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Withering Rooms review – An intriguing horror roguelike

Withering Rooms screenshot
Image: Perp Games

Combining roguelite tendencies with puzzles, exploration and horror, there’s a lot to like about Withering Rooms, out this week from Moonless Formless and Perp Games. Casting you as a girl named Nightingale, you find yourself trapped in an asylum — and if that wasn’t bad enough by itself, it’s also filled with terrifying ghosts and ghouls.

This isn’t an ordinary asylum, though. Mostyn House, a sprawling Victorian mansion, is victim to a curse which means its residents are often trapped within a nightmare. Lasting days, even weeks, at a time, Nightingale is thrown into the same nightmare — and to break the curse, she’s going to have to fight her way through the mansion. Again and again.

Withering Rooms throws puzzles at you to solve, with locks to break in order to open up new pathways, and side missions to complete for various characters you meet along the way. Mostly, though, you’ll be spending your time exploring the mansion’s many, many rooms — and battling the freaky foes that await within. Nightingale can hide, but ultimately she’s going to have to step into battle if she wants to escape.

It’s a shame that combat is one of the weakest areas of Withering Rooms. It’s clunky and not all that responsive — although Nightingale does have numerous tricks up her sleeve. A melee weapon will be her primary form of attack, but as she explores the mansion she can find throwable objects, magical spells and other means to deal damage. She can also find armour which can be equipped to offer herself additional protection, as well as magical rings that offer a range of perks.

Withering Rooms screenshot
Image: Perp Games

But still, death comes all too easy, even when you do have a fairly sizeable arsenal at your disposal. Attacking is slow, as is your dodge roll, and so getting in precise hits is much harder than it should be. It’s made even worse when you’re up against enemies who can turn invisible, or who can charge at you with an attack that can’t be avoided. Unless you have a healthy supply of healing kits in your inventory, you’re probably going to die very quickly.

Related: The best roguelike games on PS4 and PS5

All’s not lost when you die, thankfully. Well, not quite. Like a roguelite, you’ll find yourself back where you started — and you’ll have lost most of your inventory. All enemies you killed will have respawned, too. But forward progress — such as doors you’ve unlocked and important items you’ve found — will remain. It means you won’t find yourself doing the same things again and again, but in order to ensure your inventory’s well stocked with important items, you will need to do some exploring. And that means facing off against numerous foes.

There are some neat ideas at play in Withering Rooms, though. You’ll find altars dotted throughout the mansion and, providing you can offer them the correct item — typically something found after defeating an enemy — you can add an item to your ‘keep’ list, meaning it remains in your inventory when you die. Some items are naturally permanent, too, like certain pieces of equipment and the lamp.

Withering Rooms screenshot
Image: Perp Games

Perhaps our favourite part of the gameplay is solving Withering Rooms’ puzzles. There’s nothing too tricky here, but there’s the odd riddle you’ll need to crack and clues you’ll need to gather as you explore. For example, we had to venture into a few different rooms in order to note down numbers written on the wall, which turned out to be the combination for a padlock.

Some are slightly more obtuse, like the hedge maze, where you’ll need to be cursed in order to be able to see the correct route through. The problem? Being fully cursed damages you, so you’ll need to make sure you’re able to balance your curse against your ability to heal. If you haven’t got healing items in your inventory? You’re going to be in trouble.

It’s these sorts of creative ideas that make Withering Rooms worth persevering with, even if it is a little scrappy at times. Combat may be weak, and it’s a shame there’s such a reliance on it. But the mysterious narrative, the macabre visuals and the puzzles will keep you pushing forward — even if you die multiple times in the process.

This review of Withering Rooms is based on the PS5 version of the game, via a code provided by the publisher. It’s available on PS5, Xbox Series X/S and PC.

Withering Rooms review - GameSpew's score

Withering Rooms
7 10 0 1
Part roguelike, part horror, part puzzle adventure, we've not played anything quite like Withering Rooms before. It's a little scrappy, and we wish combat was better, but there's something about it that will keep us coming back.
Part roguelike, part horror, part puzzle adventure, we've not played anything quite like Withering Rooms before. It's a little scrappy, and we wish combat was better, but there's something about it that will keep us coming back.
Total Score

We liked...

  • Intriguing narrative
  • Some great puzzles

We didn't like...

  • Combat could be better
Editor in chief // Kim's been into video games since playing Dizzy on her brother's Commodore 64 as a nipper. She'll give just about anything a go, but she's got a particular soft spot for indie adventures. If she's not gaming, she'll be building Lego, reading a thriller, watching something spooky or... asleep. She does love to sleep.