Unfortunately, you feel like you've done it all before. The Whispered World may be loaded with story and atmosphere, featuring striking painted backgrounds, character animations straight out of a great cartoon, and a haunting piano/flute musical theme, but everything is overdone. Some of the charm of this dreamy fairytale is lost because there is too much dialogue. Every rock and bush comes with commentary from Sadwick, and most of the conversations go on endlessly, through what seems to be a dozen or more options in branching dialogue trees. At first, this florid script immerses you in the story. An hour or so later, listening to all of this meandering jibber-jabber builds the tedium up so much that you'll just scan the lines and click through them as quickly as possible. Voice acting quality is hit and miss, too. Some characters are very bland, while others are overwrought, and at regular intervals, a bug causes voices to go silent until you restart the game. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, however, because Sadwick speaks with a nasally whine (again, like Eeyore) that makes you want to smack him. Atmosphere as conveyed by the outstanding art is also a bit much because it is so detailed that items blend into backgrounds. Every locale is just crammed with great little touches, from all of the junk strewn around Sadwick's trailer to the throne room in the castle at Corona. So while it's great to just gawk at all of this art, it's not so great to have to highlight the many clickable objects on every screen with the spacebar in order to keep the game from turning into an annoying pixel hunt.
Locales are just crammed with little details tucked into the artwork everywhere you look.
The puzzles are very derivative. This is an old-fashioned adventure, like Sierra and LucasArts used to make, where you have to pick up everything that isn't nailed down no matter how stupid it might seem. Common sense is trampled on much of the time. Sadwick just has no reason to grab some things, like his grandfather's crusty old handkerchief, yet you make him do it anyway because you know that you'll eventually be able to MacGyver some essential gadget out of even the smallest piece of refuse. Actually solving many puzzles is also virtually impossible because of the incredible leaps in logic necessary to figure things out. At one point, for instance, you need to grab some pantaloons stuck high up on a wall. You have a ladder. Simple, right? Not really. Instead of simply climbing the ladder, you have to close a door to see a mouse hole in the wall behind it, lure the mouse out with a sock, grab the mouse, and then dangle it by its tail on top of the wall above the pantaloons, where the little rodent grabs said puffy pants with his teeth. The human cannonball puzzle is even more insane, forcing you to do absurd things like make a sculpture out of tree resin, stone turtles, grandpa's dentures, and bear claws to scare your brother into dropping his objections to your stealing (another) pair of pantaloons and a red juggling ball. Your head hurts just thinking about this stuff. At least the handful or so of set piece brainteasers are involving and challenging, even if they mostly rely on old genre standards. These include sliding tiles, moving chess pieces, and mixing chemicals to make various meals and potions.
In short, The Whispered World is beautiful, yet treacherous. Although the game has many strong points in the dreamlike storyline, gorgeous painted art, and detailed script loaded with dialogue, it is too slavish an imitation of the old adventure game formula to be completely enjoyable two decades after the heyday of Sierra and LucasArts. Going retro is one thing; forcing adventurers to wrangle with pixel hunts and riddles that you have no chance of figuring out without a walk-through is something else entirely.