I was using a cheat to max out the temperature, but it literally does get that hot here in California, so I wonder if the game is simply aware that I was cheating my way to that temperature, or if it was simply claiming that my physical location is trying to kill me. If the latter is the case, that’s totally fair.
However, there are other bits of weirdness in the game’s characters. Chatbot, literally an old computer on legs who appears to float despite those legs, tells you of how robots are superior, and occasionally offers strange sentiments which seem to suggest that you are trapped in this town. There is also an apparently homeless person who, after a lot of examination, I have decided is the player character’s sister (or brother – gender is pretty irrelevant in this world). In addition, there is a character who allows players to bring up that no one in the town does anything. This breaks our suspension of disbelief by pointing out that this is weird even within the game’s strange world. The fact that nobody actually works is weird, and no one talks about it, except the one guy who has poop for a head. (Literally, his head is swirly poop, with eyes and a mouth.)
Also strange is the character who appears to be an enormous head on a tiny body. They stand in front of a door, and despite the fact that the player is told there is probably a cool party inside, the large-headed individual refuses to let players go inside. This appears to be a message related to the main idea of the game, which is to “go outside,” but it’s still very odd. Why tempt players to back inside and have a cool party? It just made me want to throw a cool party.
The problem is that, despite all this, there really isn’t a lot to do. There are secrets in the game, like the monster in the mountains who speaks only in variations on a nonsense word, but it’s so difficult to find all of these secrets. It isn’t as though there’s a directed way to find them; characters may tell the player enough for them to figure out a secret, but there’s no way to direct them to, well, the directions (i.e. where they find the tips to find the secrets). The only possible way to see everything in the game is to boot up the game during every time of day, during every kind of weather, in every kind of temperature. In other words, the best way to see everything is to cheat. The game does tell players, almost flat out, what the cheat code is, but I can’t really recommend using it.
LWWH is at its best when players go through it for a few minutes, checking up on the pastel, oddly-creepy town and its inhabitants, and the cheat code makes the whole experience rather trite (at least for me). Instead of wandering through the odd world at a relaxed pace, I found myself rapidly spinning through the variables, trying to find secrets and repeating conversations endlessly. Part of this, of course, is simply a side-effect of reviewing the game, but a good portion of it was because I had the ability to alter those variables at will. The cheat code even allows players to speed themselves up and expand the field of view (though I do feel like the field of view option should be allowed outside of the cheat), the former of which ruins the sedate pace of the game.
A lot of this might sound like I’m unfairly criticizing the game, but I don’t dislike it. Lovely Weather We’re Having is, in fact, a lovely game. Its bright colors, quirky world, and interesting low-poly style – the game is made of a lot of high-poly assets made to look like they’re low-poly – all contribute to a game I really did enjoy. If I have one major problem with it, it’s that it seems tonally inconsistent, the way a first draft of a free verse poem might. Much of what is in the game could benefit from either restructuring or refining, and a few variables (like allowing the player to bring up how no one works in-game) could be removed entirely. It’s simply the case of a cool, experimental game needing a bit more polish. Beyond that, I had a lovely time with the Lovely Weather We’re Having.