Metaphors and similes are aplenty in Waking. “Beliefs” is a conjured magical shield to protect yourself from projectiles, “Knowledge” are items thrown at oppressors while “feelings” are a true strength; an actual melee weapon to be used. Yes, it’s all quite literal. There are a large variety of anecdotes about death and life throughout the game too. It’s how a lot of the narrative is explored. Clear a room, complete the objective, and a weird figure gives you some lines about mortality. Then repeat. It doesn’t all work, but it’s still nice to see untraditional ways to think about death in games.
Though magical shields and abilities sounds promising, it’s unfortunately without a doubt the dullest part of the game. Whether it’s unoriginal monster designs such as a creature with a human torso and Moose head, or a random glowing orb entity you fight, it’s quite uninspired. Telekinesis is also on offer, blasting barrels, pallets and the likes into your foes to weaken them. Though, don’t expect it to play as fun as 2019’s Control. Often, I found myself just awkwardly circle-strafing enemies in small arenas, dodging when I can and firing projectiles in the little openings I got. Boring.
Waking has promising ideas that only manage to go so far
Perhaps my favourite part of the game is the times an angelic figure would visit you at your bedside. She serves as a meditative break from big moments, asking to close one’s eyes and just tune into her beautiful voice. On one occasion, she’ll ask to think back to a beloved and dearly departed childhood pet. When it was over, I went with my previous dog’s name, Bubbles, and picked a silhouetted image that fit closest to him. Stepping outside, and bounding across a field towards me was none other than Bubbles. I got to scoop him up, hug him, and then he became my companion in the game, fighting alongside me. This no doubt will be the most special moment for anyone that plays the game. Waking is quite manipulative in that way, heavily relying on one’s own emotional, personal stories to reflect on. When it works, it really works.