Whispering Willows is a sidescrolling adventure game, driven by its story and atmosphere, about a haunted mansion and the surrounding grounds. It's charming, and can pull you in for a little while, but it's hampered by some cumbersome situations and rudimentary elements. I beat it in five hours, while taking my time, and had a decent amount of fun despite the flaws. There are a few last achievements you can hunt down when you're done, but no real replayability.
The game has very attractive graphics, with nice lighting and glow effects. The ghosts you meet have a cartoony style, but are still depicted with various fatal injuries that add some distinction to each one. I'm not a fan of the cutscene artwork, as it looks a lot more crude and clumsy than the game itself.
The sound is nice as well. Subtle music and eerie ambient noises give each indoor and outdoor location its own feel. Invisible creatures, both helpful and harmful, are signaled by the noise of your character's amulet, or of their own mysterious movements.
The game is played by exploring each area of the mansion. This is a mostly linear experience: talking to ghosts, unlocking doors and collecting necessary items along with documents that gradually tell the game's story. Experiencing new environments and reading the story are really the high points of the game, but toward the end, many of the rooms are bleakly similar to each other, the abritrary size and layout of the mansion leading to some slow backtracking. If you manage to miss something, you'll be plodding around for a few minutes, trying to figure it out, and the feeling of reward when you get it right isn't as satisfying as in some more elegantly built games.
Puzzles are often solved by assuming a spirit form which can pass through openings in walls and ceilings, and manipulate objects like switches or keys. There are a few moments of novelty to this, but compared to some games about changing forms or manipulating your environment, Whispering Willows uses it in a fairly simple and straightforward way. The final scenarios of the game remind me of the game Ghost Trick, but Whispering Willows can't really compare to something like that.
The story is fairly interesting, largely delivered through notes that you pick up. It's fairly easy to find them all, so you probably won't miss out on any details. The story falters a bit near the end, in my opinion, by trying to be a bit more epic than it is, but it reveals some final truths and then wraps itself up without dragging on too long.
In the end, parts of the game shine more than others, but it still all comes together to a decent experience. It can feel slow or annoying in some areas, but I've played worse. If the ghostly atmosphere, solving a few puzzles, and collecting and reading notes and letters to piece the story together sounds fun, you might have a good time with this game; otherwise, I would steer far away from it. Either way, I would wait for a sale. This isn't a game so amazing you just have to play it right now, and $15 is a lot for a short one like this.