Developers: Elf Games | Luna2Studios
Publishers: Daedalic Entertainment
Release: 11 Jan 2023
Perched on the edge of a dark and foreboding forest is the tiny little village of an ever decreasing population. A place where the villagers are to be seen and not heard, where the only thing you should hear is the whistle of the wind through the trees, a drip from a broken tap, or the snoring of a sleepy old dog. Welcome to Silentown.
This visually stunning offering to the Point and Click genre sets out to tell a story as wonderful as it looks, and although it desperately strives to belt out a heartfelt ballad, it ultimately ends up singing the wrong tune in places.
The story centers around Lucy, one of a handful of children left in Silentown. She is trying her best to live the life of any child, interested in exploring the world and playing with her friends, but the adults have other ideas. There are strict rules in this sparse little collection of roofs. No singing, no yelling, no Loud noises, and you absolutely have to be inside your house before it gets dark. Those who don’t follow the rules end up missing, a face staring back from yet another missing persons flyer that nobody in Silentown is interested in finding. Monsters lurk in the forest that creeps up to the edge of the village, monsters that roar in the night and steal away any resident foolish enough to break the rules.Lucy seems to be the only person in Silentown not of the opinion that once somebody or something is lost it is absolutely gone for ever and there is no point looking for it. If you wander around after dark they won’t come looking for you because to them you’re as good as dead. They must lose their minds when they misplace their house keys
The game starts off with a few simple point and click tasks to get us acquainted with how the controls work (hint: it’s pointing and clicking) and then we’re let loose to investigate Silentown..
Clicking around these beautifully hand-drawn environments we’ll come across a few standard point and click puzzles such as getting a ball down, or taking part in a fevered race between a frog and a hedgehog because apparently none of the children have discovered minecraft or have literally anything better to do. It’s nothing too complicated or out of the ordinary, and I liked that the first time we walk around the village we’re doing puzzles that I can imagine a bored child with no parental supervision would do. As each day passes however we get little snippets of story and background information in some of the puzzles, and you can see Lucy becoming more aware and focused on what’s going on through the puzzles we’re asked to solve. Letting it down though is that fact that it starts to get old quickly when you’re running to and fro across just a handful of different environments inside the village.
The game, fittingly for its title, features no dialogue but instead features the text in a creepy spider like font in chat bubbles and the melancholic background music really helps carry that sombre atmosphere until that too got a little monotonous for me. That is generally the problem I had with the starting areas of the game, the environments looked fantastic and the music tracks were great but they were repetitive because there was so little change in them.. I was left feeling like Oliver sticking his grubby little hands out saying “Please sir, can I ‘ave some more?’
Being a point and click, Silentown faces a hurdle inherent to the genre, how to make the gameplay engaging when the gameplay is wholly revolved around pointing and clicking. One thing that Children of Silentown does to break up the traditional point and click puzzle solving is its song system. Although the adults do not condone singing, Lucy’s mother has been teaching her songs, and she uses these songs to interact with the people of Silentown. Apparently a child running up to you and singing a few short notes can jog your memory and reveal your secrets or hideously traumatic repressed memories. It might make Karaoke night a bit awkward but that’s what the game is going with, and it’s how you’ll be solving a lot of the puzzles throughout the game.
Unsolicited singing at people to invade their memory is one thing but now you’re going to have to act like some kind of child therapist and help them stitch back their memories or experiences by completing some simple mini-puzzles. They start off quite easy, stitching a thread from one button to another, or moving tiles around to make a path. The puzzles get harder as the game progresses and with only two types of these puzzles for most of the story they can get pretty repetitive and quickly go from being rewarding to irritating.
The main draw for Children of Silentown and the reason I stuck with the game through what proved to be a pretty slow-paced start is its story. Right from the beginning I was drawn in and I was right there in Lucy’s shoes wanting to know the truth about just what the heck is happening in Silentown. Why do people keep going missing and why is nobody looking for them? Why do we live next to a forest that is apparently full of ravenous monsters? When Lucy gets tired of the adults refusing to give her any answers after a significant event in the story and she starts taking things into her own hands I was fully onboard with her. I wanted to know the answers to the questions she was asking as much as she did.
The further you get into the game however the more the quaint little point and click aspects act more like road bumps as the story ramps up instead of adding to it. The puzzles and the song mechanic become more like busy work, when I really wish they could have been used to give you some more background or interesting information, something that other point and click games like Little Misfortune or the more recent Bramble and Bookwalker games manage to do well. Instead of the story being told through the medium of a point and click adventure game where you feel as if you’re investigating and gaining valuable information, it felt like the story was running alongside it.
Despite having a story that really did draw me in, just when you think you and Lucy will get some kind of answer the game loses its thread. It runs out of steam and presents you one of 4 endings that doesn’t really give you any answers but leaves you with more questions.
Children of Silentown is a game that is trying to impart on you a lesson, give you some deep moral wisdom about how fear is the main thing holding us back, but at the end it is so focused on teaching you philosophy, that in its attempt to teach us something, it ends up saying nothing. The story is lost and abandoned, just another casualty of the forest, and in its place we have a pile of questions and a vague life lesson that just feels misplaced.
Whilst having multiple endings should be a great reason to replay the game, the story is so diluted at the end you don’t gain anything from re-doing the game to get another one, none of them answer any questions. I just don’t have the motivation to go through another 5 hours of clicking on the same characters in the same environments to ultimately get a slightly different ending that tells me that ‘Fear is the Mind Killer’ albeit with a slightly different cinematic. The game also doesn’t help itself here as it doesn’t have a chapter select and it autosaves your progress, meaning if you wanted a different ending you’d have to start the game again from the beginning.
Although Children of Silentown attempts to tell an interesting story with a moral undercurrent through a point and click game, to me it felt like it missed the mark. The story was great but just as it was ramping up and getting more intense it felt like it was abandoned in favour of a life lesson about Fear that had been forced upon you unannounced.
I walked away from the sleepy village of Silentown having completely failed as a detective. I dont know where my friends are. I dont know what the deal is with that forest, but I do know that fear is the mind killer.
Great review Bex! Superbly written!
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