Title: Whispers of a Machine
Developer: Clifftop Games
Release Date: April 17, 2019
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Raw Fury
Genre: Point and Click
There was a time when I only played point and click adventures. collecting items to use to get through locked areas and exploring every inch of a screen with a mouse always provided a nice satisfying playing experience. With that said, there’s a balance to be found to make these game challenging, but not difficult enough to make someone want to put it down. The point and click adventures that I enjoy the most are the ones where I get to the brink of frustration about how to progress, but then realize something that I’ve missed in that fulfilling “ah ha” moment.
This is an element that Clifftop Games developed Whispers of a Machine seems to nail throughout its murder mystery adventure. Furthermore, the team has added some interesting features to the game that make it the perfect blend of nostalgic point and click adventure stapes and unique systems that fans of the genre might enjoy. However, the point of entry might be a little steep for newcomers to the genre.
Whispers of a Machine has players assume the role of Vera Englund, a nanomachine enhanced detective who is sent out to investigate a series of murders. The setting is a world that has rejected robots and AI lifeforms, which is explained throughout the first couple days of the adventure and I easily understood why this came to be a law. As Vera, investigating the murder is her key mission and aside from doing the typical point and click on items and hoping to find something new, she has a handful of augmentations that will help her during her time on the field.
These augmentations are what make this point and click adventure so unique. Throughout the story, you will use them more and more to collect DNA samples, understand if people are lying, and even track footprints. The only problem I had with this feature is that I didn’t always remember that it was there. Being used to straight forward point and click adventures seemed to have conditioned me to only work with limited detective skills, but that’s what makes Vera such a capable protagonist.
Vera has a range of emotions that the player can choose from as responses during dialog. This will shape her story and how she goes about getting answers. The choices revolve around three different types of responses: Empathetic, Assertive, and Analytical. Each time a dialog option is prompted players will choose a response that corresponds with one of the traits. It’s not shown which choice goes with which trait, but if you read the choices you can kind of guess pretty easily. These choices do affect the game’s conclusion so shaping Vera into the person you want her to be is important if you want a particular ending.
What’s interesting about this, is that Vera is not an empty shell. She has a full backstory that unfolds throughout the adventure. While this could hurt some adventure games, where the player tries to make choices they think the protagonist would make, it doesn’t happen here because each choice offered to the player sounds like something Vera would say. I attribute this balance to the game’s excellent writing where conversations flowed naturally and each interaction offered new bits of information towards the goal.
Whispers of a Machine has its share of puzzles and each is used to propel the player in a twisted investigation with an interesting conclusion. However, getting it is a bit tricky. As someone who is experienced with these types of games I got through some of the puzzles naturally, but there are moments in the game where you can hit a wall and nothing seems to be working and sadly these moments might detract anyone not familiar with the genre.
There are just a couple of puzzles that I felt padded on a few hours to this adventure that were spent walking back and forth and using items in unconventional ways to try and figure out how to progress. While I half expect these types of puzzles, as I readied a pen and notepad from the very beginning of the game to document items and points of interest, other players might not take too kindly to the cryptic and difficult puzzles that can pop up from time to time.
While the conclusion of the game can change, the puzzles don’t alter much. So future playthroughs will only get easier. After playing through the game, I found its runtime to be quite short. So I ended up appreciating the tougher puzzles as it let me hang out in this world a bit longer and get the most out of the game overall.
Whispers of a Machine presents a setting created by beautifully detailed pixel characters and gorgeous environments. Everything just flows so naturally in the world and it’s easy to get immersed in this robot-less world. Sound design is also well developed and goes with the game’s amazing voiced audio design. Each character delivered their lines brilliantly and gave the game a higher quality that you wouldn’t expect from a small team like this.
Whispers of a Machine filled me with nostalgia from the opening scene. The game’s writing expertly showed me who Vera was and what her place is in this world without hurting the pacing or presenting her as being an empty shell protagonist. While some moments made me bang my head on the table, I ended up getting through it and wanting to jump back in right away in order to get the other endings.
Whispers of a Machine is nostalgic, emotional, and beautiful, which was a surprise for me since I didn’t go into this adventure expecting to love it this much. I can’t speak higher praise of how the developers handled conversations and dialog choices in this game and feel like it’s raised the bar for the narrative-driven point and click adventure genre as a whole. I’m excited to see where this developer goes from here and am eagerly awaiting what they come up with next.
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