Graphics and music were amazing, really adding a sense of mood to the beautiful environment.
Horrible sound design in conversations.
Limited resolution options.
Lace of unique elements outside of the art style.
Special Edition of The Whispered World Review
Re-releasing products has been a popular past time of the digital entertainment industry, often branding their titles with familiar terms like ‘special, deluxe or collectors edition.’ This tactic can sometimes be used to bundle the main content with additional extras released subsequently, allowing some games to include recent downloadable content. Some companies feel it’s an opportunity to fine tune and improve certain aspects, however many decide to capitalize on the situation and do very little.
The Whispered World was a game released in 2010 by the relatively small German developers, Daedalic Entertainment. The title is a traditional point and click adventure game featuring heavy story and puzzle elements, whilst set in a fantasy world. Four years on, the company takes a bold step in releasing the special edition, reintroducing audiences to the 2D hand-drawn aesthetic.
The game takes place in the fantasy land of Silentia, where you meet the unconventional twelve-year-old hero Sadwick, an extremely unsatisfied clown, who has just awoken from a nightmare depicting a post apocalyptic world. Following the tutorial, you are greeted with Sadwick’s brother, Ben and his grandfather, who own the family’s traveling circus, as well as Spot, you’re squidgy green pet caterpillar. After achieving as little of your chores as possible you are allowed to venture into the neighboring Autumn Forest. Once there you cross paths with a Chaski called Bobby.
After an informative introduction you discover that the Chaski, a messenger of the king, is carrying a powerful artifact called ‘A Whispering Stone’ that needs to be delivered to Corana, the floating royal castle in order to save the world. Bobby continues on to the Asgil, an army of malicious and gruesome monsters that surround the castle, preparing its imminent demise and you soon discover the Chaski’s paranoid fear of being followed by such creatures.
You discover he is looking for an oracle by the name of Shana, in order to gain insight into quicker routes to the castle avoiding the Asgil but he has been unable to locate her. After receiving the precious artifact, you adventure deeper into the forest on behalf of the reluctant Chaski, where you discover a secret passage using the Whispering Stone as a key. When you return baring the news, there is no sign of Bobby apart from the aftermath of a struggle. This is where your quest begins.
The first crucial element witnessed upon starting the game is the graphics. The fantastic hand drawn animation greets the player, unveiling a truly beautiful world with its calm pastel colouring, as the wonderful orchestral soundtrack introduces mood and builds upon the impressive aesthetic, which lends itself to the work of Studio Ghibli. These two components allow players to gain a real insight into the work and effort that contributed to producing such a title.
In some places, the animation can look jumpy and posses a lack of flow leaving certain movements feeling uncomfortable and hard to view. Although this can break immersion in certain scenarios, the games beauty more then makes up for this, however, beyond the aesthetic the game becomes disappointing.
The title suffers from audio difficulties when conversation starts. Putting the mediocre voice acting to one side, the beginning and end of the sentences appear to be missing short gaps of silence that give the impression of characters taking breath. On some occasions the speech is rushed to such an extent that sentences are interrupted unnaturally leaving the distinct impression of hasty and careless sound development.
A major problem the game possesses is the limited resolution options including 1024×768, which is the highest setting in the game. This unfortunately meant having to make do with black boxes at the sides of the screen. This has no effect on the game play, however it is a major blow compared to similar games in the genre, as it would be nice to see the imagery in full.
In terms of game play, traditional is an adequate word to use. Although the title is competent, it offers the player nothing unique or new to the genre. The title may appeal to some due to aspects previously mentioned, but it establishes nothing more then Monkey Island did in 1990. Although a game doesn’t have to be dramatically different to be successful, a game should at least contain some factor that differentiates itself from a product that is over two decades old and merely depending on other factors for success.
Something that made the Monkey Island franchise great was the humor, something that was lost on The Whispered World. The game attempts at comedy, dabbling in many varieties however none appealed to me. Occasionally the odd small smile peaked through my frown but unfortunately the jokes were either lost or preceded to fly over my head and out the window. Despite my complaints, I understand that humor is one of many factors that can only be judged subjectively.
It is reasonable to say the game is challenging, often offering the player no hints apart from an option to show the locations of interactive objects. The majority of puzzle elements involve discovering items and combining them to form something of use. There are an abundant number of tasks and the lifespan of the game is dependant on how able you are to solve these.
The game mechanics are simple but competent, allowing objects to be crafted and used by clicking and dragging. Although Spot, your caterpillar companion, has an ability to change and be manipulated as you see fit, the process still involves a point and click menu in the top right hand corner. This does add additional difficulty to the game as Spot is often overlooked due to this constant attendance through the game.
As it stands, the game has changed very little since its 2010 release date so what does the special edition offer exactly? Firstly, the game is running on the latest version of the Visionaire engine offering many technical behind the scenes changes. Another would be the overhauled tutorial system, replacing the previous version with walls of text instead, which is daunting to say the least. New achievements have been included offering an incentive to the title’s fan base to play through the story once more and finally it adds voice comments to many scenes, featuring Jan ‘Poki’ Mueller-Michaelis and Marco Huellen, the game’s authors.
I am not a fan of this game or even the developer but this package strikes me as a let down. To wait four years to receive nothing more then a few achievements and voice comments wouldn’t have me marking the calendar for the release date. My impression is the developers are exploiting this buzzword trend in order to charge full price for a game four years old; however something I do appreciate is that the developers gave players, who already own the game the new copy free.
An important statement I can take away from this game is that graphics aren’t important when everything else suffers. The game does an amazing job with its music and artwork but when core parts of the game are undervalued, like speech it refers to the location of the developer’s priorities. The fact they had an extra four years to fix these problems turns these priorities on there head and rudely finger points to greed and laziness. In 2014 gaming audiences expect more then black spaces on their screen due to the limited resolution options and to have the audacity to charge over fifteen pound for a title that has such immersion breaking content, it strikes me as a terrible purchase.
Special Edition of The Whispered World Review