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We Were Here Together Review: If Only Real Escape Rooms Were This Good

The We Were Here games are a series of co-op first-person puzzle games by Total Mayhem Games. Each entry has been brief, yet packed full of awesome two-player escape room-type puzzles to solve. The newest game in the series, We Were Here Together, is easily twice the size of the previous two games both in length and production value. While the added length does create more opportunity for duds, We Were Here Together soars far more often than it falls and delivers the best co-op puzzle experience you'll find anywhere.

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All three We Were Here games follow the same general blueprint: two characters stumble upon a castle and, upon entering it, are separated on two distinct paths. Armed with only a walkie-talkie with which to communicate, the players need to work together to escape by sharing information and solving a wide variety of puzzles. It's a communication exercise, and a bonding experience to be certain. We Were Here Together pushes the series forward a giant step by increasing the length of the game dramatically, adding separate narratives for each player, and creating the most visually impressive and elaborate environments the series has ever seen.

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Bigger, Better, But Sometimes Busted

We Were Here Together has A LOT of puzzles. Just by the number: We Were Here Too took my friend and I 77-minutes to complete (it's free-to-play and absolutely worth an hour of your time), We Were Here Too took two hours to complete (also totally worth it), and We Were Here Together took us six hours. There are fantastic, memorable puzzles in the third installment, but there are also the worst puzzles in the series, particularly as you get closer to the end.

The game begins as no other game in the series has: both players start together and solve the first puzzle together. It's a brilliant starting point for players who aren't familiar with the series and haven't already established a shorthand with their partner because both players can see the same things. Yes, you'll need to separate in order to complete tasks simultaneously and share information, but it's a great first puzzle because if you get confused, you can go see what your partner is looking at and chip away at the breakdowns in your communication. From here on out though, you'll be separated on different tracks in traditional We Were Here style.

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This is the first game in the series that allows you to pick up multiple objects and place them in your inventory, leading to more elaborate puzzles. One of the best involves combining seeds and different colored nutrients together to alchemize different solutions where each player only has half of the items and recipes needed. You'll be sending ingredients back and forth to each, concocting each material without knowing what the other person is even working on, yet it all comes together perfectly.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are some puzzles near the end that are either brain dead simple, obnoxiously complex, or somehow, both. There is a puzzle that involves relaying long, Latin-sounding words to each other that are almost all the same and all difficult to pronounce, so you'll spend most of the puzzle spelling words. It isn't difficult, but it is annoying.

We also brute-forced a puzzle for the first time in We Were Here history. Towards the end of the game, a puzzle had no apparent solution, but wasn't too difficult to figure out through trial and error. For me, this is the biggest no-no of all-time in a puzzle game.

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The final puzzle is an incredibly small logic puzzle that you would have done in grade school. It's almost insulting how simple it is and, unfortunately, the steady decline of puzzles towards the end gives the game a bit of a "ran out of time" feel.

A King, A Clown, And A Ghost

The series has always had a strange way of handling the story. The games all begin essential in medias res with the unnamed characters entering the castle with no setup whatsoever. There is sometimes lore to find and read, and as the game progresses, a story about a mad king and a dark ritual start to work their way into the puzzles. It's always been particularly understated and left wide open to interpretation.

In We Were Here Together, the story is pushed much further to the forefront by introducing other characters and cutscenes between each puzzle. It's particularly effective in the way that each character is presented half of the story, just as each player is presented half of the puzzle. When the characters finally come back together at the end, so does the story. And the final moments are made all the better if players chose to conceal certain information from each other (wink wink, nudge nudge).

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Unfortunately, I still really don't have any idea what the story is. I've played all three games and, without specifically digging around for lore bits, I'm left pretty baffled by the narrative events in We Were Here Together. There's a post-credit scene that definitely sets up a new game, which is great, but the content of the cutscenes didn't particularly impact me because I didn't have the context for what was happening. It starts as a rescue mission for some people stranded in a snowstorm, but quickly thereafter, you'll be forging soul stones and teaming up with a ghost to beat an evil clown, and I really just don't know what was going on.

That said, the series has been nothing if not an evolution from one entry to the next, and I expect We Were Here 4ever to deliver on its story and finally make it all make sense.

I really enjoy this series and I appreciate how far it has come in the last couple of years. I hope that as the games get longer and budget increases, that they can maintain the same focused quality of the first two entries. Personally, I'd rather have less puzzles than bad puzzles.

3.5 Stars Out Of 5

A review copy of We Were Here Together was provided to TheGamer for this review. We Were Here Together is available October 10, 2019 on Steam.

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