Half expecting Village of the Damned (1960)? Children of Silentown isn’t quite the horror it may seem on the surface. Those pupil-less Burton-like eyes and the title alone would imply something sinister that could encourage your organs to drop out of your butthole, but it’s not scary. Captivating? Yes.
The kids of the title are living a typical life: the adults tell them they must keep their voices down, respect their elders, do this, do that, and be home before dark. Many of us will be familiar with this scenario, but hopefully, you won’t relate to missing people or the monsters in the nearby forest.
As Lucy, you’re experiencing frequent nightmares related to said monsters. Nobody appears to have seen them and lived to tell the tale. As long as she follows the rules, it’ll be all ok, but it’s a life of fear, and not exclusively experienced by the children of Silentown, but the adults, too.
Children of Silentown PS4 Review
The game is a hand-drawn adventure where Lucy seeks out answers. Why are people disappearing? What was life like before all these rules? Has anyone gone looking for those that are missing? On the PS4, the movement was easy with the controller. Walking up next to an item will interact with it – anything nearby can be cycled through with the shoulder buttons. An inventory toolbar is on offer, a journal and some ‘interactive’ songs allow Lucy to piece together memories and unlock new paths.
Elf Games hasn’t made Lucy’s quest an easy one. As a point and click, it’s child’s play – ha! But the real meat and potatoes are the puzzle elements of Children of Silentown. For every song that Lucy learns, she’ll be able to unlock a mini-game that is likely to challenge you. The ‘you’ is me. I found the puzzles particularly hard, but that doesn’t mean bad. They were immensely rewarding upon completion, and by the game’s conclusion, they offered a decent difficulty curve. The later ‘eye’ puzzles were too easy, however.
Using Lucy’s songs to somewhat heal, there will be puzzles where you sew a thread through buttons to repair a tear in a memory or thought, a revolving tile puzzle to create a safe route through a maze (and its variant), as well as other tile-based puzzles that are a little restrictive when it comes to solutions. These can’t be skipped and are the core gameplay experience, so expect a puzzle-focused game more than a blend of errands and dialogue trees.
Enjoy The Silence
Shall I say it? Ok, we’re being honest. I was utterly invested in the story to the point where it drove me through the puzzles when I wanted to give up. There were points in Children of Silentown where I’d hoped there would be minimum challenge purely because of the interest in the narrative. Where are the residents going? Why can’t anyone raise their voice? What’s with the singing? And where’s my phone charger? Enough with the questions: these buttons need threading.
Without any spoilers, the puzzles worked well with the story by the time of the final chapter (there are five), but the conclusion was not such a revelation and a tad brief. That said, it was such an engaging story where you really root for Lucy and equally desire those same answers she seeks. Children of Silentown has a handful of spoken cutscenes; otherwise, it’s text-based with a couple of options in a dialogue tree, but the selected answers don’t appear to affect the outcome.
It’s ironic that for a game without talking and a focus on keeping the noise down, the musical score was beautiful. Partnered with the visuals, it’s another cliche of playing an interactive storybook, but one of the better ones. Think Beacon Pines mixed with One Handed Clapping. As mentioned, the adventure element is straightforward to pick up achievements along the way. However, it was only at the end that I realised I had missed a song! One of the few disadvantages of getting a game for early review: the trophies aren’t listed.
Children of Silentown is the first review for 2023, and it’s a great start. The story is thoughtful and elegantly presented with gorgeous illustrations, animatics, and one of the best musical scores. The puzzles will probably be a hurdle for some, as they can be perplexing at times, and with no hints or options to skip, getting Lucy to the finish line may be tricky. Now, go seek it out, but keep your noise down.