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Review of The Whispered World by Antrax

Stars - 25

Rating by Antrax posted on Feb 3, 2013 | edit | delete

A jagged experience

The Whispered World is a potentially great adventure game. However, technical issues, interface problems, illogical puzzles and grating voice acting take it down several notches.

The most annoying issue is the frequent technical glitches. The game often crashes or gets stuck at startup. Some animations and item graphics are missing. There are some poorly-translated sentences. The game occasionally crashes in the middle. There are no subtitles to the movies. Some of these issues are solved if you set your operating system’s locale to “US”, but most aren’t.
The interface is simple, for most part, but it’s sometimes too simple. Whenever the game tries to do something clever, like changing the cursor to a hand to let you interact directly with the environment, it falls on its face, for instance by getting stuck with the hand cursor and not being able to do anything else until you right click somewhere neutral. This deselects the item you were carrying, which in one very late section becomes quite annoying, as the puzzle turns into “navigate this oversized item representation to the hotspot without accidentally having the cursor change”. Not fun.

More integral to the game are the puzzles, which wildly vary in range and style. You can’t get stuck and you can’t die, which is a good start, but you can’t get Sadwick to give you any useful input, either. Basically an icon is missing from the interface - in addition to “hand/eye/mouth”, there needs to be an icon of “just describe what this item is”. The game uses the eye icon to have Sadwick give his strange commentary, but this means that often you’re carrying an item without understanding what it is. Combined with the invisible items bug from before, this is a huge pain, forcing you to rely on a walkthrough or try out combinations at random. Most of the “difficult” puzzles in the game would’ve been much, much easier if you had any idea whatsoever what it is you’re looking at. Instead, Sadwick often says something stupid or even starts talking to someone about the item you’re just trying to get a description of.
In addition to those infuriating cases, the game takes a lot of liberties with Sadwick’s skills. At one point I recognized a popular culture reference and tried it out just to see what joke they hid - only to find out that it was the actual puzzle solution, even though Sadwick is supposedly clumsy, and the act portrayed requires superhuman dextrity. This happens often - sometimes Sadwick is so incompetent he can’t climb a waist-high fence, other times he’s suddenly quite adept, physically.
Finally, if you try something out too soon, Sadwick might refuse to do it, giving no hint that this will be useful later, and with no in-game reason why not do it right now.
The game is quite linear, needlessly. You’re presented with multiple goals, but it turns out that you need an item produced as a by-product of goal A to get to goal B.

The game is not without its charm. While Sadwick’s nasal voice and constant whining are extremely annoying at times, I agree they’re masterfully done and are an important part of portraying the character. Of course, it’s not much fun to play such an annoying character, but given that design choice, the voice is perfect. The graphics are excellent throughout the game, with the exception of the so-so cutscenes. The plot is paced nicely, though the ending is the classic “bleh, we can’t figure out how to end this” ending and a poorly conceived one at that - none of the plot threads come together in the end, instead there’s just some resolution of the main conflict and hurray, you’re done playing.

All in all the game could be good, but it’s not. Not a complete waste of time, but it shouldn’t be anyone’s first choice.

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Time Played: 10-20 hours

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