A few years ago I bought a game on the PlayStation 4, a game which looked absolutely stunning, like an interactive watercolour, from a rare genre at the time, a full point-and-click adventure game on modern consoles. Sure, in recent years we’ve seen the genre return, with more games coming out every year, but around the time of this game’s launch, the market was lacking these types of games. The game was Silence, also known as The Whispered World 2. Now, I hadn’t played the first game in the series, yet that didn’t distract me or impact the enjoyment I had with this title.
A few weeks ago, Silence made its way over to the latest platform which is embracing the point-and-click format more than any other, the Nintendo Switch. Seeing as I’ve not played the game in a long time, I jumped at my chance to experience the adventure all over again. I suppose the question is, does the Switch version hold up to today’s standards, has the gameplay and visuals become dated, and just how different are the visuals in both handheld and docked modes (yes, there’s another slider!), let’s find out…
Although Silence is the second, and final (so far), game in the series; prior knowledge of what’s happened previously isn’t required. Sure, there are nods to events and characters from the original game, but Silence tries to keep you up to speed with what things are by briefly explaining any references which require a bit of backstory. There were a few occasions where I didn’t quite know what was going on, due to not playing the previous game, but it didn’t affect the story within Silence. I’ll give an overview below if you wish to know what the first game is about.
Based within the magical land of Silentia, Sadwick (a sad, depressed clown) has been having nightmares regarding the end of the world as everything falls apart. Whilst taking a walk, Sadwick bumps into the Royal Messenger who is delivering a Whispering Stone to the King, a powerful artefact that will supposedly help combat the end of the world – which is confirmed at this point to be real and not just a dream. The messenger urges Sadwick to seek out Corona, a powerful Oracle who can interpret dreams, in order to see if she can make sense of his visions.
After using the Whispering Stone to open a secret passage, the messenger runs away after becoming scared and left Sadwick to find out his destiny alone. It turns out his destiny is not as expected, he’s not destined to save the world but destroy it! After meeting with various people, to try and work out a way he won’t end up destroying everything, Sadwick then embarks on a magical adventure which ends with him being appointed the King of Silentia.
Whilst in the palace, he stares into a mirror as a hand pulls him through – Sadwick is now stood on the other side of the mirror as he overlooks a boy in a coma with his grieving father reading to him. It turns out that the world was merely a figment of the boy’s imagination and it was destined to be destroyed either by the awakening of the child, or his death.
Sadwick smashes the mirror, without re-entering it, thus awakening the boy and subsequently destroying Silentia in the process.
Silence opens with the teenage boy from the first game, Noah, and his sister Renie as their city is under attack from aeroplane bomber jets. Now, this is probably one of the most emotional openings to a game I’ve played in a while as it appears you two are the only ones who made it to safety as you lock yourself within a bomb shelter. After a poor attempt at cheering up your sister, which is a cleverly disguised tutorial, things take a rather unusual turn. You awaken and find your sister is gone! Not only that, there’s a massive hole in the side of the shelter – What’s going on?!
As you venture outside, past a rather fantastical underground river that is full of random objects, you emerge to a beautiful and colourful landscape that is full of unusual creatures and structures. Not only that, It appears you have in your possession an egg, an egg which promptly hatches into your companion from the first game – Spot, the green blobby caterpillar-like creature. Could it be that you’ve made your way back into the Silence? If so, is Renie really here or are you on your own? We all know why you were here last time, so could your sister actually be here?
So, off you go on your journey to not only find your sister but also seek out the Evil Queen who has taken over this magical land and put a stop to her. You’ll bump into new friends and enemies as you search for your sister, solve many environmental puzzles which block your progression, have some rather ‘interesting’ conversations with the strange folk who live here and wind up at one of the most emotional endings you’ll ever play in an adventure game. Seriously, the ending had me posting some rather vulgar things on social media the first time around!
It’s an amazing journey that I strongly recommend you take on whichever platform you own.
Silence is your standard point-and-click game that has been ported to consoles. What do I mean by that? I mean you won’t actually be pointing and clicking anything, despite the genre it falls into! You control your protagonists (yes, you’ll play as Noah, Renie and Spot at various points in the game) by moving around with the Left Stick, as you would in the Telltale games. As you approach objects or people you can interact with, you can either push A to do so or push the Right Stick to alternate between the interaction points you’re within distance of. It’s that simple – no inventory, no other buttons for looking, talking, picking up, eating, moving etc… Just one button and the movement.
Silence also has the mechanic all games like this need, but games like Dance Of Death: Du Lac & Fey seemed to omit, you can push in either the Left or Right stick and all of the intractable points on the screen will briefly light up. You have no idea how helpful this is as the game looks beyond gorgeous, so much so that it’s sometimes hard to distinguish items on the screen you can pick up or even talk to!
Throughout the game, you’d expect only having access to one button would limit your interactions – nope. The interaction icon will change automatically based on what you can do. There are things like look, pick up, talk, and move (which you hold the button down and then push in a direction). As far as point-and-click games go, Silence is one of the simplest in terms of both its controls and actual gameplay, as there isn’t a lot of things to remember such as inventory, notes, past conversations, and various commands.
I remember playing old-school point-and-click games on the PC where I would get stuck because I wasn’t using the command the game wanted me to use, thus the game wouldn’t progress!
The Magnificent Spot!
I love Spot. I have no idea what Spot is, but I love him/her all the same! As I previously described it, it’s a caterpillar-like creature, only with fewer arms, its own vocabulary, the ability to change its shape, and a huggable personality! Speaking of which, Daedalic once sold Plush toys of this ‘creature’ but I missed out on them at the time.
Basically, Spot is the most useful tool you’ll have throughout Silence – referring to it as a ‘tool’ may sound a bit insulting, but you’ll see what I mean. Spot makes up for the lack of various interactions with the standard controls as you’ll usually have him accompanying both Renie and Noah when you’re in control of either character (based on the situation).
Spot has three ‘modes’. If you hold down ZL then he’ll flatten himself into a plank-like design. This allows him to be used as a bridge, window, trampoline, etc… Holding ZR will inflate him into a balloon/ball-like blob (almost like a pufferfish). This will let you roll around and when used in combination with ZL, you can get under things then balloon in order to move them around. The third mode is the standard loveable caterpillar mode. You can not only look simply adorable on-screen and interact with things, but you can also suck in liquids such as lava in order to spit it out to solve puzzles.
What I found funny is that you can actually pick dialogue options for Spot at various points in the game – nobody can understand it, but it’s fun watching it try and express the option you picked.
One thing I’ve noticed a few publications in the past mention when they talk about Silence is its lack of puzzles or at least a lack of puzzles that challenge you. I honestly can’t see how that’s a bad thing? I played through the game on the Switch and I didn’t have any issues with working out the solutions to the puzzles, but I never felt like there wasn’t enough or they were too easy. Sure, this is my third time playing it (if you include the PS4 a few years ago), but I couldn’t remember the solutions this time around. I thought the pace the game goes at, with its combination of interactive scenes, where you just click on various objects until the scene is moved on by a conversation/action, and simple environmental puzzles, kept the game fresh and exciting as you got closer to the castle, and the truth.
One thing I did notice, which I don’t recall on the PS4 (but it may have been there) is the ability to skip puzzles. If you do get stumped by any of them, as some of them do require a bit of logic or understanding of rearranging a story into a solution, then you can opt to bypass the puzzle completely. Obviously, I don’t recommend this as I think it’s best if you play the game and complete it yourself, but the option is there if you get stuck. Plus, seeing as it’s on the Switch, there are no trophies to lose in doing so!
On the subject of the puzzles though, I felt they were all cleverly done, from the aforementioned listening to a story and then moving stones around to recreate the saying, to working out how to stop hypnotic plants from growing as they have made you hallucinate the iron bars you need into snakes! The puzzles in Silence make you think and you have to be hands-on as you move things around, work out what spot needs to drink to provide help, time your movements so you’re not spotted, and even work out how you’ll pick up some molten orange goop without setting the place on fire!
Left: Portable, Right: Docked
You should have noticed by now, by looking at the pictures I’ve put within the review, the game is gorgeous. One bit of info though, I’ve been playing the game primarily on the Switch in handheld mode (I hardly use the Switch as a console connected to my TV as that’s not what I bought it for). So, the images on here are all 720p from the portable mode – hence the less than favourable image quality. But when you’re playing it on the console, it looks fine on the small screen. Above is a slider – This is the same scene both on docked and portable mode. You can see how much clearer it is on the TV. The quality isn’t as good as the PS4, but it’s very close.
This leads me to the stunning artwork throughout the game. I’ve seen adventure games use bold colours before, some have used caricatures, some even opt to go the FMV route, but Silence looks like we’ve jumped straight into a painting. Every single backdrop and character looks amazing, the majority of them are realistic in their design, albeit fantastical, apart from Renie. She’s almost like a realistic Funko Pop! character with her big head/hood. The interactions with various objects and people, and the crazy situations you’ll get into are all seamless as they transition from one angle to another, with great use of Depth of Field so that the main focal point is in focus and the background is slightly blurred out.
Now, I’m not sure if this is the case, so don’t take this as confirmation, but I think some of the cutscenes might be video files, rather than real-time, just like we saw with Hellblade. This is because some of them look much higher quality when playing in portable than the actual gameplay side does. If this is the case, they are seamlessly pieced together so you wouldn’t notice, other than the inability to skip through the text one line at a time like you can whilst playing the game. However, if it is still rendering in real-time, then the developers have done a great job at maintaining the high quality when the camera zooms in for a close up on the action.
The quality of the voices from all cast members was on-point and up there with the best. Renie stood out for me with her innocent, childish charm and personality. To her, everything is a game as she sings casually to herself when collecting water to feed a carnivorous plant, throws a strop when nobody is listening to her (click the video above), mocks an enemy to its face because it isn’t paying attention, and being about as direct with the NPCs as you could possibly get. Although, the rest of the cast also do a great job as I don’t recall anyone delivering a bad line or alternating in quality.
The music within the game is a delight! Once the game transitions and you emerge within the fantastical world of Silentia, the music becomes more orchestrated and magical the further into this strange realm you get. I’ve mentioned a few times that I usually watch a TV show or film on my iPad whilst I play games apart from certain ones, Silence is on the list where I’ll turn the music and voices up and concentrate on nothing but this experience whilst I play it.
The only issue I had with Silence on the Switch is its loading times. I have it installed on an SD card, so the internal might be a little faster, but transitioning from one scene to the next wasn’t quite as snappy as it is on the PC or PS4. It’s not a massive waiting time, 30 seconds in some places, about the same as My Time at Portia was until they patched it, but it’s still a bit annoying. Thankfully, if you’re in a scene with multiple screens (like the first time you awaken, that has around four or five screens associated with that scene, then they all load at a decent speed, it’s only when you’re moving on that it gets a bit long.
The only other thing to mention is the resolution. The visuals themselves seem to be the same regardless of how you play the game, but the resolution does take a hit when playing in portable mode. I’m not sure if the game is 720p, as it appears more towards 540p judging by how it looks (as it seems about as fuzzy as Darksiders: Warmaster Editon did), but I could be wrong. The performance holds up though, with no noticeable dips in framerates.
On a side note, there is no touch screen implementation if you play it in handheld mode. So, unlike The Secret Files: Tunguska, you have to play the game entirely with the dual Joycons should you wish to take it out with you. This isn’t an issue, but it would have been nice to have the choice of touching or using the controls.
Silence is yet another amazing point-and-click game to add to your ‘must buy’ list on the Switch if you like the genre. There’s very little to fault in this Daedalic Entertainment classic, with its excellent voice acting, captivating music, interesting environmental puzzles, and its six to eight-hour playtime, you’ll be hooked from the emotional opening all the way to the final choice you have to make. The game is the second in the series yet prior knowledge isn’t required, so don’t let that put you off picking it up either, they simply called it ‘Silence‘ and not The Whispered World 2 for a reason; it’s its own self-contained story.
Considering you can skip any puzzle you are having difficulty with, and it has the mechanic to highlight all the interactable options on the screen, I can honestly recommend Silence to people of all ages and skill levels. The humour ranges from teenager to adult-orientated, but there is nothing in there that will disturb or affect children, they just may need a bit of help with various puzzles and situations.
- - Beautiful artwork which scales well on both the docked and portable modes
- - Brilliant voice acting along with a great soundtrack
- - Very simple to play yet deep in it's gameplay
- - Decent length at around six to eight hours
- - Very accessible as you can skip the puzzles if you are having difficulty or just want to experience the story
- - The loading times between scenes is quite long
- - The visuals are great but there is a clear difference in resolution as you drop to the handheld (but it still looks good on the small screen)
- - No touch screen implementation