Getting a new year off to a good start is always easier when I’m given a review code for a great indie game to help kick things off. Developer Elf Games and publisher Daedalic Entertainment are the teams behind Children of Silentown. A modern point ‘n click adventure game that is as dark as it is beautiful, as it is enjoyable.
“Children of Silentown is a dark adventure game that tells the story of Lucy, a girl growing up in a village deep in a forest inhabited by monsters. People disappearing is nothing uncommon here, but this time, Lucy is old enough to investigate on her own. Or so she thinks.”
You play as Lucy, a young girl living in the small village of Silentown. Silentown is a very sleepy and even stereotypical place. The kids play simple games in the street, such as hide ‘n seek and their parents work as farmers and woodcutters. It all feels very ‘Disney’, except for one tiny element. Silentown is surrounded by a dark and mysterious forest and the forest is said to be full of monsters. Residents of Silentown frequently go missing, taken by the monsters into the forest, never to be seen again. The grown-ups don’t want to talk about what has been going on in the village and dismiss talk of any monsters.
One day (very slight spoilers for the first part of the game), Lucy’s mother goes missing, assumed to have been taken away by the forest monsters. While her father tells Lucy to just forget about it, she can’t. Turning detective, Lucy (you) sets out to investigate her mother’s disappearance and ends up releveling just what has been going on.
First up, as this is a modern point ‘n click adventure game, the game mechanics here are nothing to really shout about. If you are familiar with the genre, then you’ll know what to expect. You control Lucy, walk her around the numerous game screens, interact with scenery and items. Talk to a lot of people, solve puzzles and such. In terms of the bare basics, Children of Silentown really doesn’t throw anything new into the mix, it’s an adventure game and one that will feel instantly familiar. I don’t mean that as a negative either, as the old adage goes, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’.
That’s not to say that this game doesn’t bring anything new or interesting to the table, because it does. Along with all the usual point ‘n click adventure game shenanigans, you can sing. As you play, you’ll find new musical notes and those notes make songs. You can then sing those songs to help with your investigation in numerous ways. Reveal more about a character and get them to open up, so that you can question them further, as an example. Not only that, but the songs are also linked to a spot of puzzle solving, with each song having its own puzzle. So, let’s say that you do use the previously mentioned song to reveal more about a character sometimes, their memory may be torn and you have to repair it with a sewing mini-game/puzzle.
The whole using songs to further progress in the game reminded me of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, with each song having its own specific use. Here though, you have the added bonus of the songs being tied to puzzle solving, which adds an extra layer of gameplay.
Outside of all the singing, Children of Silentown falls back on that classic, tried and tested adventure gameplay. There is a lot of walking, a lot of talking and a lot of searching for useable/interactive and so on. Yes, you will be visiting and revisiting the same screens over and over as you try to work out just what needs to be done next. Thankfully, this never feels tedious due to how nice the game is to look at. The art style here really is striking and gave me Tim Burton animation vibes. I mean, even though you are having to investigate the possibility of monsters in the forest, the non-monster characters look pretty scary themselves. Sickly, almost stick-figure-like people with huge, round white eyes that seem to stare into your very soul. It put me in mind of the film, Children of the Damned. Lucy and the various NPCs that you will encounter just look pretty damn terrifying themselves, never mind the actual monsters.
That wonderful art is showcased brilliantly throughout the game, but no more so when Lucy has nightmares. There really is some staggeringly beautiful but deeply disturbing and genuinely scary imagery when Lucy closes her eyes at night. The whole game has some very creepy and horrifying undertones (as well as plenty of much more ‘in your face’ and obvious overtones). The world that you are in, the village of Silentown really feels very daunting and uncomfortable, even when things are seemingly calm and ‘normal’.
Children of Silentown will be available from the 11th of January on PC and all of the consoles. Priced at around £18, you really do get a great little game here. Classic point ‘n click adventure action with puzzles that never feel awkward or out of place. A great story that kept me guessing where it would be heading and a wonderfully dark and disturbing art style that is as beautiful as it is macabre.