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July 2019

Silence: The Whispered World 2

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Adventure
Publisher: Daedalic Entertainment
Developer: Daedalic Entertainment
Release Date: April 3, 2019

About Andreas Salmen

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Switch Review - 'Silence: The Whispered World 2'

by Andreas Salmen on May 1, 2019 @ 3:00 a.m. PDT

With completely new 3D visuals, The Whispered World 2 takes players back to Silence, a world made of dreams.

Buy Silence: The Whispered World 2

German developer and publisher Daedalic Entertainment is one of the last bastions of point-and-click adventure games. From Deponia to Pillars of the Earth, it has firmly rooted itself in the genre of adventures, puzzles and storytelling. The first Whispered World game, a 2D adventure, was one of its earlier projects in 2009.

The game followed Sadwick, a severely depressed clown, as he journeyed through the fantastical world of Silence with a few sad and unexpected revelations. While not necessarily Daedalic's best work, it was good enough to develop a wn fan following that eagerly awaited a proper sequel, which eventually arrived in 2016. Now, almost two years later, Silence: The Whispered World 2 arrives on the Nintendo Switch. Is the late port worth the steep investment?

The first game was a bit rough around the edges and strictly in 2D. It showcased some strong art direction while focusing on the established point-and-click formula with inventory puzzles and interactive environments. It pretty much knew its audience. Silence, on the other hand, is a more polished and streamlined experience. It wanders the path between a classic point-and-click and a simpler narrative experience, similar to the old Telltale titles, and that may both be a good and a bad thing.

In terms of the narrative, Silence builds on the first game. It revolves partly around the same protagonist, but not in a way that would make it difficult to follow for first-time players. It's set in a war-torn world, where Noah and his little sister Renie face the horrors of war. The game starts with both of them hiding in a bunker as bombs are falling, inevitably destroying everything they know around them. The game doesn't pull any punches and immediately sets the scene with a harsh reality that is quickly overshadowed by the children's imagination to cope with their situation.

In a fairly clever way, Noah tells Renie a story about the world of Silence, which doubles as a tutorial and summarizes the key points from the original title. Eventually, the bombs hit their bunker, and they drift off to unconsciousness. After a brief moment, they find themselves in the world of Silence, which is where the story begins. In the interest of keeping spoilers to a minimum, since the game is mostly driven by its solid storytelling, the following hours are spent on Noah reuniting with Renie and finding a way to return to their own reality from the world of Silence.

The gameplay in Silence mainly consists of cut scenes, dialogues, and mild puzzle-solving. While the game provides more hands-on gameplay than, say, a Telltale game or a visual novel, it is more focused on the story. If you're not a fan of that and would rather play a tradition point-and-click game, Silence may not be your cup of tea. Throughout the adventure, we will play as either Renie or Noah. As the bigger brother, Noah is relatively strong and tall, while Renie is small and weak, making the approach to puzzle-solving different for each of them. The characters may get split up and visit entirely different places, so we can swap between them and solve puzzles in the order we'd like. Even though they are separate, the puzzles then usually come together in clever ways, and we may also revisit the same locations with both characters at some point. Given their different physicalities, the levels play slightly different and offer a certain bit of variety depending on the character we're currently controlling.

On top of that, there is the incredibly adorable caterpillar, Spot, who can interact with objects in different states. We can inflate or deflate Spot to reach inaccessible places or use his inflation as a lever to open gates or move objects. In rare cases, Spot can even split up in tiny balls or take on elementary effects, like fire or soak up water. Given the variety of his moves, Spot is heavily involved in the puzzle-solving aspects of the game, and yet he somehow feels criminally underused. Puzzles often need us to deflate Spot to build a bridge or get into tight gaps, while more interesting moves are only used once or twice. This also means that puzzles are relatively easy to solve, which is a shame given the potential that Spot alone provides in terms of creative puzzle design.

The main reason for this may be the runtime of the game, which is on the short side at four hours. When playing through Silence, it feels rather incomplete in several respects. While the story is good, it feels rushed. This may vary if you're familiar with the first game and have more background on the plot. Even then, the game rarely takes the time to properly build up the world with its fantastical creatures and political conflicts. Aside from Noah, Renie and Spot, the supporting cast is two-dimensional at best and forgettable at worst. The same goes for the puzzles and available tools. The game feels like it could've used another hour or two to dig into more story details, develop its characters, and showcase another puzzle or two to make things slightly tougher and more interesting.

Of course, there are also dialogue choices to be made, some of which significantly impact the story. One or two of them will change the ending, but they are too straightforward and simple to warrant an extra playthrough to experience them. Generally, dialogue in Silence doesn't involve more than two choices, so it feels decidedly bare-bones. It's a streamlined experience with little deviation, which also affects the gameplay. While it is a point-and-click adventure at heart, Silence uses simplified mechanics. There is no inventory, and there aren't multiple ways to interact with an object. The game tells you how to use anything in the world, which reduces frustration but also makes it easier to solve puzzles. It largely veers away from Quick Time Events, but it has interactive segments where actions are mimicked by both pressing the interaction button and moving the joystick into a certain direction or using the stick to simulate balancing on an object. They're neither difficult nor easy, and while there is a "Game Over" possibility at some points, they aren't punishing or significant.

The controls work as intended on a gamepad. The controls are serviceable but not extraordinarily well executed given the possibilities of the system. It's a shame thatSilence doesn't have the option to use touch controls when playing on the Switch in handheld mode. From a technical view, it runs well and is a gorgeous-looking game that combines beautifully drawn 2D environments with 3D character models to create an interactive painting of sorts. In many instances, the strong art direction sells the story and world more than the actual dialogue and gameplay. It is masterfully crafted and shows the care that was taken to make the story come alive. It also runs very well on the Switch, regardless of how you chose to play, but the game occasionally experienced minor stutters when in handheld mode, although it was never to the point where it negatively impacted the experience. The only noticeable gripe we had was the very last puzzle section, where several NPC characters clipped through environments and were placed in the floor rather than on it. Clipping into solid walls is very noticeable, given how well the rest of the game holds up on a visual and technical level.

To recap, Silence: The Whispered World 2 is a beautiful and polished experience with a distinct focus on its story. It still holds enough traditional gameplay to be considered a point-and-click adventure rather than a "walking simulator," but it sacrifices complexity and variety for a more streamlined approach. It's also a very short experience, which doesn't necessarily work in its favor. It doesn't overstay its welcome, but many of it is too short-lived to make the impact it's so clearly striving for. Another point to take into account is that the game runs well on the Switch but does not offer anything in addition to its previous release on PC. At the same time, it is retailing for double the price at $40, which is steep in relation to other versions and the offered runtime. It's a solid experience, but unless you're really eager to experience the game on the Switch, the price of admission is too high.

Score: 7.1/10

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