Steam Next Fest 2022: Let your hands craft and mind wander with WooLoop
WooLoop is a relaxing puzzle game where you create pictures out of yarn, and its beauty is in its simplicity. Beginning at any one of a number of marked starting points, you weave your wool around pre-laid pegs in a canvas to slowly achieve the full picture and watch it come to life in front of your eyes. Your colorful webs of wool start out abstract and begin to form patterns until the canvas is filled with a vibrant picture.
While you work on your craft, a gorgeous piano soundtrack lays the foundation for a truly tranquil experience. The tracks have a flowing, sentimental and somewhat nostalgic feel, like the score of a Studio Ghibli film or the popular works of Yiruma (a personal favorite pianist). It's not clear whether the game uses existing music or had original songs composed, but regardless, it's a major factor of this peaceful experience, and there's enough variety that you won't tire of the tunes, even while you work on the game's more intensive yarn constructions.
After just a few completed canvases, I felt genuinely uplifted by the process, and there's a real satisfaction to creating something with your own hands... even if it's really the hands of the developers that made it possible.
This wholesome release was developed by an independent three-person studio based in the UK, Toastie Labs. While playing WooLoop, I couldn't help but feel a satisfaction and peace that reminded me of completing paint-by-numbers pictures. And, taking a look at Toastie Labs' previous works, that feeling isn't unfounded.
The team previously developed Coloring Pixels, a relaxing pixel-based color-by-numbers game that they continue to support and update with new DLC packs. They're also the minds behind puzzlers like hexceed, a minesweeper-like game with hundreds of levels; Who Shuffled My Shapes?, a cube-based puzzle game that incorporates the classic Rubik's Cube shape and more complex ones; as well as Direct, a color and sound-based rhythm game.
WooLoop builds on the team's previous successes to provide a clean, calming and well-directed experience. To create your picture, arrows light the way to your next move, clearly indicating which peg is coming up next with light blue arrows while the dark blue ones show the step you're currently working on. These little instructions are thoughtfully designed to provide a great user experience, unobtrusively guiding the way via subtle cues.
And unlike in a real-life craft project, where making a mistake in the middle can mean later having to undo all of your hard work to make a correction, WooLoop saves you the pain by clearly indicating with a red arrow or a big red X over a peg if you've made a mistake in your winding. There's also a button that rewinds your yarn movement in case it gets tangled and you can't tell which direction the loop goes — something that will happen occasionally, especially if you have the automatic edge-of-screen panning turned on. You can turn this function off if you choose or navigate using the WASD keys to pan across the screen or holding right click on the mouse and dragging for smaller, more controlled movements (I preferred this option).
If you play the game's demo, be mindful that you'll have to complete a design before backing out — there's no saving and returning to it later. Hopefully, this is something that will be accounted for in the full release, as it's otherwise a fantastic game to hop in and out of for short bursts of crafting enjoyment. And considering it can be a bit hard on the wrist after a few designs, taking breaks and playing in short intervals seems like a responsible way to play.
Accessibility options for the game appear to be a work in progress (currently including adjustments for the edge-of-screen panning speed and a much-appreciated dark mode that keeps the white canvases from burning up your retinas). It's my hope that by launch the development team may consider adding an even more simplified movement option for greater accessibility, such as the ability to click peg by peg to create your design, or perhaps the ability to click to toggle your yarn "on" and "off" so that you could move the mouse freely without having to hold down the left-click button, which adds an extra strain.
WooLoop has a free demo as part of the Steam Next Fest, ongoing through Monday, Oct. 10. It offers a whopping 18 canvases to complete — varying from a simple rocket featuring 23 pins and 39 steps, up to the highly complex Eiffel Tower, which boasts 280 pins and 1,218 steps to bring your picture together.
It is set for a full release in early 2023. Following your hands-on experience with the demo, you will have the opportunity to fill out the developers' feedback form to help them gauge and improve the experience. You can wishlist the game now on Steam.