As someone who was born in the 1990s, the point-and-click era of gaming is something that was a big part of my introduction to gaming. Tim Schafer played a big role in my early gaming experiences through his titles, Day of the Tentacle and Grim Fandango, and who could forget the lasting impact that Escape From Monkey Island left on the gaming Populus?
However, these games seemed like a sign of the times, a series of indie titles buried like a time capsule so we could look back fondly at a later date. Yet, even in this modern, technologically advanced gaming environment, there are some daring developers who do their utmost to keep the point-and-click torch burning bright, and the latest title to carry the torch is Children of Silentown.
After a very promising peek into development through a prologue in November 2020, Elf Games went quiet, if you’ll pardon the pun, and went about creating a unique point-and-click adventure, aiming to add a new and memorable IP to this age-old genre. It’s a game that sticks to the tried and tested formula of its predecessors, but promises to offer a gripping and often bone-chilling tale that will live long in the memory.
I personally adored my time in Silentown, and I believe that this game is set to take the January sales chart by storm, especially amongst gamers in my age bracket. However, if you aren’t sold and need to know where this game excels (and where it falters), then stick around. This is Indie Game Culture’s Children of Silentown Review, conducted on PS5.
Fear is the Real Monster
Let’s kick off with the narrative, seeing as it’s the reason you’ll be motivated to get through a series of mind-bending puzzles. The narrative of Children of Slientown is centered around, unsurprisingly, Silentown, a remote town located in the heart of a forest. Isolated from the rest of the world, the inhabitants live simple lives by day.
Children play in the streets, folks tend their gardens, and workers go about their trade. However, by night Silentown is a dangerous place, and for as long as anyone can remember, people go missing in the night, taken to the forest, never to return. So naturally, adults around the town are cautious of pretty much everything.
In this game, you play as Lucy, a girl who (slight Spoilers) has her mother go missing, and must uncover the secrets within the heart of the forest to rescue her mother and free Silentown from their disease, fear itself. What’s immediately noticeable from the outset is the game’s dedication to making each character unique and memorable is tangible throughout.
Take Lucy, for example; it would have been very easy for Lucy to be a forgettable protagonist amongst more interesting Silentown residents. However, the time and effort spent to make Lucy a multi-faceted, likable, and relatable character is great to see.
That being said, the rest of the cast play their part, with the gang of kids making the game feel like a run-off of Stranger Things on Stephen King’s IT at times, and the defiant ignorance of the adults helps to make the story more engaging. It’s a story that is excellently paced, building to a fantastic finale that makes all those puzzles worthwhile.
On the flip side, I will concede that the writing, especially in the longer, more character-heavy chapters, can be a little askew in places. However, overall, this is a narrative that deserves its plaudits and delivers from start to end.
An Eerie, Artsy Epic
From the outside looking in, you can see that Children of Silentown is a very distinct-looking game, with the character’s big, doll-like eyes, and the game’s children’s storybook illustration aesthetic. However, I was shocked at how many times the game offered new artistic approaches to keep things fresh.
During Lucy’s nightmares, the game transports players to otherworldly noire scenes that are spooky and unnerving. Then in rare moments, the game swaps to an animated style that offers a certain dynamism to the presentation.
However, apart from the small diversions, it is the 2D hand-drawn visuals that steal the show. The world is made up of meticulously crafted stills from the mind of art influencer Fraffrog, and each area feels like a banquet of possibilities that can be explored. The art style feeds into the theme of childish curiosity but also the theme of fear and horror. It’s a fine line to tread, but this game does it masterfully.
The Irony Isn’t Lost Here
For a game that is based around a place called Silentown, the OST is, ironically, one of the best things about this game. I was initially quite worried when playing through the scenes in Lucy’s house that the game would play one theme on a loop, but as the action kicked into second gear, I was treated to a series of serene piano medleys, mysterious overtures, and plucky tunes that encouraged me to feed my curiosity.
The game further supports this musical assortment by making sounds and singing, one of the core mechanics of the game. Lucy can collect notes by exploring and finding unique sounds throughout her environment, and this, in turn, unlocks unique abilities triggered by singing a lovely little tune. Music plays both a very important, and understated role within this game, offering the perfect backing track for an adventure without ever overstating or overwhelming, and that is why the game succeeds in this department.
Sick Point and Click
The kids still say sick, right? Like I said before, I was born in the nineties, so I could be slipping into middle-aged cultural ignorance. Children of Silentown had a similar problem to overcome in the sense that it had to take a retro, arguably outdated gameplay format, and make it relevant again. Well, let me tell you, they succeeded. How? Simply by doing it the old-fashioned way.
This game sticks to its roots and offers gameplay that’s directly in line with its predecessors. Players will explore the environment, gathering information, items to use and resources, and notes to unlock new powers. Then through this, they will then need to solve situational puzzles to progress through chapters. It’s classic point-and-click gaming.
The areas are always pocket-sized, with the largest open area being the town itself, but the game does a lot with these small spaces, creating fun situational conundrums for players to solve. The true eureka moments come from open play, and by that, I mean, not the puzzles that break up the core gameplay.
Much like that damn Monkey Wrench in LeChuck’s Revenge, Children of Silentown has a series of solutions that make you feel like a genius, and that’s what point and clicks are all about.
Now, this is where many players might take issue with this game, but equally, it might be what you love most about the game. Different strokes for different folks and all that. As you collect the aforementioned notes and complete songs, you will gain access to new interactions, and to action these, you will need to complete a series of puzzles.
These range from Button and Thread puzzles, where you must connect buttons without ever overlapping the thread, to puzzles like the cog-related music boxes, which play out like a much less reactionary and more cerebral version of Bioshock’s pipe puzzles.
On a positive note, these puzzles are incredibly well put together. They are challenging, clever, and thanks to the new powers that come as the game progresses, you won’t constantly be completing the same type of puzzle on repeat. However, the challenge and the clever design will pose a problem to some.
Namely, the fact that these puzzles are damn hard, and get harder as the game goes on. I enjoyed this myself, and the satisfaction and elation of finding the solution were enough to justify this difficulty, but for some, this might be a jumping-off point.
However, what must be praised is that the puzzles do scale up in complexity, and even in the mid-game, when some puzzle formats are really taxing, the introduction of new formats tends to be breezy by comparison, only to become a pain to solve later.
This helps keep player progression at a steady pace. Overall, I think the puzzles on offer are superb and plentiful, but I can see where less dedicated problem solvers will take issue.
I’ve had nothing but praise for this title to this point, and rightfully so, as it’s a showcase of how to make a modern point-and-click adventure. However, the game isn’t perfect. One key issue I had with the game was the lack of polish that the opening stages of the game received. The prologue was met with praise in early development, but that was proof of concept.
When you isolate this early section from the rest of the game, it feels underdeveloped by comparison. Plus, as many players have seen the prologue in its entirety before, it would have been appreciated for returning fans to see some changes and improvements to make the opening stages feel fresh and exciting.
The game also has some situational puzzles which feel a little awkwardly pieced together and, as a result, seem unnecessarily obtuse, leading to sections where you mindlessly try to use items to interact with everything in the scene in the hope of a new clue. The most notable from memory being the water pipe section, where you must use corks to seal the holes. However, this is a quite ham-fisted misdirection which I won’t spoil, but it’s little moments like this which feel a little undercooked.
Then lastly, there doesn’t seem to be a chapter selection option within the game. So if you are a completionist like myself who wants all those stickers hidden throughout this world, then you’ll have to take another lap around the track, so to speak. So all you completionists, maybe hold off until there is a full guide available.
If you love point-and-click adventures, or just love solving a good puzzle, then these close alternatives will keep your mind ticking over:
- Return to Monkey Island
- Day of the Tentacle
- Grim Fandango
- I Am Dead
- Professor Layton and the Curious Village
- The Witness
Overall, I have to say that Children of Silentown is a game that keeps on giving. Going in, I had my fears that the game’s simplicity and outdated format would be its downfall, especially looking back at the prologue, which was nice, but remarkable. However, as the game progressed, the title showed just how incredible point-and-click adventures could be in 2022. The in-game world is pocket-sized but feels like it’s part of something bigger; the narrative is simple but incredibly well-delivered. The art direction is varied and ominous, and the score is understated, tranquil, and mysterious.
Then the gameplay itself is exactly what you want from a game of this nature. It’s low maintenance, moves at the player’s own pace, but offers cerebral and often very challenging, varied puzzles to solve. Each puzzle offered genuine ‘Aha’ moments that had me punching the air on more than one occasion, which is a testament to great game design.
It wasn’t perfect as the writing, while holistically great, was shaky in places, and some may argue that some puzzles are more obtuse than they need to be. However, as a whole, Children of Silentown is a love letter to the point-and-click games of old, and defies the odds to provide a game out of touch with the modern era that inexplicably hits and exceeds the mark.
- Presentationally fantastic, with eerie visuals, and a superb score
- The writing is full of humor and intrigue, with a batch of relatable and interesting core characters
- The puzzle design is sublime, and the variety of puzzles on offer was appreciated
- A well-paced and beautifully told story
- The writing can be a little shaky at times
- The puzzles are pretty hard, especially toward the end
- The prologue could have been spruced up
Question: Is Children of Silentown A Free Game?
Anwer: No, I’m afraid you will have to crack open your wallet for this one. However, if you want a taster of how this game plays before you buy, then you can access the free prologue/demo that has been available since November 2020.
Question: Who Made Children of Silentown?
Anwer: This game was made by Elf games, and was published by Daedelic Games. This is actually this studio’s second project and comes off the back of Little Briar Rose. A glass-stained aesthetic point-and-click adventure inspired by Grimm’s fairytales.
Question: How Long is Children of Silentown?
Anwer: It really depends on how clever you are really. I don’t consider myself a Menza member in waiting, but I’m pretty adept at these games, and I managed to finish this adventure in 15 hours. However, I stopped to smell the roses. So if you power through, you might be able to see this one through in ten hours, accounting for the difficulty of all puzzles involved.
Callum managed to get through the entire game in the space of about 15 hours. It might have been less if he was more proficient at those damn cog-based puzzles!
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