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Whispers of a Machine Preview

Whispers of a Machine Preview

Whispers of a Machine Preview

This classic detective story with a high-tech twist should delight adventure purists

Category: Preview
Written by: Cindy Kyser on March 27, 2019
Developed by: Clifftop Games/Faravid Interactive
Published by: Raw Fury
Release Date: Q2 2019
Genre: Sci-Fi Nordic Noir Point-and-Click Adventure
Platform: Windows, Mac

Clifftop Games and Faravid Interactive have announced that they will be releasing a new adventure during the second quarter of 2019. Just Adventure was privileged to get an early look at a demo of this upcoming mystery. This allowed me to play through some of the opening scenes of the game and provide my initial impressions. It should be noted that playing the game to completion was not an option in this demo.

Described as a “Sci-Fi Nordic Noir,” Whispers of the Machine is a point-and-click mystery in the style of classic dialog-based adventures such as Wadjet Eye’s Unavowed and Clifftop’s earlier title, Kathy Rain. The graphics are slightly pixelated, with 2D background scenes and limited animation. You walk your character around and across scenes by clicking on items, people, and exit points. Double-clicking moves the character across a scene quickly and saves time watching her stroll between locations.

You control the character of Vera, a “cybernetically augmented special agent” of the Central Bureau who has been sent to the town of Nordsund to work with local police on a murder investigation. Upon arrival, she learns that a second murder has occurred, and immediately gets to work. The story begins to unfold as Vera begins her investigation by exploring the town and interviewing its residents.

Dialog is displayed, as text, with cameos of the participants. The voice acting is excellent for those inclined to listen, while speed readers have the option of clicking through questions and responses. Topics are tracked in a journal which displays new subjects and people as they are discovered and crosses off areas already covered. In some cases, selecting a previously discussed topic will result in a “we’ve already covered that” response and in other cases, the original dialog is repeated in full. The notebook provides a list of subjects and people available for conversation but does not appear to record any other details.

Your actions and dialog choices shape Vera’s character along three dimensions: Empathetic, Assertive, and Analytical. The way in which you solve problems and the choices you make in certain conversations drives her character towards one of these traits (and away from the other two). Ultimately, Vera’s future options and the story path are altered according to how her character has been developed. You can see her current profile at any time, as shown below. In my own game, Vera is beginning to shift from the original center of the triangle towards assertiveness.

Vera’s initial cybernetic augmentations include a forensic scanner, a biorhythmic monitor, and a temporary muscle/strength booster. Additional augmentations are promised for later in the game but may vary, based on Vera’s character traits. Despite having a tutorial, it took me a few false starts to learn how to use the augmentations. The scanner has a “smart scan” mode that gathers initial information from an area or an object. This creates items of interest like a “Boot Print” or a “Victim’s Bio” (fingerprint and DNA data). You can then attach an item of interest (such as a “Boot Print”) to scan for matches in a new area. Information discovered or matched by the scanner is shown in yellow. This is where it got tricky for me. A “Smart Scan” of a new area may reveal nothing. You must intuitively know that you are looking for foot prints (which can only be found by using the scanner with a “Boot Print” attached). The same logic applies when looking for fingerprints or DNA traces.

Information obtained by the scanner is shown across the top of the screen when the augmentation is active. This appears as icons for attachment to the scanner and I did not find a way to “drill” down to see what information had been gathered. For example, the boot had traces of saffron on the sole which added a new subject area to the journal but was not an investigative clue that showed up in any recap of crime scene information gathered.

The biorhythmic scanner can be locked onto a character during dialog to monitor for anomalies. If a question triggers a “spike,” you need to click on that spike to take advantage of it in your questioning. For example, if you are talking to the character shown below, and suddenly, the biorhythm converted from “relaxed” to “anxious,” clicking on the “anxious” rhythm would allow you to change your conversation to discover the source of the anxiety. If you do not click, then the change in biorhythms goes undetected and you will miss key conversation choices.

As with many dialog-driven adventures, Whispers of a Machine appears to be very structured in how actions and subjects become available. For example, I examined a ventilation duct and learned that it was in an unusual location. Common sense dictated that I look inside the duct. However, I could not open it, even though I was holding the right tool to use. I was unable to leave the current area because “there was more to discover.” A visit to a list of hints provided by the developer gave the answer to my dilemma. I had to scan the ventilation duct with the Victim’s Bio attached to see fingerprints. Only then, did the option to open the duct become available.

Likewise, I visited a set of apartments and there were no fingerprints on the two available doors. I’d questioned everyone and all topics in my journal had been covered. But, I was still unable to get results from the town archives that stored names and addresses. Circling back and revisiting all locations and characters revealed that I had forgotten to show a photo to one specific person. As a result, my progress in getting to the bottom of the apartment mystery was blocked until I figured out the missing action.

I spent just over two hours exploring Whispers of a Machine and it is a well-crafted example of a traditional point-and-click mystery. Vera’s character development and her augmentations add both interest and complexity to the game. If you are a fan of structured, dialog-driven narratives, then this is a game that you will not want to miss.

Back in the age of dinosaurs, when I discovered the adventure genre, I loved dialog-driven point-and-click games like Sierra’s Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Father, Revolution Software’s Broken Sword, and Microid’s Syberia. I did not mind spending hours circling through locations and revisiting characters to try and discover what I had missed along the way. I became so immersed in the story that I would lose track of time and I didn’t mind looking up an occasional clue so that I could become “unstuck” and continue my progress. Perhaps I have gotten older and more tired because I tend to lose patience trying to figure out what a game wants from me before it allows me to do the obvious (like open a duct or look up an address). However, I will not hold that against Whispers of a Machine. My younger self would have jumped at the chance to completely immerse myself in this game!

+ Intriguing storyline with a mystery that begs to be solved
+ Likable characters with exceptional voice acting
+ Character trait development and augmentation add complexity and interest to the game
Structure of tasks required to open topics for investigation can be frustrating and may feel restrictive to those who prefer more “open” gameplay


System Requirements
MINIMUM Windows:

OS: Windows XP
Processor: 300 MHz Processor
Memory: 128 MB RAM
Graphics: 640 x 360 32 bit
DirectX: Version 9.0c
Storage: 1200 MB available space


OS: Mavericks
Processor: 300 MHz Processor
Memory: 1 GB RAM
Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce 9400M, GeForce 9600M GT, GeForce 8600M GT, GeForce GT 120, GeForce GT 130, GeForce GTX 285, GeForce 8800 GT, GeForce 8800 GS, Quadro FX 4800, Quadro FX5600 ATI Radeon 4850, Radeon 4870
Storage: 1200 MB available space


Cindy Kyser

Cindy Kyser

Cindy’s love affair with gaming began when she opened a mailbox in front of a white house and took the first step in a long series of adventures. ‘Back in the day,’ Cindy was a regular contributor to JA and an active member of the online gaming community. She has attended several E3s and has had the pleasure of spending time in person with both Ray and Randy. Her all- time favorite adventures include the Tex Murphy series, the Gabriel Knight series, and The Longest Journey. She also enjoys RPGs and her list of ‘best ever’ includes Fallout, Asheron’s Call, and Planescape Torment. Â Frustrated with the cost of rising PC system requirements, Cindy decided to switch to console and tablet gaming. Although you can teach some old dogs new tricks, she discovered that console controller dexterity is a skill set that she is lacking. Her results with tablet gaming were not much better. With the exception of a few gems such as The Room and Forever Lost, there is a limit to how much one can play Candy Crush and Hidden Object Adventures. Having proved that pure escapism is worth the investment, she has a new gaming laptop and is back to her search for the perfect adventure. Â After spending most of her life in Los Angeles and Atlanta, Cindy escaped the stress of urban life and moved to rural Arkansas. To show that she has become a true Arkansan, she has taken up deer hunting, wears pink camo, and put a chicken coop in her backyard. On a stressful day, she can be heard yelling ‘Woo Pig Sooie’ when all else fails.

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