May 5, 2011
Players take up the role of Sadwick, a rather unenthusiastic clown, who is part of his family's travelling circus. Sadwick really hates the circus though and after having some terrible nightmares, he decides to venture out into the wild with his faithful friend, Spot, in search of something more interesting. Not long afterwards he runs into a Chaski named Bobby who is on a very important mission, a mission which Sadwick gets wrapped up in. He then learns his terrible fate, something which he wants to prevent at all costs.
The game takes place in a wonderfully crafted world, and Sadwick meets many wonderful characters during his journey. The story also has suitable development, with each of the four chapters allowing players to learn a bit more about Sadwick. The ending is also totally unexpected - a testament to the wonderful storytelling that's on show throughout the game.
Gameplay is as one would expect - although it's actually a lot simpler than the point and click games of old. Almost the whole game is controlled by the mouse; the left mouse-button controls movement and interaction, while the right mouse-button is used to access Sadwick's inventory. The only deviation from this is that holding down the space bar allows players to see all of the objects on the current screen that can be interacted with - certainly a nice touch, as quite often the items just seem like part of the perfectly crafted backgrounds.
Progression in this type of game is always important though - it shouldn't be too easy, but it also shouldn't be too hard. There has to be a nice balance and The Whispered World doesn't quite find that balance. A lot of the natural puzzles in the game often don't really make any sense, even after they've been done. At one point, Sadwick even comments that using a mouse to grab some pantaloons is really stretching the realms of plausibility. It means that instead of players using their brains to actually figure out how to progress, they're often left combining all of their items together to see what works and then doing the same with most of the on-screen elements. Spot is also quite integral to solving many puzzles throughout the game, so learning how to use his various forms is essential.
There are also some more generic puzzles, like an image slider, which are actually rather easy in comparison. It's a shame, because it makes the story feel like more of a chore. Having said that, actually managing to achieve progression does give a sense of gratification - not because a puzzle has been solved logically, but because a puzzle has actually been solved.
While the gameplay can be a bit disappointing, the same can't be said about the artistic design of the game. Everything is hand-drawn, and it gives the game a huge amount of charisma. Each of the characters has their own distinct personality, even before words start coming out of their mouth. Unfortunately the voice acting can't be given the same plaudits as it's quite a mixed bag. Sadwick's voice does sound a bit funky at the start, but it does manage to garner some appeal. Others, like Bando, can be a bit tedious to listen to.
One playthrough can really depend on how quickly puzzles are completed. A natural playthrough takes around seven to ten hours, but a second playthrough would be significantly lower. Having said that, there isn't really any reason to play through the game a second time. It's exactly the same story, and chances are, players heard most of the dialogue trees first time around when they were trying to figure everything out.
The Whispered World is a beautiful game - there's no doubt about it. It features a wonderful cast of characters and some lush scenery, all of which is hand-drawn. However, it struggles to really hit the sweet spot in terms of puzzle plausibility and progression will often be down to dumb luck instead of logic. It doesn't stop the game from being a gorgeous adventure, it just makes things a bit disjointed. There's also some suspect voice acting in there too, which is a bit disappointing.