The Whispered World Demo Impressions

Note: This is Day 4 of “The Whispered World Week” at The Slowdown.

It has been a while, has it not?

Not only is this game a long six years in the coming, but we have also not been treated to a high-resolution, 100% hand-drawn point and click adventure game in aeons, as even The Biller’s painterly A Vampyre Story and Pendulo Studios’ latest stylised offerings have resorted to 3-D in justified attempts at providing relief to the heavily budgetary nature of animation. And who could, in their right mind, blame them for doing so?

But still – one hundred percent. In light of the above games, that striking statistic alone makes Marco Hüllen’s The Whispered World stand out from the pack – and boy, does it ever: There is a breathtaking array of various character animations – actions, emotions, expressions and movements – that quite possibly has not been seen before, at the very least not since the heyday of the genre in the latter part of the 1990’s.

Perhaps the closest touchpoint in terms of the game’s graphical look and feel, then, is not to be found in the gaming medium at all, but among lead artist Hüllen’s primary influences: Japanese anime and classic children’s animations, like Spirited Away and The Last Unicorn (a cut-scene example on the left)?

As things stand, every forthcoming review of the game will surely be gushing all over the graphics in the manner above. Therefore, we should probably move away from discussing the Captain Obvious -grade graphical prowess of the game and instead touch upon other aspects of the demo, the aspects that may potentially set the game apart from its counterparts.


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Interview with The Whispered World Designer Marco Hüllen

Note: This is Day 3 of “The Whispered World Week” at The Slowdown.

Maro Hüllen, with Pet

In today’s interview, we talk to the original designer and primary illustrator of The Whispered World, Marco Hüllen (on the right), in the hopes of shedding more light on the curiouser details of the development process of the game – especially, on details that are still left uncertain for non-German audiences.

After all, German fans of the adventure game have had the privilege of reading Marco’s posts on various adventure gaming forums – as well as having already played the game. For those of us not yet in the know, the interview below should hopefully reveal some further facets of the make-up of the wildly imaginative ride that is the six-year development process of the game.

Finally, please do remember to take a look at our introductory post to The Whispered World – the article, written in conjunction with this interview, details the game’s history from inception to conception, between the years 2004 and 2010, and should by all means get you better prepared for the game’s release on the 23rd.

A special thank you goes to the very genial mister Hüllen, who braved our questions despite a minor language barrier. Therefore, the interview has been translated, from German into English, by Martyn Zachary and Richard Scary for The Slowdown. The original answers, in the German language, will also be published on the website later.

The Slowdown: After having worked so long on a project that began way back in the first half of the 00’s as an university project, are you feeling any fatigue now that the game is finally coming out?

Marco Hüllen: A little, but the joys do outweigh the fatigue. When I first started work on the game, I never expected it to become such a marathon for me. Much has been enjoyable, and a lot was equally frustrating. In the end it all came together nevertheless, and with that in mind it has all been worthwhile.

How long have you been working on the game, exactly?

Oh, it has already been quite a few years: I started work in the year 2004, with The Whispered World as the topic of my diploma thesis. When I completed my degree in late 2005, I made the decision to develop the game further at Bad Brain Entertainment, for whom I had done graphics on some other titles during my studies.


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The Secret History of the Whispered World

Note: This is Day 2 of “The Whispered World Week” at The Slowdown.

Nothing is permanent in this wicked world – not even our troubles. –Charlie Chaplin

Sometimes pictures are worth a thousand words. Other times, a video is worth these thousand words; once in a while, though, there comes a time when neither pictures, videos nor a thousand words can accurately portray a story.

One such story, in more than one way, is that of The Whispered World, an apocalyptic fantasy point and click adventure from Germany; apart from boasting an imaginative, existentialist storyline, it also comes with an origin story that is one of the wildest development rides for a video game in recent memory. (more…)

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The Whispered World Week

Note: This is Day 1 of “The Whispered World Week” at The Slowdown.

Cover Art

This week, after a brief stretch of inactivity, The Slowdown prepares to turn its knobs to full blast with five days solely dedicated to the German-made, apocalyptic fantasy point and click adventure, The Whispered World!

I consider this week, from the 19th to the 23rd, just as much a return to my gaming roots – the adventure game genre – as it is a gesture towards the game’s only true leading man, lead artist and designer Marco Hüllen, who has in my mind received far too little attention in the English-language press for his imperative contributions to the game’s development. His omission from the game’s marketing discourse, in a way, is an example of the disconnection in-between different subsections of gamers as demarcated by language.

Therefore, the week starts with full force tomorrow, Tuesday the 20th, with a detailed timeline of the astonishing six-year development history of the game, detailing many of the turning points and pivotal moments of a process that in many ways culminated back in the August of 2009. For comparative purposes, the article also contains rare screenshots from the original demo version way back from 2005!

Sadwick and Spot

On Wednesday, we will be posting a translation of our one-on-one interview with the game’s lead artist and original designer, Marco Hüllen. Among the topics discussed were the scholastic origins of the game, Hüllen’s past and present influences, the role that the infamous Bad Brain Entertainment played in the game’s development, and the formative origins of the protagonist, Sadwick the clown. Finally, we’ll at once discover the true nature of Sadwick’s sidekick, Spot!

For Thursday, I have prepared a thickly descriptive interpretationa review, if you will – of the very generously paced demo of The Whispered World that is currently available for download from Deep Silver.

And to seal the deal, Friday the 23rd (the game’s EU release date) comes with a tiny surprise!

Note: This post will be updated with links to the respective articles to reflect the state of the upcoming coverage, so stay tuned for more! I hope you will all enjoy these articles as much as I have enjoyed working with Mr. Hüllen for the past few weeks!

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X-COM: The Re-Imagining

The reports of an X-COM remake have finally been confirmed by 2K Games, with a bit of a twist. XCOM, a “re-imagining” of the classic MicroProse series, is an FPS under development not at Irrational Games – as the unrelenting rumour went – but at 2K Marin, the studio behind BioShock 2.

XCOM is the re-imagining of the classic tale of humanity’s struggle against an unknown enemy that puts players directly into the shoes of an FBI agent tasked with identifying and eliminating the growing threat. True to the roots of the franchise, players will be placed in charge of overcoming high-stake odds through risky strategic gambits coupled with heart-stopping combat experiences that pit human ingenuity – and frailty – against a foe beyond comprehension.

A release date hasn’t been specified as yet, but the game will be coming to the XBox 360 and PC and there is a bare-bones website up already. No doubt the news will be received with mixed feelings by the community: the well-loved original series was a mix of turn-based tactical combat and strategic base-building, a far cry from the announced first-person action remake. And the last couple of attempts at changing the genre have not been very successful. Diehard fans can still take solace in the unconfirmed portion of the same rumour, suggesting that Civilization devs Firaxis are handling a turn-based version of the IP. For the rest of us, it’s worth remembering that against all odds 2K Marin more than proved themselves with a worthy sequel in BioShock 2.

Only a single screenshot is available at the official site, not giving much to look at. The newest issue of OXM, out in May, will feature a story on the game; the two covers shown above give a hint of the art style. Judging by the clothing, the game could possibly be set in the 1950s, just like the Destroy All Humans! series. Supporting this is 2K’s ARG in progress, which started a couple of days back and has had fans receiving letters and packages from secret governmental organisations discussing classified cases of human abductions from the Cold War era.

I suppose the biggest question now is, how is it going to work as an FPS? Will there be a strategic element at all? I am reminded of Division 9, the scrapped tactical shooter that Irrational pitched before moving on to BioShock. In addition to the basic SWAT 4 FPS design, there was to be a strategic layer with base-building and resource management. Could this be the foundation for XCOM’s design?

So if 2K Marin is handling XCOM, what’s Irrational actually up to? Just the other day there were hints that it’s an original IP they’re working on, which we have more reason to believe now that we know it isn’t X-COM related. Whatever it is, we most probably will hear about it at the upcoming E3 in mid-June, as well as more information on XCOM.

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