The Whispered World review
Point and click to the recycle bin
When you think of adventure games, what's the first thing to come to your mind? Zelda? Maniac Mansion? Shadowgate? Myst? Obviously, the best examples are in the point and click subgenre - with no disrespect towards Zelda, which opts for d-pads/analogue sticks for movement rather than pointing and clicking - and you'd be a bloody fool for not agreeing that the best adventure games are point and click ones. Most of them have well thought out puzzles and some pretty clever storylines and dialogue. They're surprisingly enjoyable, but I don't feel the need to spend hours typing up why that is. Unfortunately, there was a decline for a good few years due to the popularity of first person shooters, but with the rise of Flash and the DS, it got back on its feet. I would say good thing because we'd never experience this game, but then I'd be lying... I mean, I love some of the modern point and click adventure games like the Sam And Max and Tales Of Monkey Island games, and I'm grateful that this style is getting more popular, but that doesn't change the fact that The Whispered World is just really mediocre, bordering on absolute garbage at times...
So our main hero, Sadwick, has recurring nightmares of the apocalypse that he causes... I suppose thoughts of the world ending stem from the fact that he's a down and out circus clown that's one step away from pulling to trigger and ending it all. Coincidently, there's a prophecy stating that Sadwick will end the world. Come on, the lad is clearly depressed. Don't make him feel worse about himself! But I suppose whatever motivates him to actually save the world will do. Oh, and he has to save the king from an illness by finding the Whispered Stone, lest the realm be taken over by Asgil, the kingdom's opposing race... What gives the story its legs are the characters and the writing. The writing can be pretty witty, although sometimes annoying due to Sadwick's extremely pessimistic outlook on like (his dialogue can get tiresome after a while, let's just say), and also due to an imperfect German-to-English translation; what could be a gutbuster ends up being amusing, as the dialogue can feel stilted and often fairly awkward, but then there are some very well written moments to balance that out. Overall, the story - at least, if it was presented as a book - ends up very compelling, if a bit on the crappy side due to mistranslation.
Unfortunately, an excellently written story only gets you so far... this game is cursed with incredibly shitty voice acting. Everybody either tries way too hard to sound good (and miserably failing, in the end), or they just sound really bored and would like their paycheque in the mail by the next Thursday, regardless of effort. The voice acting is so shocking, that it actually nearly destroys the story due to the fact that it was so *bleep*ing irritating, listening to awful voice acting covering such brilliantly written dialogue, and outside of the puzzles, typically, you play these games for the story and dialogue, especially modern day point and click games. Had the mute button not existed, I wouldn't have been able to finish this game.
Surprisingly, the other side of the audio department - that being the soundtrack - is fantastic! The songs are absolutely beautiful, with classic folk harmonies and whatever you would expect in classical music. It's quite relaxing, not to mention it really pulls you into the game, but most importantly, it's relaxing, since it makes Sadwick's oftentimes frustrating amount of pessimism and the annoying, oftentimes ass backwards puzzles seem less infuriating. Plus, if it was to be put into your MP3 player, it'd make an otherwise hard day at the office or school seem flacid.
It goes well with the enchanting artwork... seriously, the scenery looks gorgeous! It looks like something that should be in the most prestige art museum or something, because there is a stunning amount of detail and quite the assortment of vibrant colors used to bring this world to life. The animations between each chapter (of which there are four) also look good, though the amount of detail drops down to that of a Saturday morning cartoon, and therein lies a problem - the animation is quite choppy. For some reason, it seems as if there are frames missing, and when the animation decides to be smooth, it's very simple and often looks unrealistic anyway, so... well, to compare it to anime is a gross overstatement, as it makes most anime look as fluid as Ed Edd And Eddy's animation by comparison... Gorgeous artwork, but really half assed animation is all I can saw for the graphics.
So let's get down to the gameplay - like any point and click adventure game, you move by pointing the cursor to where you want Sadwick to go, and then click to move him over there. You'll also have to pick up items as you see them. Even if they don't seem to have much use, just pick them up anyway... you never know when you'll have to be like MacGyver and use seemingly useless objects to make objects that will help you out of a jam.
Actually, I doubt MacGyver could get himself out of these jams. In fact, I doubt Stephen Hawking would be able to solve these puzzles. Why? Because these puzzles are ass backwards, that it's amazing that anybody was able to figure them out in the first place without having gone through many other methods and without looking up a walkthrough... in fact, you'll find yourself looking up a walkthrough on many occasions, as a lot of the puzzles are surprisingly hard to figure out. Where you think you can just use that ladder, you have to instead close a door to see a mouse hole in the wall behind it, lure the mouse out with a sock, grab the mouse, and then dangle it by its tail on top of the wall above the pantaloons, where the little rodent grabs with his teeth. Believe it or not, that's not the only time you have to read up on... err, I mean put together a rather convoluted solution when the obvious solution doesn't work... What the hell? Couldn't you guys throw me a bone here? I mean don't get me wrong, I don't want a game holding me by the hand, especially one that's puzzle centric, but for *bleep*s sake, when puzzles have such overly complicated solutions, it'd make sense to help us a little, right? Well, this game does occasionally throw a bone our way... sadly, these bones tend to be quite vague, not telling you anything in any specific detail; instead, it actually confuses you a little more! It also feels like they insult your intelligence, as when you solve a puzzle, you can see how it works in reverse, and there, it seems so simple, that an idiot could do it! Ugh!
What's really perplexing is Sadwick's pet caterpillar, Spot. It can shapeshift, starting off as a chomper, then into a heavy ball, and three other forms that you unlock as you progress. Logically, you'd make a game with puzzles that have a large emphasis on this caterpillar's special abilities... Unfortunately, only very few puzzles require the usage of Spot's abilities - no, instead, let's have generic puzzles with convoluted solutions! GENIUS!
I've had enough of this bullshit. The Whispered World is not absolutely terrible, but too many puzzles requiring dumb luck and generally not being accomplishing in any way, plus the irritating and nearly story destroying voice acting just hurt this game to the point of no return. I was looking forward to a fun and kooky game; in its place, I get a game that's irritating to play.
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