Wandering Willows, the newest release from PlayFirst, is a delightful and unique adventure that sends you on a journey to whimsical lands of magical creatures and zany new friends. You and your trusty new pet will do everything from digging holes to dealing with Alien aircraft while charming your way into the hearts of everyone finally finding your way home.

Wandering Willows is a simulation-style game (think the MySims series) that focuses on friendship and doing things for others while helping yourself. After a bird tears a hole in your hot air balloon you find yourself stranded on a beautiful island inhabited by people who are so happy there they never want to leave.  You do want to go home, though, and to do so you are going to need help and good friends to get you there. 

An adorable pet adopts you and never leaves your side, becoming instrumental in your completion of the game. Everyone wants to barter with you, so you set off to explore the island and complete 162 quests, from finding items to making complex gadgets to repair your balloon.

You’ll begin by customizing your avatar, where you can customize everything from gender to skin tone.  You find yourself in "Grassland town" where you meet ten of the island’s hilarious inhabitants, each of whom has unique personalities, likes and dislikes. For example, there’s Art Gunderson, the elderly farmer that loves raisins and wearing ball gowns; and Debbie Katz, prim and proper librarian type that adores flowers and trendy clothing and several others.

You will have conversations throughout the game to find out what people need, and can click to read the dialogue and refer to the top of the screen for the "to do" list to keep track of your quests. Once you learn your quest, (which can consist of things such as making food, clothing, flower arrangement or gadgets) you and your pet will travel on foot looking for items and bring them back once found. You may need to find patterns to make someone a costume, or you may have to bake someone’s favorite bread.

Each time you satisfy someone you become more popular with that person. You start out as an "acquaintance" and work your way up to "Best Friend."  While searching for items you will dig up things such as onions and oil, climb trees for fruits and nuts, and charm other animals for items ranging from wool to diamonds. You will also have to grow some items in the garden and purchase others from the store.  

The town’s currency is known as "Willobees" and can be earned by selling items at one of three stores: the Sewing store, Flower store and Cooking store. These items can be picked up by you, but must be obtained for you by your pet by either digging, climbing, or charming another animal into giving it up.

You have an inventory list and a notebook that keeps track of all recipes, patterns and floral arrangements. There are more than 40 animals and each has different strengths and weaknesses you can use to your advantage, such as the "Torzil," a strong climber and weak charmer, or the "Gruffie" a strong charmer and weak digger.

Animals can be charmed into giving up eggs which can be placed to incubate and if needed, you can trade your pet to meet your goals faster. Collars can be made to increase each pet’s abilities.  

Once you have completed the majority of quests in "Grassland town" you will be introduced to "Tropics Town" where you will meet six more adorable characters and continue to search for recipes, patterns and other items.

To win the game you must complete 162 quests, including the nine necessary tasks to fix the balloon and return home (such as patch basket hole, reattach balloon, acquire CB radio). After the game has ended, a screen appears giving you the option to quit or to continue playing in order to earn the twelve available medals in the games trophy area.  A few of the medals consist of meeting goals outside of patching the balloon such as earning 100,000 "Willobees" will win you the "Entrepreneur" award and obtaining "Best friend" status with every island resident will win you the "Social Butterfly" medal. Once completed, these medals can be submitted to Playfirst.com along with your high score.

Some people may find all the repetitive clicking and long term searching frustrating, but ultimately that is what makes the game challenging and rewarding by finding all of the well-hidden objects. One of the most challenging aspects of the game is collecting all of the pet eggs, which must be charmed from other animals. It can take over ten tries before an animal will give an egg.

Unique game play, beautiful artwork, and a funny storyline with colorful characters will prove Wandering Willows a winner among adventure and sim game fans young and old. This game offers a challenge without the pressure of time constraints, and since it will likely take you at least 20 hours to complete all the quests, it’s a great value for the price.