My God did The Whispered World drive me mad initially. After the first few hours, I didn't have a good thing to say about it and would rant about it to anyone who would listen. Even if they weren't listening. Actually, I'd rant on even if there was nobody there. Mainly due to the infuriatingly random puzzles, but the audio editing and dislikeable characters only added to my bile-soaked ire. After those first hours, though, my frustration subsided and I... well, I began to half enjoy myself.
The Whispered World is a point and click adventure game starring an emo clown called Sadwick, who seems to hate everything and everyone. Which isn't surprising really, considering the poor little beggar's suffering from sleep deprivation (USE valium WITH whisky would seem to be the obvious solution), due to a recurring nightmare in which he sees the destruction of the - absolutely gorgeous - world around him.
Our tale starts with Sadwick waking up to his thankless existence as a clown in a travelling circus, and deciding that there must be more to life than his endless routine of chores and playing second fiddle to his brother, Ben. So off he trots to explore and before long Sadwick and his pet puzzle-solving-caterpillar-type-thing, Spot, are embroiled in a fantastical story in which he must save the world from destruction at the hands of the Asgil. OR IS HE? I'm not telling you.
The story develops well - it's surprising mature, well told and draws you in nicely. As I got further in I started to care about what was happening, which is in direct contrast to my early experiences when I just couldn't give a monkey's about Sadwick and his pathetic existence. And remember those aforementioned dislikeable characters? Well, I was wrong about them. I looked forward to both meeting new ones and revisiting old ones. Even Sadwick, who I instantly hated with his depressing outlook on life, began to grow on me - now I enjoy his company and his downbeat quips.
It's just such a shame that he sounds like Moira Stuart wearing a pair of leather trousers - all squeaky and nasal. It's bizarre as other characters are fairly well voiced, and the soundtrack and sound effects are perfectly pitched (except Bruno, whose constant snores began to sap my will in the early scenes). Yet someone thought it'd be a good idea to make the character you're going to hear talk the most, sound like an annoying runt. It's doubly maddening as he actually has some very good lines. Yes, he may be miserable as sin, but some of his put-downs are very amusing, and he has something to say about pretty much everything. Throw in some truly horrendous sound editing - some sentences start before the previous one had finished - and you've just found the tip of my frustration fuse.
That fuse is well and truly lit by the unbelievably moronic puzzles and a general air of confusion. I should know better than to expect a point and click adventure to have nothing but logical puzzles, but, dear lord, The Whispered World pushes things to the extreme! At several points you'll be utterly stumped and even when you eventually work out what to do, mainly through random item/hot spot/pet Spot combining, you'll be none the wiser. And joking about it (as Sadwick does after using a mouse to retrieve a pair of pantaloons, DESPITE HAVING A BATON THAT WOULD REACH THEM IN HIS INVENTORY!) just makes it worse. The devs clearly know they're being stupid, so why don't they stop, think, and make a decent sodding puzzle, rather than covering it up with a feeble joke? It was so bad at points in The Whispered World, that I wasn't sure I could carry on. In the end I gave up and used a walkthrough. I'm not saying there aren't any decent head-scratchers in here, it's just that they're lost in a mist of befuddlement that seems to envelope the whole game.
Which is a shame really, as The Whispered World has a lot going for it. The hand-drawn art is simply stunning; utterly beautiful at every turn, it pulls you into a fantasy world brought vividly to life. As previously mentioned, the story is interesting and involving, and the dialogue, despite being hobbled by a few technical issues and some bad voicing, is witty and cleverly written.
It is definitely worth persevering with. By the third chapter, you'd have to be a hard person not to be drawn in to the tale The Whispered World weaves, but I'd completely understand if you didn't get that far.