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Final Thoughts 08
The Whispered World
Note: This is not a review, but merely my musings after having recently
completed a game as part of my Rogue's Adventures playthrough of my
backlog. Follow @RoguesAdventure to keep up with my playthroughs.
Also Note: This was originally written (and game was completed) in February-March 2013.
MASSIVE STORY SPOILERS! I urge you to play this wonderful game first before reading this spoiler filled recap.
Release Date: Aug, 28 2009 (Germany),
April 26, 2010 (USA)
"I want to
tell you a story..."
the foreboding tale of Sadwick the depressive clown, his only friend in the
world a morphing caterpillar named Spot, and a fantastical world on the brink
Entertainment has often been described as the LucasArts of Germany, but I found
The Whispered World to be much more inspired form the fantasy workings of many
of Sierra's best games. Taking place in the fantasy world of Silentia, Sadwick
is depressed about his lot in life as a traveling circus clown who gets
emotionally abused by his mean older brother and forgotten about by his elderly
grandfather. The game opens with a recurring nightmare that's been plaguing
Sadwick - the world crumbles around him as he races along, suddenly coming face
to face with a giant glowing orb that yells his name, urging him to wake up.
When exploring the nearby Autumn Forest where the caravan makes camp, Sadwick
happens upon a traveling messenger for the King, Bobby, who entrusts him with
the Whispering Stone, a sacred artifact that must be brought to the kingdom of
Corona to prevent its destruction and restore the king. We also learn about the
evil Asgil, a race of creatures that are determined to take over the world.
continues in an uneven pace of exploration and discovery until you meet the
Oracle of the forest, Shana. Shana prophesizes that Sadwick is destined to
destroy the world, a fate which he refuses to accept. He is charged with
bringing the stone to Corona, and has journey takes him to an industrial island
(which is really the back of a giant bird) to the fortress of the Asgil until
finally reaching the floating castle of Corona.
The game is
spread out over four distinct chapters, each containing their own areas and
overarching puzzles and lasting several hours. In Chapter One the first big
puzzle is to find the Oracle, then to get to the island in the lake, while
Chapter Three involves rescuing Spot and escaping the Asgil fortress. I found
it immensely helpful that Sadwick's inventory was completely wiped at the end
of each chapter so that previously used but reacquired items wouldn't clutter
up his inventory. Even then some items would return in plausible and sometimes
humorous ways; Grandpa's pantaloons in particular made a return in each and
every chapter, always playing an important role in solving a different puzzle,
and by Chapter Four I could feel the developers saying Wink Wink, Nudge Nudge,
there's the pants again!
autosaves automatically, but Sadwick can't die, and you can never get yourself
stuck (the latter being a huge plus in modern adventure games). On several
occasions I was completely baffled on what to do next and how to solve a
puzzle, until just when I was about to Shift-Tab to pull up a walkthrough I
started experimenting with items and objects and would invariable find a
solution. A few were just trial and error (sharpening a coin on a grindstone
produced an arrowhead), but more often than not would result in a wonderful
Eureka moment as I discovered complicated inventory combinations or an item I
had missed. Speaking of missing items, I discovered somewhere in the middle of
Chapter One (by reading a review of the game) that you could hold down the
space bar to highlight all the hotspots on the screen. This was so incredibly
useful I'm astonished it wasn't telegraphed in the game or Help or something,
and it directly improved my enjoyment and puzzle solving capabilities: No one
wants to be stuck because they missed a branch lying on the ground. With the
amazing background art in the game, it was easy to miss important objects that
could be manipulated.
As you can tell from The Whispered
World photo album on the Rogue's Adventure Facebook group page, I really dug the artwork in this game.
To the tune of over 200 pictures taken, the screenshots manage to capture the
beautifully constructed scenes but not the wonderfully fluid animations and
cartoonish cutscenes. It's simply the best looking 2D game I've played since
Aquaria, and the characters and locations totally immersed me in this original
fantasy world in a way I hadn't felt since playing the old King's Quest and
Quest for Glory games of the early and mid-90s. The music is evocative and
wonderful as well, with a particularly stirring piano piece as the title track.
After playing the wonderfully
interesting Resonance, I wasn't expecting another adventure game to hit me so
hard with its emotional story so soon, but Sadwick's tale did just that.
Throughout his odyssey Sadwick retains his low-self esteem but never say die
attitude, and the boy and his pet relationship with Spot provides an important
emotional anchor through all four Chapters. By the time Sadwick reaches Corona
and fixes the planetary device, a scale model of their universe that also
represents the universe itself, the blue orb has descended and the world as he
knows it begins to crumble away. In a last ditch effort, Sadwick destroys the
machine, defeating the orb but also freezing the world in time. No one will
age, no one will change, and the art takes on a darkened tone. The Asgil
invade, and their leader Loucaux seems the very personification of an
unwillingness to change or adapt, preferring the frozen in time world and
literally feeding off the stagnant tar that now leaks from the former fountain
of life. Only when Sadwick defeats Loucaux (who becomes a slithering tar
monster) with the help of a newly hatched butterfly-Spot, does the villain's
motives make sense.
What Sadwick discovers in the king's
spire is a very familiar looking room. It could easily pass for a young boy's
room with paintings, a bookshelf, a fish bowl, and a chess set. The room is
dominated by a large mirror and when Sadwick peers into it, he sees the
reflection of a young boy in a hospital gown. The boy pulls him through the
mirror into the world between mirrors (basically a dark hallway). The boy
explains that he's been sick, and shows him the reflection on his mirror.
Sadwick sees the young boy asleep in a hospital bed, with his father reading
over him. The father's voice is the same as the blue orb, and he's reading the
story of The Whispered World. The boy explains that he's been in this fantasy
world for a long time, but it's time to wake up and face reality. Everything in
the fantasy world was just that, a fantasy that the boy was living in, and to
wake up, he has to indeed destroy the world and everything he knows. The boy
presents him with the decision (and Sadwick still has a crowbar in his
inventory) though I later discovered if you try to return home, the boy just
chastises him and there is no real choice. In the end, Sadwick shatters the
mirror to reality and the boy awakens to an overjoyed father.
was nothing short of amazing. While the "it was all a dream," story twist is
nothing new, the fact that the boy had been in a coma, and that the father was
actually helping him by getting him to "destroy the world," was an amazingly
cool revelation. During the end credits we got to see the various characters
that had inhabited the boy's world and translated into his fantasy - such as
his beloved family dog being Spot, a funny little bearded garden gnome was the
spitting image of the astronomer in Corona, and Bobby the messenger was the
local paperboy. I found the whole ending to be an incredibly moving experience
and thought back on how cool that makes the beginning of the game, with the
seemingly generic narrator opening a book and beginning to tell the story.
an emotional and interesting story the game also managed to include a ton of
awesome puzzles. There was a great variety from combining various inventory
objects to solving chess puzzles, pipe mazes, and a few dialogue puzzles where
Sadwick got to flex his surprisingly clever wit. Spot's various forms that he
learned in the first three chapters came in handy as well, and I got in the
habit of when in doubt try using Spot. A
few puzzles were counter-intuitive and required some experimentation but as a
whole I found the challenge and difficulty to be just perfect, and although it
took me a while (15 hours over three weeks) I'm proud to say that I never
succumbed to looking at a walkthrough.
was intuitive and great, with holding the mouse over an object bringing up
options to Look, Grab, and Talk, and the only other interface was for changing
Spot's form. Sadwick is extremely talkative, which could be very off putting
with his unique voice work. For a verbose protagonist, Sadwick has an
incredibly whiny voice which totally fits his character but definitely takes
some getting used to. Every single review I read had the voice acting under a
negative, but I only had issues in a few spots. You could easily click the
mouse to skip a line, and with my fast reading I utilized that quite a bit.
Even then Sadwick's very descriptive anecdotes for each item or item
combination almost never repeated, leading to a lot of entertainment during the
experimenting times. One complaint I do have is that it was far too obvious to
tell that the same handful of voice actors had been used for all the
characters, one higher pitched voice in particular made me cringe and it was
used on at least three different characters.
to see such a low MetaCritic score for this wonderful game (70) as it seems the
voice acting and some of the trickier puzzles really brought down the
experience for many reviewers. Don't be fooled, The Whispered World is one of
the best adventure games I've ever played and I've played a lot of them! Your
mileage may vary, but the beautiful fantasy world, the wonderfully emotional
story, and the brain burning puzzles have solidified The Whispered World as one
of my all time favorite adventure games.
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