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Whispers of a Machine

Game review by
David Chapman, Common Sense Media
Whispers of a Machine Game Poster Image
Retro sci-fi mystery is filled with nostalgic intrigue.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

The game is, at its core, a mystery to be solved. Interactions between characters rely in no small part on how the players chooses to act. The player is simply focused on discovering clues and uncovering facts.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Vera’s actions and behaviors are solely in the hands of the player, with her attitude directly affected by the player’s decisions. Other characters might have some interesting personalities, but for the most part, tend to serve more as ways to keep the plot moving forward, similar to just about any other item players can examine.

Ease of Play

This is a pure point-and-click adventure. Player choices can affect how the story unfolds, and those choices are permanent, giving a linear flow to the plot. It’s more about following the story than dealing with fast reflexes or such. The game does do a great job of nudging players along and highlighting what can be interacted with.

Violence

The mystery starts with a murder, showing a dead and bloody body on the screen in the opening moments. Over the course of the story, there are other scenes depicting violence, murder, and death. But the game uses a retro-style artistic presentation, with pixelated visuals that keep these scenes from appearing graphic or detailed.

Sex
Language

Some profanity appears in the dialogue between characters, including “s--t” being said within the first few minutes.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The game often references a substance dubbed “Blue,” which acts as a sci-fi drug to enhance people. There are also occasional references to drinking and smoking throughout the game.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Whispers of a Machine is a sci-fi themed point-and-click adventure available for download on Windows and Mac. The game is presented as a murder mystery, with players investigating crime scenes, interviewing people, and solving puzzles to uncover the truth behind a series of killings. There are some scenes of violence, as well as dead bodies and blood shown onscreen, but the retro and pixelated art style keeps these scenes from appearing graphic in detail. There are some instances of profanity over the course of the story’s dialogue, as well as references to smoking and drinking. Also, one key element of the game involves the use of a fictional drug called “Blue.”

User Reviews

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What's it about?

WHISPERS OF A MACHINE is a science fiction noir mystery set in the backdrop of the Nordic countryside. This is a place where, due to past events, many forms of higher technology have been outlawed, except by a select group of authorized agents. One of these agents, Vera Englund of Central Bureau’s Violent Crime Division, has been called in to investigate a recent murder. This death quickly connects to a string of brutal killings, which in turn ties into a greater and even darker secret. As Vera, you’ll need to use your cybernetic enhancements and your human intuition to uncover the truth behind the murders, and what connections they may have to your own troubled past. You'll examine the crime scenes, interrogate witnesses, and follow your own path in this mystery adventure that shapes itself to your play style. With its multithreaded plot and multiple endings, your actions won’t just determine Vera’s fate, but that of all of humanity as well.

Is it any good?

When they’re done right, point-and-click adventures can feel like you’re reading a good book. Whispers of a Machine is a perfect example of this, offering up a classic noir mystery with a bit of sci-fi flair for an interactive adventure that, just like a good book, is hard to put down once you start. While some of the dialogue can feel a little cliché and cheesy, it actually fits nicely within the atmosphere of a pulp crime novel. And while the story does rely heavily on its sci-fi elements, it never feels as though it’s forced. Sure, Vera’s cybernetic enhancements come in handy during investigations, but they’re just extensions of her natural skills and attitude. This is a result of the game’s elastic triad of decisions which gives players three different options when choices come up. Each represents one of three traits: Empathic, Assertive, or Analytical. Choosing one of these strengthens that part of Vera’s personality and abilities, while weakening the other two. The result is a main character that evolves over the course of the game and grows to fit the mold of the player’s play style.

As engrossing as Whispers of a Machine can be from a story perspective, it’s still a game. It’s meant to be played, which is where some of its weaker points begin to show. While the game’s retro style gives a nostalgic feel to the experience, it sometimes also makes things seem a bit dated. The animations, in particular, come across a bit clunky. And even with the option to highlight objects Vera can interact with, sometimes the game's a bit too vague about what exactly needs to be done. It’s easy to get hung up in a certain area just because you might have overlooked one conversation thread, wasting a hefty chunk of time going back and forth and clicking randomly around the screen before realizing your mistake. Still, investing a little extra patience through these rough moments is rewarded with both a sense of accomplishment and a mystery well worth solving.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about violence in video games. Is the impact of the violence in Whispers of a Machine affected by the pixelated visuals? Would the impact be intensified if the visuals were more realistic? What are some of the different ways that violence might be portrayed in video games, and how can that affect younger players?

  • How can mystery adventure games like Whispers of a Machine help to develop observation and critical thinking skills in the real world?

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