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Preview: While We Wait Here

29 Sep 2023

The trailer for While We Wait Here is one that immediately intrigues. Taking a gritty, low resolution aesthetic, marrying it to a dialogue-heavy adventure, and then placing said adventure in a run-down diner filled with inhabitants waiting for the impending apocalypse? It’s a high concept logline that feels like a guaranteed recipe for something unique.

As such, I leapt at the chance to preview While We Wait Here’s demo ahead of its wider release on September 29th for PC, which itself is ahead of the game’s greater 2024 release date. I was excited to get my hands on it and jot down my thoughts for the preview you’re reading right now, but just as I was priming myself for a big bite of gameplay, the demo abruptly ended and left me with nothing but questions—and not in the best way.

But let’s back up a bit. While We Wait Here’s demo plays out from the perspective of Cliff and Nora, two average joes running a smalltown diner and trying to wet the whistles and sate the appetites of their customers. The clientele of the demo includes a retired old timer, an aspiring actress, and a cantankerous drunkard all demanding separate orders while discussing the various happenings in their lives. Given the solid premise and this mix of personalities guaranteed to clash, I started off the demo highly interested in seeing how things would ultimately shake out.

Unfortunately, the sheen started to wear off with a quickness. Initially it was from the clunky, overacted delivery of the lines from each character that started to ebb away at my optimism. After a few minutes of listening to that, I started to realize the clunky dialogue wasn’t doing the English actors any favors with regard to listenability. When I finally got to gameplay, little was waiting for me outside of clicking on the glowing objects to pick them up and then taking them to other glowing objects to put them down.

It was a compounding effect from all of these elements, in other words, and it certainly didn’t help that the demo was done, dusted, and asking me to wishlist on Steam after all of twenty minutes.

I don’t mean to come off as overly negative toward the demo—there’s a clear effort being made here and even hints that point to a grander, potentially engaging mystery—but the content on offer here was so brief and so barebones that it left me in a state of bewilderment regarding what While We Wait Here will actually be as a full game.

It describes itself as a kitchen management game, which would certainly line up with Bad Vices’ previous release, Ravenous Devils, but from the scant little gameplay I was able to experience, there didn’t seem to be much management at all. I picked up ingredients, clicked on the correct spots to place them, and then delivered them to the customer. There was a wait time to cook the burgers, but there didn’t seem to be any risk of burning them, or really the room to make any mistake at all. Unless, of course, you count filling your pockets up with uncooked hamburger patties as a mistake (which I do not).

So is it a decision-heavy game, then? There were a few dialogue choices to be made, but the brevity of the demo made it essentially impossible to get a feel for how impactful any of the decisions might be in the long run. Moreover, if story is supposed to be a driving force, it gets the legs knocked out from under it by stilted dialogue and rough line delivery.

Which is a shame, because the bold art design is positively teeming with potential. The intentionally old school look, the dirtied and dingy execution of the diner itself, even the premise—all of these outstrip the rest of the demo handily. If the rest of the game can take the strides it needs to keep pace with these aspects, While We Wait Here could definitely shape up into something great.

Though I went into While We Wait Here’s demo with high hopes, I left it behind with a hearty dose of skepticism as to how the game will fare as a full release. It seemed to show off the bones of a kitchen management game, albeit a brutally simplified one, and its emphasis on the characters in its pre-apocalyptic setup was thoroughly undercut by the lacking voiceover work.

And yet this all has to be qualified with a rather large caveat that the demo was brief to the point of confusion; it was hard to get a good read of the title when it ended just as felt like it was getting started. While We Wait Here could very well end up being something enjoyable in its full form, but this demo in particular leaves a weak impression, allowing me little recourse other than to see how the game will ultimately pan out while I wait here.

Preview beta access provided by Bad Vices Games for PC. Screenshots taken by writer. Featured image courtesy of Bad Vices Games.