Whispers of a Machine is one of those games that we didn't know we'd been missing until we started it up. Clifftop Games and Faravid Interactive are trying to deliver a classic-feeling point-and-click experience as they did with Cathy Rain; they're aiming to make games with strong narratives, pixelated art, and mechanical similarities to the vintage titles of the genre.
Right from the start of the game, we were cautiously enthusiastic about the premise. Whispers of a Machine is, as the developers explain it, a "Nordic Noir"; a murder mystery set in a futuristic, dystopian Sweden. Even though the term "noir" is somewhat generous with regards to the style and setting of the game, the world is still an interesting, exotic place to explore.
The Scandinavian dystopia we get to experience and explore is set in a time where civilisation has chosen to abandon advanced technology because of a growing fear of artificial intelligence systems, and so everything containing a processor has been banned. One could say that the inhabitants of the country are living in some sort of science fiction limbo. It's here, in the Swedish countryside, that we find Vera, an agent sent to investigate a mysterious murder in the quiet town of Nordsund. We quickly find that the case isn't an easy one to crack, so to solve the murder we'll have to use all of our skills and some logical thinking.
Mechanically, Whispers of a Machine is just what we expected. Vera moves around and between beautiful scenes that we can click all over in order to talk to different characters, examine items, and combine them in our inventory to try and advance the story. The game has plenty of aces up its sleeve though, such as the abilities that Vera has. As a newly instated agent, she is enhanced with nanomachines (which in itself is a matter of debate) that give her special powers, such as being able to activate a kind of super strength for a short time, letting her interact with heavy objects, and she can also scan areas for DNA and footprints.
These aren't her only enhancements either, as we get to explore a number of fun solutions and dialogue choices throughout the game that let us choose Vera's own perception of her job which, in turn, gives us new abilities based on those choices. If Vera is an empathetic person, for example, we can learn to erase a short piece of a character's memory, letting us calm a panicked witness and netting us more information in the process. These different options then give us more roads to take and offer an interesting kind of replayability once the game comes to an end.
Another way in which the game tweaks the classic point-and-click formula is that it's not as abstract in its puzzles and their solutions. Most of the puzzles are pretty logical and can be solved using brain-power alone, unlike a lot of older titles in the genre that sometimes would punish players for thinking logically. This doesn't mean that Whispers of a Machine isn't challenging, however, and we had to stop and go through our notes a few times along the way. With the puzzles being logical, however, it's incredibly rewarding once the solution eventually pops into your brain.
If we had to actively look for flaws in an otherwise lovely title we would find one in the mobile version of the game; it feels too compact and we found it was too easy to accidentally press the wrong icon. Other niggles include the predictability of the narrative and the length of the game, the latter of which is purely down to preference, of course. We would have loved spending more time with Vera, her intrigue story, and the genuinely interesting game world, and if we were to hear that there's a sequel in the works in the future, we'd get instantly excited.
We have to say we're happy to have tried Whispers of a Machine and while we wanted more of the game, it's still a unique experience with an elegant overall design, challenging but fair puzzles, great voice acting, and a lovely sense of nostalgia. We absolutely recommend point-and-click fans play it and we're very excited to see what the developers will unveil next.