You Need to Play This Brilliant Co-Op Puzzle Game For Free — While You Still Can
Can your friendship stay afloat?
Multiplayer games have largely moved from local co-op to the internet, but few take advantage of that physical disconnect the way that couch co-op games like Overcooked benefit from letting you yell at your friends in person. We Were Here Expeditions: The Friendship makes the distance between you and your online partner count, and it’s just as easy to get into as any party game. And if you download it before October 13, it’s free on Xbox and PC.
Since 2017, the We Were Here series has delivered a unique vision of online co-op. In each of the five games in the series, you and a partner are separated in space, connected only by your walkie-talkies. Progressing through each game is an exercise in communication, as you can only solve their puzzles by sharing what you can see and guiding your partner through their part. And just like with real walkie-talkies, only one of you can talk at a time.
We Were Here Expeditions: The Friendship is the fifth game in the series, and while its core gameplay stays the same, it makes some crucial changes from the rest. The puzzle design in the series has always been inspired by escape rooms, and The Friendship adds another touchstone — amusement parks. The game takes place on a ride called The Friendship, complete with creepy animatronics and a narrator guiding you over crackly speakers.
Unlike the sprawling castles you navigate in other series entries, The Friendship’s riverboat ride is short and linear. Comprising just three puzzles with a total length of around two hours, The Friendship can easily be conquered in one sitting, as a friend and I did a few nights ago. Neither of us had played a We Were Here game before, but as soon as our ride on The Friendship ended, we both resolved to play the rest. (She also demanded that we replay The Friendship since we got the lowest possible score on every challenge, but I say a win is a win.)
Getting used to the mechanics of The Friendship can be a bumpy ride. It takes some time to acclimate to walkie-talkie etiquette and learn how to sync with your partner. In the first challenge, a relatively simple symbol-matching game, we got stuck because we each kept hogging the walkie. Holding down the button to give detailed messages prevents your partner from speaking, and since this puzzle relies on reacting quickly, we had to learn to cut the chatter and get to the point.
The next step is much more of a brain teaser. You’re essentially solving your own puzzle in this section using the same pieces. Sometimes, one player making progress means the other gets stalled, and you need to cooperate to make sure neither side fails.
The final puzzle has a leap of faith element, combined with some good old-fashioned platforming. After this final challenge, the game ends and you get your score. Each puzzle has bronze, silver, and gold medals, and each level corresponds to a new part that’s granted to your boat. Presumably, overachievers who get gold stars have a mighty ship in the end. We rode into the credits on what was essentially a plywood raft, which shattered to bits in a short final cutscene.
What makes The Friendship so remarkable is that it does so much with so little. In just a few hours, The Friendship molded us from a ragtag duo who couldn’t even figure out our walkie-talkies to a slightly less-ragtag crew who may not have aced the test but couldn’t wait to tackle another challenge.
According to developer Total Mayhem, this is just the beginning of a new series. Like We Were Here Expeditions: The Friendship, future Expeditions titles will be shorter, more experimental twists on the We Were Here series. With We Were Here Expeditions: The Friendship free for the next week, there’s really no reason not to pick it up. And if, like me, you find yourself wanting more, the entire series is on sale on Steam until then.