The Whispered World
If I were to compare my experience with The Whispered World, it would be to a date with a beautiful dame. A dame with lush lips, aerodynamically wonderful hair, and…eyes that speak of limitless possibilities. Sure, she has a weird voice and tends to speak at length about nonsensical things, but it’s something I can get past. After some time we finally go out to dinner. It was only after the waiter brought the breadsticks that I’m already going nuts listening to this dame talk. The voice and breathless jibber jabber did require more patience than anticipated. Thankfully as she’s lost in herself she doesn’t notice me banging my head on the edge of the table and order more wine for myself. And much like dealing with a game like The Whispered World, I wondered whether or not I was truly willing to see things through.
In Daedalic’s point-and-click adventure, you play as young Sadwick, an awfully emo, self-hating circus clown who suffers recurring nightmares of the apocalypse. The story begins in the world of Silentia, with our hero trying to make sense of these nightmares. One day, while running errands for his family circus, he speaks with an oracle who confirms that these are actual visions of the very near future, with Sadwick being the direct cause of the world’s end. Refusing to add another reason to hate himself, our untried hero, accompanied by his shape-changing pet caterpillar Spot, sets out in hopes of finding a way to defy the prophesy, a journey that will take him to all corners of Silentia.
Regardless of Sadwick’s personal perception of his world, the realm is truly a place that many will quickly find themselves falling in love with. The sights are breathtaking and Daedalic are well deserving of praise for their choices in coloring, detail and design, resulting in visuals where, despite being childish in roots, are mature enough to hold the attention of all onlookers. The majestic art, coupled with the game’s setting in a fantastic world of sorcery and technology reminds us of old school Final Fantasy and Secret of Mana. To top it off, the soundtrack is just as astonishing with classical folk harmonies that continue to enchant the player with a sense of relaxation as their eyes wander amongst the game’s art.
In most cases, an impressive soundtrack and visuals indicate that a game will be capable of meeting all expectations. Sadly, with only two variables well thought through, The Whispered World has become a gimmick. By far, I’ve never encountered a game with such poor voice acting that constantly conflicts and almost kills the game’s atmosphere. Within the first five minutes, I had already adapted to the habit of quickly reading through the subtitles and clicking the mouse to skip having to hear the characters’ voices. Sadwick’s especially. It’s bad enough that his voice actor chose a nasally, lispy personification, but then having to read his lines very slowly seemed to reveal a hidden agenda to torment if not to entertain. With that said, I admit that over the course of my play I did try finding a way to “accidentally” kill Sadwick, but unfortunately there is no way to die in this game.
It also doesn’t help that the script is awful. The writers apparently wanted to try to make every chat witty and comical, but it’s apparent that they were just trying too hard with redundant dry humored quips. This is more evident in the fact that every conversation is stuffed with excessive dialogue on random subjects, which more often than not defeats most of the character interactions carrying any sort of purpose other than to imply that the writers shared a common trait of having worked on a rejected ’90s sitcom. No doubt, horrible voice acting plus awful lengthy dialogue equates to having a bottle of painkillers on standby.
Truly testing your patience and sanity is the actual gameplay. Though a number of the puzzles are enjoyable and involving to solve the vast majority come with far fetched solutions that are beyond reason even for cartoon logic. Having awareness and skills in sleuthing usually has no place in tackling the puzzles of Silentia compared to plain dumb luck, therefore no sense of accomplishment can be invoked from overcoming these obstacles. Along with the majority of the puzzles having vague or zero clues, you can expect to spend hours clicking through your inventory and surroundings all the while having Sadwick observe everything…and think out loud. For some reason I again found myself trying to “accidentally” kill Sadwick.
Much like how the evening ended with the beautiful dame, I found the conclusion of The Whispered World to be somewhat pleasantly unexpected but nothing I haven’t already experienced. The impression left behind was very much like the one that has settled in the mind during the drive home the morning after; I felt generally accomplished, yet the weight of disappointment in my gut could not be ignored. I wondered to myself how someone so beautiful could cause so much excruciating boredom at the cost of my ears and interests. Alas, I don’t see myself giving a call back as not only are there other fish in the sea but one factor remains true above all else: I’ve had better.