One cursory glance at Children of Silentown’s artwork is enough to give you an idea on whose works has inspired Elf Games and Luna2 Studio’s dark point-and-click adventure. If it wasn’t obvious, I’m referring to Tim Burton, whose weird and dark artistic influence permeates most aspects of Children of Silentown, with a little bit of M. Night Shyamalan’s style sprinkled in for good measure. On paper it sounds like a good mix, and point-and-click adventures are no stranger to obscure ideas and premises, but does Children of Silentown deliver on its potential?
Set in a quaint village surrounded by a mysterious forest where people have been vanishing without a trace for years after being taken by the monsters that live amongst the trees, the townsfolk live in fear and have strict rules to ensure their safety, with two being the most important – no one goes out after dark, and keep the noise to a minimum during the day. Those who do end up disappearing have done so because of their refusal to live by the rules, or so the residents believe.
Children of Silentown sees you play as Lucy, a young girl who has a penchant for singing much like her mother, which irritates her father as singing is frowned upon by the village community. Lucy’s emulation of her mother’s behaviours leads to tension at home, with her father a staunch follower of the town’s rules. Believing that the adults are not telling the children everything after tragedy hits close to home, Lucy decides to take matters into her own hands and investigate the monsters and the forest herself.
It would be remiss of me if we didn’t talk about Silentown’s most striking element first – its hand-drawn art style. It’s a style that is best defined as Burtonesque, a term that was coined to describe Tim Burton’s unique dark style. The world of Silentown feels like a dark fairy tale and is utterly gorgeous with its sombre colour palette. Emphasising the game’s unsettling and gloomy style are the characters who have no hands or feet, never smile and have blank circles where their eyes would be, making for some distinctive designs. The atmosphere is made even better thanks to a simple and melancholic soundtrack that changes with every area. The only knock here is that spending too much time within the same areas can make the music feel a touch repetitive.
The first half of the game takes place in the village, with Lucy exploring and interacting with the residents trying to glean as much as she can about the forest. As you could have probably guessed, the second half is set in the forest, but for the sake of preserving the experience for those that go on to play it, I won’t go into detail on that part of the game in this review.
In the village, Lucy will need to play games of hide and seek with the other kids, find ways to distract workers in the village, and acquire items of use, such as a flower or cherries. Gameplay is your traditional point-and-click fare, with Lucy able to interact with items in the world, pick up the ones that may come in handy and combine those that can’t be used on their own. The village itself isn’t big, made up of about six small areas, and given the amount of toing and froing you’ll likely be doing, the physical limitations of the areas do start to show after a while.
Don’t go chasing waterfalls
Unfortunately, some residents aren’t as willing to divulge what they know and need a little more persuasion, and it’s here that Lucy’s much-maligned singing forms the basis for the game’s unique puzzle hook. Lucy will learn songs over the course of the game, and each song has its own use, such as triggering memories or removing obstacles in your path.
But singing the tune is only half the process, with each song having its own puzzle. One puzzle type tasks you with navigating a thread through several buttons to repair stitching, whereas another requires the use of multiple cogs to line up numerous pathways. The last type is a light-based puzzle where you must light up all the blocks without going over a certain limit. Some puzzles will simply give you the answer you seek, while others will play a part in a larger overarching puzzle, which does help break them up a little.
At first the puzzles are interesting and there’s certainly a good challenge to some of them, but after several hours of solving the same three puzzles, it started to lose its appeal. Even more so given the difficulty of some (mainly the cog-based ones) can feel quite tough and there’s no hint system. I’d be lying if I said there weren’t a few times I became frustrated with my lack of progress, with the cog-based song puzzles and one particular water puzzle coming to mind. In saying that, I did enjoy the puzzles and the way they were implemented, and the bulk of them aren’t too difficult.
Some of these puzzles can feel like a stitch up
While the gameplay does a decent enough job of keeping you engaged throughout the 8–12-hour runtime, the story’s intrigue is what will push you forward if you do get bogged down by the puzzles. Sadly though, much like most of M. Night Shyamalan’s work (in my opinion), I found Children of Silentown’s premise compelling, but the narrative’s ending largely underwhelming and vague. It’s certainly not bad, but given the journey I had just been on, I was hoping for something a little more conclusive.
The point-and-click genre is one that has fairly rigid foundations, with the bulk of games not straying too far from what we’ve come to expect over the years. With Children of Silentown, Elf Games and Luna2 have created a gorgeous dark world that looks marvellous and its unique puzzles are commendable, and although the narrative didn’t fully satisfy me, it’s one I would recommend adventure game fans suss out at some point.
Reviewed on PC // Review code supplied by publisher
- Elf Games / Luna2 Studio
- Daedalic Entertainment
- PS5 / PS4 / Xbox Series X|S / Xbox One / Switch / PC
- January 12, 2022