In all honesty, I have a soft spot for adventure games. They were a big part of my childhood and fostered a love for investigation and have thoroughly prepared me to solve problems in wildly outlandish ways. You should always bring a rubber chicken with a pulley in the middle when you’re zip lining and the best way to thwart an evil alien meteor is by getting it a book deal. However, Raw Fury’s Whispers of a Machine makes a little more sense than all of that.
Whispers of a Machine puts the player in control of Vera, a super cool future cop investigating a series of strange murders in a world where artificial intelligence has come and gone and been summarily outlawed. For all my love of cybernetic augmentations and sleek supercomputers, the setting is nice and helps Whisper of a Machine stand out next to the Shadowrun fueled future that is so common now. It feels real and lived in like people spent time and cared about its creation rather than cribbing from an existing universe. Throughout the game you’ll not only be investigating strange murders but also the world around you.
Most adventure games don’t innovate very much in terms of gameplay. You’ll point, you’ll click, sometimes there will be verbs to select or action wheels to manage. Whispers of a Machine streamlines this to an extent with most things going off of a single mouse click. What it adds are neat powers derived from Vera’s specialty nanomachines to aid you in your investigations and more unlockable ones based on how you play the game. At the start you’ll have enhanced strength, which does pretty much what you would expect and has a slight cooldown timer, a biometric monitor that can display the vitals of the people you interact with, sometimes sussing out lies or other anomalies, and a scanner that you can drag across screens like a magnifying glass identifying anything notable and comparing blood samples, boot prints, etc with ones you have previously scanned. Three more abilities will unlock throughout the course of the game, dependent on which of the three ways Vera interacts with the world (empathetic, assertive, or analytical). For instance, I played analytically and the first new power I gained help Vera see further and better, plus gave her cool glowing eye, which is always a plus.
With this style of game, the whole thing lives and dies by its story. With limited game mechanics, the reward for a frustrating puzzle is dialogue, story progress, and more quality with the NPCs that inhabit this universe. Luckily, Whispers of a Machine has an engrossing mystery to go along with the lush world that I gushed on about earlier. I won’t spoil anything, but the case offers twists and turns that constantly keep the player guessing in a strange would painted with discarded machinery and strange Norse runes.
The soundtrack is nice and solid voice acting brings the whole thing to life, though certainly doesn’t steal the show at any point. If I had any complaints they would largely lay with the visual style. Pixel art is cool and all, and I understand that they are a staple of the genre, but I spent a lot of the game wondering why they went with it. Rough-hewn pixels are nostalgic but I fear that the style has largely overstayed its welcome. It isn’t really Whispers of a Machine’s fault, mind you, I just would have liked to have seen them do something more with it, that, and the unanimated character portraits that accompanied dialogue were plenty detailed but struck me as drab and ugly. Minor complaints, but the whole presentation was just underwhelming in and otherwise lovely experience.
Overall, Whispers of a Machine is a great adventure game for people that need so weird post robotic mystery in their lives. It’s not particularly long, it’s not particularly pretty, but it more than makes up for its shortcoming with style and intriguing, engrossing storytelling. Diehard fans will be able to play again unlocking different abilities along the way, but more casual players will certainly have a fun, engaging experience with a single go round. There’s no telling how much longer this new adventure game renaissance will last, but I am happy to play what all it has to offer.