What A Wonderful World
E-Rated Adventure Will Enthrall Kids And Adults
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From the moment you launch The Whispered World on your PC, you'll be enthralled with the sheer beauty of this hand-drawn, atmospheric adventure game. In fact, only when it tries to do too much with dialog does it tend to get a bit ahead of itself.
In a lot of ways The Whispered World is like a traditional point and click adventure game of yesteryear. You know the kinds we used to play from LucasArts like Full Throttle or Sierra's King's Quest series. And then again, in a lot of ways, it's like something completely different. All the elements of the standard adventure game are there, but The Whispered World seems to have a bit more heart.
The main character is Sadwick the clown, and boy is he appropriately named. He lives in a traveling carnival with his family, but they don't seem to like him very much. His grandpa can't remember his name, and his brother mistreats him. Actually the story begins before that, with an unknown man telling the story of Sadwick. The narrator seems a bit worn out, and warns us that this won't be a story with a happy ending. It's pretty neat how everything will eventually tie together, giving this game one of the coolest and most surprising finishes we've seen in a long time.
Anyway, back to Sadwick. Very soon after the story begins, Sadwick will have his fortune told as a sort of dream. He is told that not only will the world soon end, but that poor Sadwick will be the cause of it all. Even depressed as he is, he doesn't want the world to end, much less be the cause of it. So he sets off on a grand adventure, trying to find his destiny, or perhaps, to defy it.
Thus begins your journey though this beautiful world, where things are as dangerous as they are lovely. Sadwick gets into a lot of trouble, but nothing that would make the game diverge from its E for Everyone rating.
Thankfully, Sadwick is not totally alone in the world. To keep him company, he has a pet caterpillar named Spot. The caterpillar is special because it can transform into many different things, sometimes saving the main character at the last moment. Spot can also get into places where Sadwick can't, so it's good that he's along. Spot doesn't talk, but can squeak and make gestures to show if he's happy or sad. He really comes along as a main character.
The control scheme for the game is extremely simple. You just click the mouse button on an object you wish to look, use or talk with and select the proper action. Right clicking opens your inventory, which is a giant bag Sadwick carries with him at all times. In fact, in the tradition of adventure games of old, you need to take everything that isn't nailed down. Every little object you can grab will be used to help solve a puzzle later on in the game, even if doing so defies logic a bit in this fantasy world. Thankfully, you can hold down the spacebar to see all the possible "hot" areas in any given scene, so you don't have to play hunt the pixel if you don't want.
There are two puzzle types to overcome in the game. The first is basically a dialog tree, where you have to move though a conversation and say the correct things. And then there are the actual puzzles, which are extremely varied in scope, though there is a lot of inventory-type ones represented here. In fact, The Whispering World could actually be categorized as a puzzle game. I was about to call it a Myst or Riven for kids, but that's not quite a perfect description. The puzzles are better in those games, but the story is miles above them here.
Anyway, a lot of the puzzles in this game make sense, but several don't follow any logic whatsoever. In a way, this follows some of the strange puzzle solving things you had to do in the old school adventure games. But using a live mouse (after capturing it in a sock) to bite a pair of pants on a high wall so you can grab it, instead of simply using a ladder, is a recipe for Googling a walk-through.
The other area where the game falls a bit short is the dialog. Granted this was ported from Germany, but the voice acting really is hit or miss. And there is a lot of dialog in the game. Too much if you ask me. The world is so beautiful that you almost don't want to be pulled away all the time by long conversations, especially if they don't really advance the story. And the main character is a little bit whiny too, though not especially grating.
It's been a long time since we've had a really good point and click adventure, and The Whispered Word fits the bill nicely. The graphics and the magical world the game creates are so fascinating that you really can lose yourself in it, which is the reason why we play these types of titles. And I have to say, The Whispered Word has a lot of heart. You really will feel for the main character.
I've already mentioned that the ending to the game was one of the best we've ever experienced, but what is really great about it is that once you know what's really going on, the entire game seems even cleverer. You will go back and remember moments and hints within the game, and it will only enhance your overall experience. Far too many games lose it in the last few seconds because developers don't know how to end their stories. Here, it only makes it better.
And because The Whispered Word is rated E, it can be enjoyed by anyone. Children will probably experience the beautiful game on one level, sort of like playing an animated film. Parents and adults will enjoy it on quite another. And both groups will walk away happy after a very long journey within The Whispered World.
Dominic reviews odd games for GiN that don't exactly fit into main categories. He loves the odds and ends of the industry, and sometimes finds a real gem.