Silence PS4 Review
Publisher: Daedalic Entertainment Developer: Daedalic Entertainment
Genre: Point and Click Adventure Players: 1 Age Rating: 12+
Other console/handheld formats: Xbox One
A very long overdue sequel to the 1998 PC game The Whispered World, the first thing that captured my interest when I first started playing Silence was the stunningly beautiful graphics, especially that of the environments. I’ve described other games as being paintings that have come to life, though that statement is no more truer than it is here. The painting style compliments the games fantasy elements very well, sweeping brush strokes and a mishmash of tonal colours setting the overall mood of the game. From the outset, it gives you an idea of what to expect just from the incredible artwork alone; a game set in a fantasy land should have visuals that are a far cry from reality and this is one area that Silence excels at.
But any avid gamer will tell you that good graphics in a game is only a bonus, and that it is all about the gameplay; it’s one thing to have a beautiful fantasy landscape, but it’s nothing if you can’t immerse the player in it and give them the interaction to explore it, so how does Silence fair?
At first I did wonder where the gameplay was; this is a slow-burning game and initially I felt like I was watching a film rather than playing a game. There was very little interaction and a lot of story, but as it turns out, it was all just to set up the adventure.
The story follows Noah and his younger sister, Renie, who embark into a mysterious land known as Silence. Strangely, the story is set during World War 2 – the opening sees bomber planes initiating an air raid as the two lead characters run for shelter in their bunker. They stay there for a while, and here is where players are taught how to use the controls. They are simple enough – walk around the screen and click on anything and everything that has a marker, showing you can interact with it in some way. After an explosion separates them, it’s then up to Noah to look for his sister, and this leads them both into the land of Silence. You’d think it was a straight forward fairy-tale of two siblings coming across a hidden world, though the story is more complex than that, a story that also delves into the imagination and psyche of a child.
Gameplay wise, it can be split into two different parts: puzzles and choice-based. Silence doesn’t have the most taxing of puzzles, which makes up half of the game. You take control of both Noah and Renie, but you also take control of a little caterpillar creature called Spot, who can shape shift. He can flatten his body, blow himself up into a ball, and drink weird fluids that affects his body, and whilst this does add some interesting solutions to puzzles, you won’t be thinking they are the most clever puzzles ever. Puzzles take place in different areas and sometimes you’ll need to move back fourth between them to solve them. Even though the puzzles aren’t the most creative, they are unique in style that they don’t feel too samey. Entwined with puzzle solving is some choice-based sequences, which can lead to different outcomes based on what you decide and this style also allows you a break from puzzle solving.
For the most part though, I did feel gameplay was limited; I played on Normal difficulty and I still felt it gave me too much of an easy ride, and if you choose an easier setting, it gives you even less of a challenge. You can change the difficulty of the game by removing hints and markers, and by doing this it will give players the most rewarding experience. However, even with the Normal difficulty, I felt as though for a lot of the game I was watching rather than playing and what interaction there was didn’t make me feel fully immersed. This is because I felt each of the puzzle areas were too small; even though you can move back and fourth between them I didn’t feel the areas were pushing the boundaries of exploration. Everything you need is on-screen somewhere, you only have to keep clicking the X button until you come across something. It would have also been nice to have some little extras to find that weren’t part of the actual puzzle solving. You can search around and find a bug that will fly off-screen, and I found a couple of other things, one of which rewards you with a Trophy and another that adds a bit of back-story to some of the other characters, but that’s about it for any hidden goodies. The puzzles would have been much more interesting had there been more of a reward for my exploration, though for the most part puzzle solving is there just to drive the story, and they are gone as quickly as you discover them. In some ways I felt as though the gameplay was a bit patronising, as puzzles never feel as though they give you a real challenge; you can even skip puzzles, and pressing the L3 button will show you objects of interest. Silence does hold your hand a bit too much.
But the story that accompanies the gameplay is endearing and I can understand why the developers wouldn’t want to overwhelm you with puzzles that would take too long to solve, as that would distract from the story. Silence is a very story-driven game and with shorter puzzles it enables you to move on quickly, so that you can get straight back to the adventure. As for the choice-based sequences, whilst they add some variation to gameplay, I didn’t feel as though any decision you made was truly urgent or important, or that whatever you chose would have major consequences. However, despite this, Silence does have multiple endings and whatever one you get, if you understand the context of the game, they are both equally heart-wrenching.
With an endearing story, you need equally likeable characters and, besides the feisty Kyra, they are all likeable, if a bit underdeveloped. The 2 main characters are Noah and Renie, though they meet 3 other people who help them along the way, one being Kyra, the other two being Sam and Janus. They also meet some other quirky fantastical characters along the way – not the most original of characters in their design by far, but quirky enough that they are still enchanting. After their part in the story is finished though, a lot of the characters do seem to become a bit redundant, and Kyra fast becomes unlikable, though the 2 main characters are probably the most appealing as their whole adventure focuses on their relationship and what sacrifices they are willing to make for each other, overcoming jealousies in order to help see each other through. Renie is my favourite character of all – her personality is the most well-rounded and you can tell that, even though she is a young child and needs the comfort of her older brother, at around 5-6 years of age, she still has the tough ingenuity to take matters into her own hands and helps her group get out of some difficult scrapes; in a way, despite her young age she’s a good role model for children, probably more so than some older characters from other games. The voice acting leaves little to be desired though and at times lacks any sort of intonation, plus it’s difficult to understand what accent the voice actors were trying to go for, but the dialogue is simple enough to follow without overwhelming you with fantasy jargon.
I thought the animation of the characters could have been done better too; I like their overall designs, which come across as inspired by anime, but at times they move around almost puppet-like. The lip-syncing is also off, with characters talking without much lip movement, but any emotion they want to portray does come across well in their facial expressions. At times the controls were also a bit of a cause for frustration; sometimes it can be difficult positioning a character in relation to an object you want to click on, though for the most part the controls are smooth. I did also mention about Renie being a role model for children, and even though this game is rated 12 for violence, it’s seems the PEGI ratings board missed the not-so-subtle hint about drugs use early in the game, so maybe not for kids after all.
I am not usually a person who enjoys fantasy related media but I was pleasantly surprised at how easily the story here drew me in. Despite there not being much in the way of gameplay and the game being slightly on the easy side, it had me hooked with it’s characters, graphics and story. I would say Silence is a great game to play if you are looking for something more easy-going, and given that there is also some replayability value, with the trophies and possible different story routes, it wouldn’t be too taxing for you to go back through and find everything you can. Overall, a very charming little gem of a game.