Whispers of a Machine (PC) Review

By Athanasios 08.06.2019

Review for Whispers of a Machine on PC

Clifftop Games seems to love AGS, or Adventure Game Studio; the piece of software that old-school point-and-click adventure aficionados all certainly know of. The developer also loves detective stories. More importantly it's good at them, as evident by the slightly-rough-around-the-edges, Kathy Rain. These talented fellows from Sweden's Hedemora could easily make a great Batman game, and, in many ways, they have done so. Rather than a broody furry with a utility belt, however, this tale's sleuth is a young woman with a neat set of cybernetic implants. What starts as a typical homicide case, though, soon gets her entangled in something far more complex. Cubed3 takes look at Nordic-flavoured, noir whodunit, Whispers of a Machine, and discovers that it loves every second of it.

Vera Englund is a nano-augmented agent, whose tools of the trade reside right inside her, in the form of the substance called 'Blue.' Apart from being capable of briefly increasing her strength, Vera can also scan her environment to gather info... and then some. Highly skilled, but not exactly "battle worn," Vera will have to visit the town of Nordsund to investigate what seems to be a simple murder. As expected, however, this is much more than that. While digging deeper, Vera finds out that the victim is in some way mixed with highly forbidden tech - aka, artificial intelligence.

Whispers of a Machine takes place in what was left after the 'Collapse;' the, possibly AI-induced, global catastrophe that almost brought humanity back to square one, forcing survivors to outlaw any kind of CPU. In other words, computers, and, especially thinking ones = terrorism. This is a world that's surprisingly believable, and yet quite subtle in the way it's handled, with some examples being how it usually insinuates, and not straight up expose info, or how, while this is basically a steampunk (and slightly cyberpunk) game, it doesn't look like one.

Screenshot for Whispers of a Machine on PC

It should be noted that, while it starts its narrative by scratching the surface of AI and the Singularity, religion, and post-apocalyptic societies, it never really makes the expected, deep-thinking dive into these subjects. What little food for thought it provides is definitely far from disappointing, yet, in the end, Whispers of a Machine is a fairly simple detective story, just one that happens to have a little bit of Ghost in the Shell sprinkled over it. The good news? This might be one of the absolute best detective stories this critic has ever tasted.

Why is that? Because this title has you doing actual detective work. One of the banes of the genre has always been those speed-bumpy puzzles, which never felt relative to your mission... anyone remembers the "find a lemon" part in Secret Files: Tunguska? No?! Anyways, the typical MO in here mostly revolves around being creative with your special skills to collect the required clues, or talking with people to gather info and connect the dots. This is one of those adventures where trying every item combination won't help you go far - you have to actually think when to do what.

Screenshot for Whispers of a Machine on PC

A nice mechanic is how the way you talk with people lets Blue upgrade Vera. Depending on which type of personality you choose her to have (assertive, analytical, or empathetic), Vera will unlock some additional tricks, like night-vision, invisibility, or the ability to do the Xavier and mind-control a character to do her biding. This essentially enables tackling problems in a different way, which adds a little bit of extra replayability to it all, but, most importantly, it lets your role-play, in a type of game where that isn't usually possible, increasing the immersion factor by tenfold.

Fortunately, while challenging, each problem has a solution that's 100% logical, which means that you'll feel good when reaching it, instead of engaging in some raging face-palming. Besides the quality of the puzzles, this generally has a pretty tight pacing, with the narrative broken down into four, clear-cut segments. It's also nice how some locations can't be exited before completing a puzzle - annoying at first, but that also fixes the age-old flaw of point-and-click adventures: the annoying running-back-and-forth, "now what?" problem.

Screenshot for Whispers of a Machine on PC

Whispers of a Machine is only four-to-six-hour long, but that's perfect for what's on offer. Moreover, short or not, this is quite the engrossing experience, although it's kind of hard to describe why. Take NPCs for instance: they are kind of flat - they are Scandinavians after all (just kidding, dear ancestors of Vikings) - yet they soon grow on the player; the world lacks the variety a bigger title would have, and yet you'll soon feel part of it; and, finally, while Vera can't hold a candle to other famous adventure game heroines, it's easy to really care for her, as if she is a real person.

Being an AGS-made product, it won't really wow those spoiled by modern visuals. For those who don't mind the early '90s Sierra look, the hand-crafted pixel-art backgrounds are beautiful despite their "boring" commitment to realism, which translates to a not-that-impressive colour palette. The music fits like a glove to the atmosphere of it all, melancholic and… futuristic, if you will, at the same time, and, finally, the voice acting, while forgettable, is of very high quality, especially when it comes to Vera herself. In conclusion: a pretty strong recommendation for old-school adventure fans.

Screenshot for Whispers of a Machine on PC

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

True to its name, Whispers of a Machine does exactly that: it whispers. Rather than "shouting," with flashy audio-visuals, cool action, and in-your-face storytelling, it uses the humble, grey-haired Adventure Game Studio, to offer something that's far more subtle in its approach. Clifftop Games creation is a simple, yet stunningly well-written, immersive, and all around fun point-and-click adventure game, with a gripping sci-fi plot, and an unwavering focus in its flawless, detective-style gameplay loop. Currently just a hidden gem, this must-have needs you, fellow adventure fan, to spread the word…

Developer

Clifftop Games

Publisher

Raw Fury Games

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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