by Caitlin Roberts
reviewed on PC
Pessimism and Despair wins the Day
From exquisitely detailed hand-drawn backgrounds that evoke nostalgic memories of your favorite illustrated childhood fairy tales, to the anti-hero personality of our main character and his unrelenting desire to find the negative in every situation, The Whispered World is an entirely unique experience.
Forget "parental discretion advised". Not necessary. You might however, wish to consider signing up for a little post-game therapy with your shrink. You're going to need it. This adventure / puzzler game is a masterful example of how to generate extreme emotions in the adventure gamer. The Whispered World will take you on a surreal journey unlike any other and leave you tearing your hair out. You will sway back and forth between judging this as game you’d love to hate, or one which you…hate to love…
Your main character is Sadwick, and he is not your classic hero. He's not even your average hero. In fact he's more of an anti-hero, a sorry excuse for a clown, whiny and wimpy and his greatest ‘asset’ is a stunningly pessimistic outlook on the world in general, and more specifically, everything and everyone in it. The story opens with Sadwick in the grip of a terrible dream in which a large, moon-like blue ball prophesies that in a few days time, he will destroy the world. Considering his opinion of said world, it's somewhat surprising that he decides he cannot let this happen. After experiencing the disdain of his brother Ben who likes to order Sadwick around, and the absent-minded semi-dementia of their grandfather, it's almost a relief when Sadwick and his sidekick Spot do strike off to save the world from complete destruction.
Along the way there will be various characters that come and go from the story, showing up just long enough to help or hinder you. They serve to move the story on to the next scene or chapter but for much of the time it's just you and Spot. Fortunately for you, Spot turns out to be quite useful, and mostly silent – something you'll learn to appreciate as you spend more time with Sadwick. Seriously. There were times when I truly wanted to reach through my screen and throttle the guy, both for his annoying voice and depressing look on life as a whole. At one point I even tried playing for about five minutes without the sound on. That detracted from the experience so much that I turned it back on, full blast. Sadwick's personality is so stylized it is impossible to separate him from his character traits and still make the game work. So take my advice, grit your teeth and bear it – eventually you really don't notice the nasal whine... as much. But back to the topic at hand. The use of Spot is really very clever. Technically he is a caterpillar, but you'll find you can use him as a weight, as a firestarter, a flashlight, a timing belt and even bunch of marbles. He is truly the best friend a boy could have; until you lose him, that is. But I'll leave that for you to discover...
The first few tries at interacting with things will take some getting used to. Eventually you will decide that the interface is actually better than average for a point-and-click game. But do yourself a favor and take a quick glance at the manual to get an idea of what to expect; it will make things much easier in the long run. The glow of the cursor shows you clearly enough when something can be interacted with. If that isn't enough, the yellow text beside the cursor will give it away every time. The game uses a 3-pronged context sensitive menu that allows you to observe, talk to (or eat), or physically interact with each interactive item you encounter. This mostly works very well, unless you forget to let go of the mouse button before starting to choose your next action. This can result in the wrong choice being made. Not perhaps the end of the world but on the other hand if it is one of those times when Sadwick's voice is really grating on your nerves... well, shaking the screen won't help you either. Believe me, I've tried.
The inventory is easy to find and use; combining items in your inventory and removing items for use on another item also uses logical and intuitive controls. For those that like to rush and don't mind a little 'cheating', those that are stuck or those that truly want to be thorough, there is a handy little option to hold the spacebar down and find all of the interactive areas on the screen. At times, pushing the spacebar shows new interactive areas that have popped up in response to other actions you've taken. Handy when you're stuck. One sticking point I found was that my inventory did not accompany me from chapter to chapter, especially since one item is required again and again. That being said, it gave developer Daedelic an opportunity to showcase their creativity. In fact, I began to look forward to losing this item that is so irreplaceable throughout the story, just so I could find out how they would get it back into my possession this time.
Great, fantasy-like setting and good controls will keep you peaked.
The nasal whine of the main protagonist will prove dangerous to your pc.