It’s a story about finding your place in society, making friends and solving spooky goings-on at the titular summer camp, where nothing is as it seems. It takes a while to get going, and has a very smug talking squirrel companion who’s constantly rolling his eyes at you, but at its heart, Camp W is an endearing, feel-good tale of a shy, awkward child striking out on their own on their first trip away from home.
There are also hints of Sabrina: The Teenage Witch here (the 90s Nickelodeon show, I might add, not the gritty new Netflix remake). Your character – Liliandra or Lysander, depending on which gender you pick – is a witch. You’re from Coventry, which is the best pun on a witch’s coven I’ve seen. You’ve stumbled into a different dimension where magic no longer exists, or has been long forgotten about, so you need to keep your witchy powers under wraps. Sophie, one of the other new kids at camp, still believes in it, but everyone else thinks it’s a load of nonsense.
And what a colourful cast those kids are. While none of them are anywhere near as wacky as the campers you’ll meet in Psychonauts, for example, a lot of them feel very grounded and familiar. It was almost as if the developers had reached into my past and plucked all the different types of people I used to know – the stuck-up brat, the boisterous boys, the weird, quirky troublemakers and exasperated adult camp leaders – and put them in the game.
I ended up spending most of my time with purple-haired twins Ezzi and Ella on my first playthrough, as they seemed like the cool ones that I would have wanted to hang out with as an awkward pre-teen. But my new best pal could easily have been singer-songwriter Sid, quiet and collected Sophie or the sporty trio of Blake, Miles and Miller. They’re all highly likeable, it just depends which lessons or activities you pursue and which of the resident campers takes part alongside you.
As I said, I could have done without having a smug squirrel constantly yabbering away explaining the story and what your next moves are, but it is lovely to look at and everyone from bossy-miss-smarty-pants Ruby to the teddy-bear-clutching Wilfred is oozing with charm and personality. The story itself is a little light on substance, but if you’re after a feel-good friend-making simulator that does an excellent job at recapturing your youth, Camp W is worth a visit.