We’re starting to see a fair few point and click adventures appear across PC and consoles, something that’s a pleasure for those that like a slower paced, more cerebral gaming experience. What’s been noticeable about the most recent ones is they’ve tried to do something different with either the setting, the style or the story so that they stand out. For a large portion of gamers their first choice for a few days entertainment might not be a title that involves clicking on the environment and randomly combining items, so they have to sell themselves more. Children of Silentown caught our eye because of the exceptionally creeping looking character style coupled with the warm and fuzzy environments, but would it still hold our attention with its macabre tale?
Taking control of Lucy, you’re thrown into a town where singing is frowned on, everyone has to stay quiet, and no one ventures into the woods that surrounds them. Night is a time to be feared and the population stay tucked up indoors to avoid being prey for monsters. As a child, you’re left to take everything the adults say as gospel and follow the rules… though that still doesn’t stop people going missing. Each vanishing disturbs the villagers more, though very few want to do anything about it, and you’re left to examine the emotional wreckage left behind as best a young person can. Attempting to lead a normal life is all well and good up until the point your own mother disappears, and that means it’s time to throw caution to the wind and find out what’s really going on with the Children of Silentown.
The crux of the gameplay is standard point and click investigation as you wander around talking to the various players and examining the environments, though it’s overlaid with abilities that come from Lucy’s singing ability and puzzles that have to be solved to progress. Unlike most of the other residents, Lucy has been taught to sing by her mother and the notes deliver special effects when used, like reading people’s minds to understand motivation or uncovering secret areas. Depending on which song time is being sung an associated puzzle appears which (as you’d expect) get more complicated as things progress. They start off interesting with ones that are like sowing broken memories back together, though begin to get more familiar later on with arranging flow routes or lighting up squares. Outside these special songs, Children of Silentown offers up environment objectives to solve as well as the expected “combine object x with object y” affairs – which are all logical to their credit.
What’s compelling in the game is the slightly unsettling story that’s compounded by the art style and choice to make the characters look ethereal. Even doing the most mundane of activities like shopping for bread becomes unnerving with the use of the muted colours, strong shadows and incidental music. It feels like there’s potential menace around every corner and works well to bring a higher level of intensity in the early stages. In fact, it’s done that well that you’ll forgive Children of Silentown from using the same 5 parts of the town map for around three quarters of its run time. I’m sure it’s deliberate that the small and confined feeling of the town is contrasted with the sprawling woods in order to help draw empathy with Lucy and her plight, though just be prepared to see the same scenes regularly as you go about busy work in the town. It’s also worth noting that it doesn’t seem to miss a beat and runs with out a hitch or glitch throughout.
Where the story goes is slightly ambiguous… I think I understood the allegory, though wouldn’t put money down on it, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. It felt like it was trying to get across something deep and meaningful, and needs some serious consideration and additional playthroughs to fully get what Children of Silentown is saying. With several endings to choose from there’s enough to go back and experience more of it, though I would have liked to see a chapter select for that. Playing all the game again to pick a different response once right before the very final cutscene feels a cheap way of getting longevity. Going back through to find all the hidden collectables, or if you’ve missed any of the notes that make up the songs that can be used, would also benefit from a select option as some are easily missed.
That said, as a one off playthrough I don’t think point and click fans will be too disappointed. The fetch quest style puzzles are straightforward, and the complexity comes in with the singing induced ones, so there’s a reasonable flow across it all. There’s even a recognition that doing the same puzzle type over and over would get a little dull and Children of Silentown switches things up after the halfway mark by changing what the songs are used for. Having it not outstay its welcome is a plus point too, with a pretty compact length that means you mostly avoid brain fatigue and get to enjoy the concepts its grappling with. Any fans of the genre would be happy with this, and it’s suitably different to garner interest from anyone considering a punt.
A PS5 review copy of Children of Silentown was provided by Elf Games PR team, and the game is available now on PlayStation, Xbox, PC and Switch for around £18.
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