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The Whispered World
The Whispered World
Developer:Daedalic Entertainment
Publisher:Viva Media
Release Date:April 2010
Article Posted:August 2010
System Requirements

Sadwick sees the earth crumble into nothingness beneath his feet. He desperately leaps forward, trying to find safe ground. A perpetual darkness swallows the land. The only glimmer of light comes from an ominous orb. Hovering in the sky, the sphere is cold and menacing. Sadwick can feel it. This is the source of the destruction. This is the source of the chaos. As an entire kingdom is ripped apart, the orb descends upon Sadwick, calling his name.

Suddenly, the young boy wakes up from the nightmare. He is inside his trailer, safe in his bed. His brother Ben and his grandfather are outside. The family circus has set up camp at the edge of Autumn Forest. Yet Sadwick can't forget the dream. He remembers the desolation. He remembers the terrifying voice. The young clown is certain. His recurring nightmares must have a meaning. Sadwick walks outside, seeking help from his family. Sadly, Ben is less than interested in his brother's dreams. He'd rather berate Sadwick about meaningless chores. Their grandfather can't offer any advice either. Well past his prime, the old man can't even speak coherently. Sadwick will have to find answers on his own. Perhaps someone in the mysterious Autumn Forest will be able to offer some guidance. Grabbing his loyal pet Spot, Sadwick heads into the forest. It will take a long journey to find all the answers.

Developed by Daedalic Entertainment, The Whispered World tells the story of Sadwick's epic journey. Starting at his humble circus trailer, the young clown travels through many mystical locations before he fully understands the meaning of his visions. Set against a fantasy backdrop and featuring numerous beautifully-crafted locations, The Whispered World is a story about defying fate and seeking acceptance. Though it suffers from technical problems and several design issues, The Whispered World is still worth your consideration because of its whimsical puzzles and interesting locations.

The game is divided into four chapters. Sadwick initially explores several places around the Autumn Forest, trying to find someone who can explain the meaning of his visions. A chance encounter with one of the king's messengers gives the clown some direction. Sadwick eventually leaves the forest, on a quest to reach Corona, the kingdom's capitol. Each chapter represents a different leg of the young boy's journey. On his way to reach Corona, Sadwick travels through a lonely island and perilous caverns. The locations are depicted with highly detailed handdrawn backgrounds. Whether you are looking at the furniture in Sadwick's trailer, the equipment in an alchemist's lab, or the entire Autumn Forest from a treetop, it is clear that a great deal of attention has been paid to make each area polished and beautiful. The character animations and the videos you see during key points of the game are equally detailed. The end result is an evocative fantasy world that is a pleasure to explore. The visual presentation is the strongest aspect of the game.

However, despite the gorgeous cartoon-like backgrounds, The Whispered World is not necessarily a lighthearted adventure. The game features many humorous moments, but at its core, The Whispered World is not a joyful tale. There is a feeling of sorrow at each location. The Autumn Forest has vibrant colors, but it feels abandoned and empty. The island that serves as the setting for the second chapter is overcast and gloomy. Fearful of losing what they have, the island's denizens refuse to take action. They sit idly, letting the days pass by and hoping nothing will change. You get the feeling that you are traveling through a world that knows dark times are coming. Unfortunately, the only person who is trying to stand against the darkness is a glum little boy dressed in a clown outfit.

Sadwick makes for a rather unique protagonist. He lacks a supportive and nurturing family. Ben appears to enjoy making Sadwick feel small and insignificant. Constantly put down by his elder brother, Sadwick lacks self confidence. He never expects to be successful at anything. Instead, he approaches everything with a sullen or cynical attitude. During the early stages of the game, the young clown's constant whining can be a little overbearing. However, once you start exploring the forest you will likely get used to his complaints. There is something endearing about the way Sadwick approaches each situation with a touch of insecurity. He may not be exceptionally brave or sure of himself, but he never gives up hope either. Despite his perceived inadequacies, he always manages to get the job done. Beyond his incessant whining, he also carries a touch of wisdom that belies his young age.

Sadwick's faithful companion Spot makes the journey even more interesting. At the beginning of the game, Spot is an oddly shaped caterpillar. He follows Sadwick as the clown moves around the camp area. However, it won't be long before you discover ways to make the pet change his shape. At key points during the adventure, you can use Spot as an inventory item and make him permanently gain access to a new form. Once the form is unlocked, you can select it at any time using the icons at the top right corner of the screen. This metamorphosis ability proves remarkably useful throughout the adventure. There are numerous puzzles that have to be solved by using Spot's various shapes. For instance, early in the game, Spot gains the ability to burst into flames. You can use this flame mode to set other objects on fire. The developers have come up with very creative ways to use each of the forms, making Spot much more than a green blob that follows Sadwick around the screen. The idea of a shape-shifting pet is a unique feature that greatly improves the overall experience.

Besides abusing your pet, you will have to deal with a myriad of inventory-based challenges and several logic puzzles as you play through The Whispered World. The game does feature somewhat unconventional puzzles. Even when you have all of the required items, the solution to some of the inventory-driven challenges may not necessarily be intuitive. At times the game has a wacky sense of logic that proves quite challenging to deduce. During my first play through, there were at least a couple of times where I was stumped for significant amounts of time. I ultimately resorted to using every item in my inventory on each hot spot to make progress.

However, that does not mean you absolutely have to use a walkthrough to beat The Whispered World. If you listen to the dialogs and pay attention to the clues, the majority of the puzzles are doable. After getting past a few of the more whimsical challenges, you may even find yourself better appreciating the game's internal sense of logic. The game is also generally good at outlining your objectives. You may not know all the steps required to get there, but you'll usually have a very clear idea of what you are ultimately trying to achieve.

In addition to puzzle-solving and exploration, The Whispered World features a fair amount of interaction with other characters. The conversations may help you figure out what to do next or provide background information about the game's world. There are also a few occasions where the dialogues themselves contain puzzles. For the most part, the characters you meet are fitting for the game's fantasy setting. From the grumpy train operator to the two talking rocks you encounter in Autumn Forest, the cast is colorful and consistently entertaining. However, a few of the conversations drag on a little longer than they should. Some of the dialog options do not add anything of value to the game. They are neither humorous nor important to the story. For instance, during an early section of the game, you have the opportunity to suggest several ideas to Sadwick's elder brother Ben. Each idea ultimately gets rejected, making the entire conversation fairly pointless. Some of the dialogues could have certainly used more streamlining.

Since conversations are an important element of the game, it is worth noting that the voice-acting is adequate. None of the performances are particularly memorable, but the voices do fit the characters. For instance, when you first begin the game, Sadwick's high-pitched whining may seem a little annoying. However, if you take into account that Sadwick is supposed to be a little boy, the voice is actually quite appropriate.

The Whispered World uses a mouse-driven interface that should be familiar to most adventure gamers. A single click on the left mouse button moves Sadwick to the desired location on the screen. Each location has one or more hotspots. Holding the left mouse button while hovering over one of these hotspots brings up the action coin interface. The game provides three icons to interact with each hotspot. Clicking on the 'eye' icon provides a description of the object. Since Sadwick is the one making the observations, this means you will hear a certain amount of whining and complaining regardless of which item you examine. The 'mouth' icon is generally used to talk to other characters. There are also a few occasions where you have to use this icon for a special action such as blowing a horn. The 'hand' icon is used to pick up inventory items or use objects. The inventory is accessed with a right mouse click. Here you can select items and use them on other objects in the environment. It is also possible to combine inventory items. Finally, pressing the space bar reveals all the hotspots at a given location.

Unfortunately, despite the simple interface, the game does suffer from some technical issues. First of all, there are some stability problems. During my first time through The Whispered World, I took six unsolicited trips to the desktop as the game crashed. Luckily, The Whispered World does have a 'continue' option on the main menu. In case of a crash, this feature allows you to resume the game from where you left off. Nevertheless, frequently saving your progress would be a good idea as you play through the game.

A second technical issue is with the screen resolution. The Whispered World does not provide players the option to adjust the resolution settings. You have to use the default configuration when you launch the game. This works fine, unless you have a wide monitor or try to play the game on a laptop. On a wide screen, the display is unable to adjust properly. The image gets stretched to fill the size of the monitor. The characters and the background objects look slightly distorted. While this should not create significant problems on most monitors, it is certainly noticeable. It is a shame that a game that boasts such beautiful graphics was shipped with an issue that hurts the visual presentation.

Between the long conversations, offbeat puzzles, and relatively large number of locations to explore, each chapter of The Whispered World should easily take several hours to complete. Players should expect to spend about fifteen hours before reaching the ending. However, the game's conclusion leaves something to be desired. First of all, there is a very abrupt change in tone during the last few minutes of the game. The narrative style sharply changes as the ending sequence begins. A smoother transition and perhaps a more suspenseful build-up to the conclusion would have been appreciated. In addition, the ending utilizes a somewhat overused story-telling mechanism. Anyone familiar with a significant number of books, movies, or games will have encountered the basic concept of this conclusion at least once. Every story does not need a unique and original ending. But at least for me, a different resolution would have felt more appropriate for Sadwick's journey.

In the end, The Whispered World is an entertaining experience marred by several minor issues. Some of the conversations drag on for too long without adding much value to the game. There are a couple of technical issues, and the payoff at the end of your fifteen-hour journey is lacking. A few of the puzzles and Sadwick's continuing complaints may also get annoying. On the other hand, the gorgeous backgrounds and the interesting fantasy setting make Sadwick's world a delightful place to explore. Amusing characters and humorous moments create a nice contrast with the underlying sorrowful story. Sadwick makes for a compelling protagonist whereas Spot is a fascinating sidekick. There is a satisfying amount of content spread across the game's four chapters. If you appreciate fantasy-themed adventure games and if you are up for a challenge, The Whispered World is most certainly worth a look. It is lacking in certain aspects, but it still manages to deliver an enjoyable experience.


PC System Requirements:
Windows® 7/XP/Vista/2000
32 bit CPU: 2GHz
256MB graphic card compatible with DirectX® 9.0
3 GB HD space