What is it?
it that tops the polls when we adventure gamers are asked what makes us
play games in our favoured genre? It is plot, narrative, and story line
every time. What do we complain about most? Repetitive sequels, copies,
and knock-offs. So it is with pleasure that I write about a game that is
most clearly none of these.
Whispered World is a
highly original story about a depressed clown, his pet caterpillar, and
the end of the world. The game was developed by Daedalic Entertainment,
and published by Viva Media – neither of which has a particularly high
profile in adventure games, though they have had an association with Deck
13 Interactive (Ankh, Jack Keane, Venetica) in the
Is there a plot?
is a clown; a depressed clown, with a large caterpillar for a pet. Sadwick
lives and works in a small travelling circus with his brother, Ben, and
their Grandpa. Sadwick is depressed because his brother treats him as if
he is completely worthless, and because he suffers from the same nightmare
every night, in which he is responsible for the end of the world. Of
course, Sadwick doesn't want to be the cause of the end of the world, and
so he resolves to do all that he can to avoid this fate. This leads to
Sadwick's exploration of the Autumn Forest, and his journey to Corona –
the home of the King.
How do you play?
Whispered World is, at
least in terms of mechanics, a conventional point-n-click adventure game.
There are multiple hotspots in most of the scenes, which show a label when
you move the mouse over them, and which will all show up if you press and
hold the space bar. Exits are shown by the mouse pointer turning into a
large red arrow. For the most part, Sadwick only walks, but
double-clicking on an exit will usually make him jump to the exit without
walking across the whole scene. There were times when Sadwick's pace was
frustrating: those moments when you realise what you need is several
screens away. But this is one of those games where you just have to relax
a little, and go with the slightly slower pace.
The Whispered World has some controls that are on the keyboard (the
hotspot indicator, the quick save key and so on) all that you actually
need to play the game is the mouse. However, in order to make this
work, the mouse has to be able to indicate three different types of
actions on any given hotspot; look at the hotspot, interact with the
hotspot, and talk to or about the hotspot. These actions are accessed by
left clicking and holding the mouse button down for a bit longer than
usual – this gives you a pop-up menu of the three action icons. I have to
say that this was not an immediately obvious way of achieving this.
inventory of possessions is accessed with a right-click, which was also
not immediately obvious, but easier to find than the actions menu. In the
inventory, you can combine items quite logically – trying every item with
every other item rarely achieves much because the combinations are few and
quite far between. Sadwick will talk about all the items, and all the
hotspots, which helps to provide a rich texture of interaction with the
puzzles within The Whispered World are varied. Some are inventory
based, some are dialogue based, and some are logic puzzles that require a
number of pieces of information from around the environment. One solution
even depends upon the direction in which you pass through a particular
door. There is a sliding tiles puzzle, which I found nicely challenging,
but not too difficult. There are no puzzles that rely upon subtle colour
distinctions, nor are there any mazes or sound-based puzzles. There are
one or two small puzzles where timing is relevant, but none where it is
artwork in The Whispered World is hand-drawn and shaded, but very
beautifully done. The environments are varied and atmospheric, and about
10 scenes scroll horizontally or vertically, leading to a nice parallax
effect of foreground and background objects moving relative to one another
as the scene scrolls with Sadwick's movement. Actually, that effect is put
to use in one of the later puzzles too. Sadwick's story takes us from the
arboreal Autumn Forest, to a village encrusted precipitously about the
summit of a rocky island, to a hermit's hovel, and a complex of
subterranean cliff dwellings (if that's not too much of a contradiction in
terms), then to the oddest railway station I've ever encountered, and
finally to a floating castle in the sky that includes an orrery of
substantial size, and thence to the end of the world.
quite a substantial amount of dialogue in The Whispered World, much
of it spoken by Sadwick; but there's plenty for Ben, Grandpa and the rest
of the cast of 22 voiced characters to say. At the beginning of the story,
when I first heard Sadwick (played by Robert Lyons), I thought I would
grow to really dislike the voice. However the story is so sympathetic to
Sadwick that I didn't find this at all. In fact all the voice performers
give good performances – they are varied, clear and entertaining, and none
of them can be accused of 'just phoning it in'. The bad guys are... not
exactly all that bad – more theatrical – but some of the odd characters
you'll meet along the way seem more than terrified of some cute little
orange birds. This is a peculiar game; a comment that I think you'll find
bears no contradiction.
don't appear to be many sound effects in the game other than speech, music
and Spot's varied noises. This is not a problem, as there is always
appropriate music in the background. The music itself is orchestral in
style, and it is all of good, if not outstanding, quality. The overall
package is well presented, and pretty much bug-free in my experience of
the retail version.
Any other novelties?
I have to
say that the most novel feature of The Whispered World is the
mighty, morphing Spot. From early in the game, Spot can take two forms,
and he gains several more forms as the plot develops. His varied forms
give him different capabilities and physical properties, all of which are
used in solutions to puzzles throughout the game. You can access Spot's
varied forms as they become available via a fold-down menu (like a page in
a book) in the top-right-hand corner of the screen.
end, it is hard to fault the originality of the story of The Whispered
World, or the excellent hand painted graphics, and the exemplary voice
acting of this game. There are just a few moments in which a little
clumsiness crept in: the action pop-up menu, for example. In fact, it is
really only the clichéd resolution of the story that left me feeling a
little let down, and thus the less than perfect grade.
What do you need to play it?
MS Windows XP (min.
SP2) or MS Windows Vista
2 GHz CPU
1 GB RAM
256 MB RAM GPU
DirectX® Version 9.0c
(I used a
home built 64-bit Vista Home Premium SP1 PC running on an AMD Athlon 64 X2
Dual 5200+, with 6 GB RAM, and a Sapphire Radeon HD4670 512MB video card
with mother-board sound card)
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