Whispering Willows is a side-scrolling mystery adventure for Android and iOS devices, Playstation and Xbox consoles, and PC. The game follows the journey of Elena Elkhorn, a teenage girl who goes on a quest to locate her missing father. As a descendant of a fictitious Native American tribe, and in possession of her family’s shamanic amulet, Elena has the ability to change to spirit form. With the help of the amulet and her own resilience and tenacity, Elena embarks on a dark and dangerous quest, helping restless spirits and learning about her own ancestry along the way. Due to the occasional presence of blood and descriptions of violence, as well as the extensive amount of reading required, we recommend this game to kids 13 and older.
Getting started and then maintaining attention and effort to tasks.
Whispering Willows is different from many of today’s popular games. There is no timer, are no bad guys hurtling themselves at you endlessly, and no impatient urging from your avatar. And because the game doesn't happen to you, you happen to it, players must have focus skills -- task initiation, task persistence, and sustained attention. Players will need to explore areas to solve puzzles with very little help, and sometimes without even realizing there is a puzzle involved. Many of the interesting clues and pieces of history involved with these puzzles require reading, sometimes extensive, which adds to the value of Whispering Willows as a focus-building tool.
Recalling and retaining information in our minds while working.
All of this recreational reading not only builds focus skills, it also helps exercise working memory. The main skill we use when we read text and navigate physical locations, working memory is a major player in Whispering Willows. Though the game is a sidescroller, it has layers and depths, and finding one’s way through can be tricky. Additionally, the overarching and side stories require players to recall past details in order to make sense of what they are exploring, finding, and learning along the way. While they do have access to Elena’s journal, which is updated with each piece of written personal history that she finds, it won't help them navigate the physical spaces of the game. Players will learn to make note of things that will help them stay oriented (landmarks or objects they've already moved) and if they learn to take note of things, that's even better.
Understanding our own actions, thoughts and feelings and empathizing with others.
Whispering Willows presents many opportunities for exercise in self-awareness and social awareness. Elena, a teenage girl exploring by herself in the dark of night, poses self-reflective questions and models reasoning and decision-making processes in the face of the unknown. Along the way, players will be immersed in the personal experiences of people who have passed on. Elena herself is a Native American, and though her tribe is fictional, there is an authentic Native American perspective presented in the journal pages she finds that were written by her ancestor, Flying Hawk. As well, the lives and fates of those spirits she meets as she searched for clues to her father’s disappearance put the player face-to-face with people from varying backgrounds and cultures. These details, combined with Elena’s situation and main objective, are the perfect formula for lessons about positive thinking, empathy, resilience, and hope. As well, Elena’s unique ability of astral projection aided by a relic of her ancestry is a good metaphor for drawing strength and confidence from knowing oneself.
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