WEAVE: a review

I am a long-time fan of short films. I remember a golden era growing up when, once a year, an Australian newspaper would include a DVD with all the finalist films from Tropfest Australia; the local branch of the world’s largest short film festival. The Tropfest DVD would be an exciting and unpredictable afternoon of entertainment on the weekend that would spill over into excited discussions amongst friends at school the following Monday. One of these years marked the beginning of the successful Australian comedy series Wilfred, whilst another featured a comedic, instructional film from which I learnt towel-whipping skills that would give me a reputation amongst my social group. At my peak, I could draw blood.

Wilfred was a Tropfest 2002 finalist. Image sourced from here.

The thing that always struck me about short films was the way in which the constraints and limitations in place steered the contestants to make truly creative, experimental, and unique experiences. There was also no pressure for these films to meet any financial or cultural expectations. They were products of the creators on the purest of levels. They took risks with the medium and told the stories they wanted to tell, often experimenting with filming, soundscapes, and animations as they did so.

There’s something magical about short films that I haven’t ever seen in video games before. In fact, it’s been so completely absent for me that it had never even occurred to me that something was missing at all. But that all changed when I played WEAVE.

WEAVE was first brought to my attention when progressive video game critic Lana Polansky sent out the tweet embedded above. WEAVE is a completely free game that is played with a mouse and loads in any web browser. It can be played through entirely in about 5 minutes without any need to worry about your previous skills or experience with games. I’m sure we’ve all watched something dumb on YouTube that takes 5 minutes or more and, in that spirit, I challenge you to play through WEAVE.

But what exactly is WEAVE?

Image sourced from here.

WEAVE is a haunting, abstract game in which you guide two different characters as they separately deal with some sort of shared experience from their past. It is a story told entirely without dialogue, but opts instead for a beautiful, striking soundscape. The audio components of the game coupled with the imagery and the bold, shifting colour pallet does a lot of work to effectively convey mood and emotion.

Image sourced from here.

There is absolutely no filler in WEAVE. Every moment and every action in the game feels very deliberate and important. Every design choice, shape and colour feels deeply symbolic and subtextual. Even the way the players interact with the game is quite sparse. All that’s required is to click on things that feel important, triggering a reaction as you do so. There are only two brief puzzles to be solved in the game, but somehow they do a lot to draw you in deeper and make you feel connected to the plight of these characters. As someone who has spent thousands of hours playing games over 20 years, I found it deeply fascinating that so much emotional weight could be built around a control scheme that uses just one button and so infrequently too.

Without wanting to give too much away, there is one moment towards the end where you use the mouse like a Microsoft Paint drawing tool to create a simple shape, and you wouldn’t believe how much the game makes this simple action feel like a massive deal.

There really isn’t a lot else to say about WEAVE. It is every bit as short, beautiful, sparing, and tightly executed as any of the very best short films I’ve ever seen.

Image sourced from here.

WEAVE was created by Nadav Tenenbaum and can be played in your browser here.