This point ‘n click style adventure takes us back to a simpler time. The children within a ramshackle village play outdoors together, and the humble townsfolk share both a well and a communal food store. Most have a role within the community too, be it a baker or a farmer. All the more peculiar, then, is that when people start to go missing it’s shrugged off as simply being a way of life.
Fuelled by reoccurring nightmares involving monsters, twelve-year-old Lucy believes she’s brave and brainy enough to solve the town’s mysteries. She’s also blessed with the ability to peer into people’s minds to view their thoughts, even being able to repair bad memories.
Using this skill commences a short puzzle mini-game, with a handful to discover over the game’s 5-6 hour duration. The earliest involves threading string through buttons without the thread overlapping, while a dozen or so trickier gearbox puzzles later feature. These become more elaborate over time, to the point where a handful took a good five minutes to solve.
While the presentation is a tad rudimentary in places – such as the piano lead musical score, which plays on irritatingly short loops – a decent first impression is still made. The 2D visuals are well drawn, featuring cut-scenes at the start of each chapter, and Lucy is likable – slightly naive, and still bound to her parents, but determined to discover the source of her nightmares.
Moreover, this is a brilliant example of how to tailor a point ‘n click adventure to a joypad. The inventory is allocated to a sidebar, and thus easy to view and manage, Lucy is controlled directly instead of a cursor, and interactive items can be intuitively flicked between using LB/RB.
Dialogue can be described as ‘twee’ – appropriate seeing our star is a pre-teen who spends the majority of the adventure either talking to herself or her friends, including a pair of mischievous brats. Lucy’s cat also shows up often, lending light comic relief to the proceedings. Indeed, Children of Silentown is eerie but never sinister, shying away from shocks and jumps scares to offer something humbler and more heartfelt.
The first two chapters establish the storyline threads while introducing the cast, complete with a cleverly disguised tutorial that sees Lucy running errands and helping to make dinner. This gives a good glimpse into the town’s daily life, involving a trip to the bakers. The townsfolk are simple, with their minds yet to be warped by television and other modern pastimes. Quite how Lucy learned the phrase “Epic fail!” is a bigger mystery than the game’s plot.
Chapter three, however, hits a bit of a snag. After easing you in gently, this chapter pretty much gives you free rein. You’re simply instructed to “gather clues” to find out why people are going missing, and then let loose to explore the entire town. It soon transpires that every villager needs help in some way, resulting in the inventory quickly filling, and around a dozen puzzle mini-games commencing before the chapter’s end. With no prompts or even an active mission log, if you miss a vital conversation starter or the chance to read somebody’s thoughts during this chapter, you’re in for a lot of aimless wandering.
Nevertheless, throughout the third chapter the focus remains on finding out what’s happened to the missing townsfolk, ergo the source of Lucy’s nightmares. There’s no bloat or filler, or daft sub-quests that distract and derail the plot, which helps keep the storyline compelling throughout.
The remaining chapters are more linear and focused, introducing more complex puzzles – eventually resulting in a brain bender that spans several screens. This puzzle alone takes a good hour to solve, backtracking to a central pillar before heading off in a different direction. During the final chapter there are a couple of things easy to overlook if you don’t try Lucy’s abilities at every location, with the issue here being that Lucy’s skills can sometimes be used on inanimate objects, but so infrequently that you are likely to forget.
But while I did find myself backtracking and scratching my head a few times – wishing for an occasional prompt or clue – I still enjoyed my time in Silentown. It’s light enough to lure in anyone with a passing fancy for a modern point ‘n clicker, while also featuring smart enough puzzles to satisfy those who grew up with the genre. Recommended.
Daedalic’s Children of Silentown is out Jan 11th on PC, PS4, Xbox One (tested) and Switch. Developed by Elf Games Works and Luna2 Studio.