Review: Silence

One would imagine that Silence is going to sell quite well whether or not the game is covered heavily. It has the virtue of being a sequel to an underground hit, The Whispered World, which is surely worth a few units. Couple that with an amazing art style that doesn’t need to be seen in motion to know it’s astounding and the makings of a hit are born. Still, a talented artist and attachment to a previously existing property don’t necessarily equate to immediate success. The nuts and bolts must come together to form an wholly entertaining experience. For the most part, Daedalic Entertainment’s Silence succeeds.

The title starts out with heroes Noah and his sister, Renie, hiding in a bunker as a destructive bombing run occurs around them. To take his sibling’s mind off of the destruction, Noah recounts the events from the previous game using props found around the room. Serving both as a coherent recap and a tutorial for how this title’s brand of point and click adventure will work, it’s actually a pretty clever instance of writing and game design coming together to serve a purpose. I was especially grateful having not played the previous title myself. Soon, though, the bunker takes a direct hit. Noah wakes up in the bunker to find Remie missing. Venturing out, he quickly learns that he is in the world known as Silence, the land between life and death. From there, he finds Spot, a diminutive caterpillar that can flatten and expand, as well as becoming embroiled in a rebellion.

To state that the fantastic art style is the highlight of this game is still somewhat underselling it. What is here is just gorgeous. Emerging from the *spoiler redacted* is a startling experience. The towers of a far off city shows a level of care that higher budget games should note. Even mundane locations, like a forest, brim with little details that bolster the experience as a whole. That is just the 2D backdrops. The actual character models also show this level of detail, with fantastic facial animation and arm movements lending more heft to the adventuring. Even the faceless enemies manage to be truly unsettling without the need of horror and gore. Despite the fear of engaging in hyperbole, it has to be said that Silence is a visual masterpiece.

The same isn’t quite true for the voice acting. While nowhere near the level that one could call bad, there are just some issues that required another pass for polish. Noah goes from sounding like he is phoning the performance in to being convincing, which is jarring for the suspension of disbelief. The voice actor who plays Renie is obviously a small child. As such, it would be cruel to tear into her. That said, her moments tended to be a bit more grating than adorable. Kudos for using an age appropriate actor for her part, but one can’t help but feel it could have been better with additional takes or better directing. Other characters, whose names are going unmentioned for fear of spoiling special moments for fans of the original, see similar peaks and valleys in the quality.

The dialogue also features some rather bizarre mispronunciations. For example the word methane is pronounced “me thane.” As I am someone who recorded a short, inexplicably bad demo CD under the name Thane, I wanted to argue the point. Him not Thane, me Thane. Another instance is the word rebelling is pronounced in a way that rhymes with “reveling.” Though the song “Rebel Rebel” coming on is cause for reveling.

Finally, there is the puzzle craft build into this point and click adventure. Using mouse and keyboard commands, or middling controller options, the player needs to explore the environment to find the correct solution. It’s pretty standard, if slightly simplified stuff. Basically, the gameplay loop is to hit every interaction until something new happens, and then extrapolate on that event. It’s difficult to get stuck here, as what is on offer requires simple trial and error, until the correct string of logic becomes apparent. That isn’t to say it’s bad. The story and visuals bolsters the less than challenging gameplay, but the puzzle design is seriously lacking “a-ha” type revelations.

Closing Comments:

In order to get the most out of Silence, one must approach it as a narrative with light brain teasers that require patience. If that is in mind, then the time spent with this title is completely enjoyable. The world is alternately that of wonder and abject creepiness. It’s reminiscent of the best of ’70s and ’80s children’s cinema, like The Secret of Nimh. It embraces a youthful vigor while introducing and exploring adult concepts. Honestly, if this were cut into a movie, I would be first in line for a copy of my own. As a game, it can be tedious at times as success is mostly left to random bumping into the walls until the right thing happens. All in all, it’s easy to enjoy the Silence.

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