Stories of people getting lost within the confines of their own minds have always fascinated me. What makes up the inside of a person’s inner world? What experiences and knowledge defines them as a “human being”? These internal worlds can feel just as tangible as the real one, and sometimes they’re a sanctuary. Enter Silence, a mysterious world in which two kids find themselves within where the choices they make will keep them trapped or help them escape.
Silence, originally released back in 2016, is actually a sequel to another game called The Whispered World that came out in 2009. Back then, the made-up world was called “Silentia” instead of “Silence”. Both are point-and-click games that take place in this ethereal dream world, but Silence gives a quick synopsis of what happened in the previous game to help get everyone up to speed. To avoid confusion, I’m just going to refer to the world as “Silence” to help keep things as simple as possible.
During the events of The Whispered World, a circus clown named Sadwick is tasked with saving the world of Silence and its king. On his journey Sadwick comes to learn there’s only one option to save the ruler of this imaginary world, Noah: either destroying a mirror in exchange for the king’s life or sparing it. It turns out Noah is in a coma and resides in this inner world, but in order to wake up it must be destroyed. Sadwick decides to destroy the mirror, thus waking Noah from his trapped slumber.
A few years after the events in The Whispered World, Noah reappears as an orphan with a little sister named Renie in tow, with no explanation given as to how they ended up in their situation or how their lives had played out previously. Around them rages a war where bomb raids are a fixture of their daily lives, driving them to seek shelter in an above ground bunker. Just as the sirens are going off a bomb hits their shelter, sending both to the world of Silence.
Most point-and-click puzzle games I’ve encountered have a heavy emphasis on story and in Silence it’s hit and miss. On one hand, getting Noah to navigate over the stomach acid of a massive worm is entertaining. On the other, seeing an obvious solution where a bunch of rocks are used to open a locked door can be frustrating until a bit of dialogue is dropped is frustrating. The comments and monologues provided by the characters felt dismissive and poorly thought out. There’s little character development throughout the story and by the end of it I found myself despising Noah and Renie.
The only enemies around are large, oily creatures referred to as “seekers” that wear white masks. They had a “lost soul” vibe to them with their eerie whispers and jerky movements. Seekers are supposed to be monsters that do the bidding of the False Queen who’s seeking to rule the world of Silence.
The solution to escaping the world of Silence is the same as Whispered World, but the weight of choice is lost in the wash of poor dialogue choices. There’s a subplot about a romance between Noah and a rebel girl he meets who offers to help him. Instead of developing a potential relationship the two share an awkward conversation underneath a tree where couples often go to appreciate the landscape. Later on, this subplot is never mentioned again and the rebel girl switches from being a hero to a villain several times. It’s hard to see who the good and bad guys are here, but without any emotional context or attachment their actions felt meaningless.
The puzzles on their own are some of the easiest I’ve ever encountered in a game like this, from following a simple rhyme to just completing a lists of tasks given to me. While I prefer games not to overload me with difficulties, the lack of challenge quickly became a little tiring and I often found myself going through the motions just to reach the ending scene.
Puzzles I did enjoy where those that included Spot, a caterpillar-like creature loyal to Renie and Noah…to a fault. He’s able to lay down flat to form a bridge, puff himself up into a large ball to bounce, and suck up any liquid with no apparent harm. Any scene that included Spot made it immensely better and while the puzzles weren’t hard, the solutions involving him – like how to grab a valuable shard he has to go up the nose of a dragon and pop back out as several tiny balls to confuse several stocks of eyes – were funny and creative. Sound insane? Imagine trying to explain it! Spot is a ton of fun and one of the game’s only characters I grew an attachment too.
I’m not one to harp on graphics, but Silence’s 3D animation style never felt right. The Whispered World had a 2D, storybook-like aesthetic that fit its setting perfectly of a child trapped in an imaginary world. Comparing that to what they did with the sequel, I feel much of that charm was lost. Many times the character’s facial expressions felt stiff and uninteresting, with little emotion and animation taking place.
The voice-acting felt rushed as well since Noah and Renie just fly through their lines without a pause for breath. The same is true for the writing that felt unfinished in most parts and the conversations felt as if they were plopped down just for the sake of the narration. This results in a choppy, often “tell instead of show” style of storytelling that I absolutely hate. I’m all for a good narration, when it’s done right, but here the world of Silence is barely held together with tape and toothpicks.
I’m all for moving forward with nothing but a hope and a dream, but Silence falls short. I can forgive bad graphics and poorly delivered dialogue if the story is intriguing and the characters manage to hold my interest. With the only exception being a little green caterpillar, Silence felt like a half finished pet-project that was removed from the oven a little too soon. Perhaps a little more time and polish would have at least made the experience more compelling, especially as this port on Switch had a few extra years in its favor. As of now I would highly recommend seeking out its predecessor, The Whispered World, instead.