Get past the hangovers, and start messing up the dates on your tax documents, because a new year has dawned upon us like the morning sun with no curtains. As we all get back up to the tepid rush of post-awards season releases, it's always important to search everywhere in the hopes you find a gem that defines your year approaching. Let's take a look at Children of Silentown, for example.
This is the sophomore release from Elf Games, developed in collaboration with Luna2 Studio, and published by adventure game connoisseurs Daedalic Entertainment, responsible for titles like State of Mind. Children of Silentown sees itself fit snugly inside their catalog, chronicling the adventures of the young girl Lucy, who resides in a quiet village surrounded by endless forests, filled with unknown threats. There's only one rule, and that's to obey the laws of quietness, and not to go out after night falls, which many refuse to do, resulting in an endless string of disappearances, something which Lucy wants to get to the bottom of.
It's a story that is immediately intriguing, one which sees Lucy and other fellow kids pit themselves against the adults in a core conflict that should be compelling. What the forest could represent to the imaginative kids, and the fearful adults should result in an emotional tirade of arguments and defiance, coming close with its several second guesses and red herrings. At the very least, it's a narrative that keeps you on your feet until the end.
Without going into spoiler territory, while the ending isn't what you'd expect, it isn't exactly what you'd call fulfilling. Characters and their motivations, world-building, and lore — all of it is quickly assembled and ultimately destroyed in an effort to provide a plot twist more shocking and saccharine, than devastating and deserving. All of this is done despite Children of SIlentown's best attempts to simply stay put and blow raspberries instead of evolving this world.
It's not just that the story ultimately goes nowhere, or that character motivations are largely pointless in what the game provides instead. All of it comes down to the writing, and how easy it is to quickly lose hope in what these characters represent and how they act. The village of Silentown is filled with an endless array of snobs, all of whom are quick to step over each other in an effort to see who can be the most unlikeable, and when tied with the writing equivalent of Ouroboros, it quickly becomes maddening.
I don't mean to harp on the story for so long, but it truly is bafflingly bad at retaining a point in any circumstance or context. Be it a fable or a lesson, a story or a character study, everything about Children of Silentown is a lesson in repetition and moon logic, none of it rewarding the player for their efforts or the time put in. Pair that with an ending that sees you choose between four random icons for a cutscene, and you have a truly pitiful story, wrapped inside a point-n-click adventure that plays exactly as you'd expect.
Gameplay consists of turning Lucy into your typical adventure game protagonist: A kleptomaniac quick to solve logic puzzles with insane results that will fail to make sense to even the most creative mind on the planet. Items are given descriptions and clues which would imply further expansion of their needs when combined with other objects within the world, but instead, the games tricks you. It's not that the game is simpler than expected but more that the implications always lead to dead ends, and that you really shouldn't be thinking so hard.
Despite this, the game's unique selling point of using songs to progress further and find items to use all have a different puzzle attached to them. They're puzzles used in other games in the past, but Children of Silentown is quick to make them needlessly complex, and almost immediately from the get go. A Pipe Mania-esque puzzle box that requires separate gears to move the cells, and for the player to think 3 steps ahead with each cell, should not be one of the first puzzles you encounter in the game.
Even then, Children of Silentown is a game that will consistently flip-flop between complexity and simplicity in its logical conundrums, an example being a basin full of sand you find near the end of the game. This basin is one of many that are attached to statues that unlock keys for use to get to the next area. Despite another statue missing its basin, this isn't the answer to the conundrum — instead you have to spawn in a statue with a missing basin with a song prompt. As for the sand stuck in the basin? Oh, it means nothing, you don't need to wash it out beforehand.
Even if you can get past the typical adventure game logic, this is a small but important example of Children of Silentown's inability to provide a natural curve to its game design. This even extends to the level design in certain moments, where the game simply restricts you from entering a seemingly open area from all open entrances, except the hidden one. A lack of visual clarity can be another one of a point-n-click title's issues, but in Children of Silentown, the visual design's blase attempts at children's horror lacks definition to showcase the importance of key items and entrances.
Children of Silentown Review | Verdict
It's rare to find a title that truly goes nowhere like Children of Silentown does. All of that goodwill showcased in providing a compelling fairytale for gamers of all ages instead devolves into a lesson of confounding context, and answers on a postcard. Nothing is gained from watching Lucy tread circles around her adversaries and her friends, and none of the factions involved care since the story is quick to dispose of everyone without a second thought. A truly nihilistic and borderline irresponsible showcase in design, narrative, and feeling.
TechRaptor reviewed Children of Silentown on Xbox One S using a copy provided by the publisher. It is also available on Xbox Series S|X, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and Nintendo Switch.
- Initially compelling narrative
- Story instead devolves into meaningless fables
- Puzzle design is immediately & needlessly complex from the get-go
- Writing tends to run in circles
- Adventure game "moon logic" is in full swing
- Bland & humdrum visual design