The Whispered World

Posted by Mervyn Graham.
First posted on 01 May 2013. Last updated on 01 May 2013.
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The Whispered World
Sadwick and Spot discover a ruin deep in the forest.
The Whispered World
Sadwick overlooks the majestic forest from a treetop.
The Whispered World
The armory looks menacing and barbaric.
The Whispered World
Sadwick discovers an old train at a museum.
The Whispered World
Sadwick meets the royal astronomer.

The game is available at GamersGate.

Development of The Whispering World could be told as a story of perseverance, determination, and insight of a singular game designer with an admirable dream. In 2004, art student Marco Hüllen chose "The Whispered World" as the topic of his diploma thesis. After graduating in 2005, Hüllen continued development of his project as a game with support from the short-lived publisher Bad Brain Entertainment. Unfortunately, Bad Brain Entertainment went bankrupt and folded only some 6 months later, leaving Hüllen's project largely in limbo. In 2007, Hüllen was able to resurrect his project via a new partnership with Daedalic Entertainment. This time, he was able to complete development of the game, which was finally released in German in 2009. Daedalic Entertainment also began English localization of the game, which was released in English in 2010.

The Whispering World is a game that attracts the attention of adventure gamers of all ages. It tells an original endearing apocalyptic fairytale in the style of the Brothers Grimm or Hans Christian Andersen. Younger gamers will endear Sadwick, a young circus clown, and Spot, his sidekick caterpillar—the game's central characters—on their adventures. Older gamers will appreciate a sense of nostalgia that the fairytale story brings. Yet, it is not until the final cut scene of the game—which will take you completely by surprise—when you finally understand what a whispered world is and why the game's title is most appropriate and befitting.

The game begins on the fringe of the picturesque arboreal Autumn Forest. Sadwick awakens from his circus caravan and is immediately reminded of a list of daily chores that he has to do. Together with his brother and grandpa, they form a travelling circus show. Sadwick, who is around 12 years old, is melancholic and feels depressed from always being put down by his older brother. He is also dissatisfied with his current mundane life. Adding to his woes are the recurring nightmares that he suffers from, where he foresees the end of the world. Unable to get any advice from his brother who simply laughs off his worries, Sadwick seeks help from his grandpa. His grandpa tells Sadwick of an Oracle living deep in the Autumn Forest who may be able to explain the significance of these nightmares. Dreaming of living a more exciting life, Sadwick leaves the circus with his only friend Spot and sets to explore the world and to find the Oracle.

The game's absorbing and immersive plot is amongst the best I have ever seen in an adventure game. Brilliantly written, the story delivers much pathos and empathy through Sadwick (the protagonist of the game). These feelings filter through so you feel for Sadwick and share his misfortunes throughout the game. The story is deep, with a subplot that runs parallel with the main plot—though this connection is only revealed at the end of the game.

The dialog for the game is well written. Conversation is initiated by left clicking on a character and selecting the speech icon. An extensive dropdown list of questions then appears from which you can select to continue the conversation. Often, the answers to these questions give you clues to solving some of the game's puzzles as well as leading you on what to do next. Indeed, this game has the longest and most informative dialog system I have come across in any adventure game that I have played.

The Whispering World is a third-person point-and-click adventure game. It features a varied cast of characters, ranging from cartoon like humans to talking rocks and frogs to numerous alien forms. There are over 20 characters with which you can interact. Sadwick is illustrated in a cartoon like humanoid form. He has a sarcastic sense of humor and is fond of one-liners and puns. Spot is a pet caterpillar who can morph between 5 different forms. Throughout the game, you need to use these different forms of Spot to help Sadwick out of trouble and to solve many of the puzzles.

The game installs easily without any glitches. It comes with a superb and informative 52 page manual. The system settings are straightforward. When you start the game, you are presented with 3 options: New Game, Options, and Quit Game. In the Options menu, you can select to enable or disable Subtitles and Voices as well as to change the volume for the Voices, Music, and Sound Effects. The game supports a native resolution of 1024x768 pixels.

Navigation is quintessentially simple. You control only a single cursor. Clicking and holding down the left mouse button on a character, object, or hotspot trigger the cursor to reveal 3 action icons from which you can select: look, grab, and speak. Clicking the right button anywhere on the screen brings up the inventory. A stringed leather pouch opens up and reveals all the items you have collected. You can use items individually or combine multiple items to make new items. Saves are done automatically whenever you exit the game. The game does not allow for manual saves. You cannot die in this game.

The ambient background music always aptly reflects the mood of the moment in the game. Though not fully orchestral, the score includes a pleasant repertoire of piano, bassoon, flute, and other instrumental music. The sound effects are all very realistic, such as howling winds, birds twittering, shattering earthquakes, squeaking machinery, and doors unlatching. The voiceovers for the characters are well done. In particular, Sadwick's voice is appropriately childlike that befits the character's young age.

Hüllen's talents as an artist is illustrated by the many magnificently hand drawn and hand painted background artwork in the game. Every scene is met with awe and praise, ranging from atmospheric outdoor sceneries to detailed indoor environments.

Most of the puzzles in the game are logical, though they need a bit of imagination to solve. A few puzzles, however, defy any reasonable logic. For example, in a particular puzzle, you are tasked to retrieve some pantaloons by using a mouse that you capture earlier. Even Sadwick himself acknowledges the ridiculousness of this puzzle's solution in the game by saying, "That was an absurd method." Other puzzles include making mildew soup, arranging gears, making a bomb, and even solving a chess puzzle. Most puzzles are relatively easy. There are no sound or maze puzzles. There are some 133 inventory items in the game: most are relatively easy to find, but some are well hidden.

In sum, The Whispered World is a game that must not be missed. It is a game suitable for both younger and older adventure game fans. Despite being a fairytale story, the game delivers a very powerful and emotional ending that imparts an important moral message. Games such as The Whispered World are a rarity for the adventure genre. As such, I highly recommend it. There is about 30 hours of enjoyment to be had in this gem.

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