Since 2017, Dutch developer Total Mayhem Games has been quietly working on the We Were Here series, a trilogy of cooperative-only puzzle games that puts us in the shoes of two explorers who find themselves trapped in castles, dungeons, snowstorms, deathtraps, and all other manner of escape rooms. The whole trilogy is a little uneven, but for the most part they’re all pretty good, especially since no other developer scratches this particular asymmetrical co-op puzzle itch quite like the We Were Here series.
The latest, We Were Here Forever, is – to put it quite simply – an absolute glow-up. It’s gorgeous, with fantastic art direction that takes you from the familiar castle interiors to surreal dreamscapes, a spooky abandoned village, and much, much more. There are significant barriers to overcome to get the most out of We Were Here Forever, not the least of which are having to buy two $18 copies so you can play with a like-minded friend (unfortunately it’s not as generous as Hazelight was with its co-op hits A Way Out and It Takes Two, which include a free friend pass.) But if you’re able to hook in someone who loves escape rooms and asymmetrical puzzles as much as you do, you’re both in for a co-op adventure the likes of which I’ve rarely seen.
We Were Here Forever places you and your buddy into the boots of two nameless explorers who, for untold reasons, find themselves locked inside series mainstay Castle Rock. There is an ongoing story connecting the We Were Here games together, but it’s not required knowledge to enjoy the self-contained plot of Forever, which itself is serviceable, but certainly not the reason anybody is here.
We Were Here Forever, is – to put it quite simply – an absolute glow-up.
It’s the puzzles that are the star of the show, and the ways that they manage to test the teamwork, observational skills, and communication of you and your partner are in a league of their own. I’d hate to even go into too much detail of individual examples or show too much of them out of fear of spoiling their solutions, but there’s a wonderful mix of navigational puzzles, where one person has to guide the other through a section using information only they have; symbol-recognition puzzles that force both of you to describe obscure symbols to each other in order to fulfill some sort of shared goal; asymmetrical races against the clock; tricky logic puzzles; and more. The list just goes on and on, with enough content that it took me and my partner around 12 hours to complete them all.
More often than not, you’re split up from your partner and have no frame of reference for what it is they’re seeing. This process of not only figuring out the useful information in your area, but then also piecing together how it interacts with what they’re seeing is just so uniquely satisfying. Every small breakthrough was something we celebrated, and when we finally got through a whole puzzle and were reunited there was genuine elation every time.
The puzzles are tough, but there’s always a logic to them.
It’s worth mentioning too that having a good partner is a necessity, and your mileage with We Were Here Forever may vary immensely based upon who you play it with. There is random matchmaking available, but that’s absolutely not the way to go here – I’d highly recommend playing through it with a good friend. Teamwork like this requires patience, persistence, and keen observation skills. There are also a bunch of fun opportunities to horse around, playfully troll your partner, and sometimes even do some good ol’ fashioned sabotage for a quick laugh, and those moments help add some much needed levity to a story that takes itself perhaps a bit too seriously. That’s great with a friend, but getting stuck with a bad actor partner by luck of the draw would give them a lot of opportunities to be obnoxious.
The puzzles are tough – there’s no getting around that – but there’s always a logic to them, and if you really hit a wall each person can call upon three hints per puzzle that each do a decent job of pushing you in the right direction. Even with those lifelines, though, expect to spend a good chunk of time bashing your head against the wall trying to figure out a solution. In a good way, I swear. Even the puzzles that we spent the longest amount of time trying to figure out had that “eureka” moment that made it all worth it.