So yeah, doing this again, having a couple of games in the same review article. The format is here to stay! This time’s it’s Without Escape and The Thin Silence, a couple of puzzling adventure games, the former dealing with surreal situations and disturbing imagery and the second with depression, suicide and other sensitive subjects and both out on PC right now!
In Without Escape, a strange sound downstairs wakes up our protagonist. He’s home alone and so decides to explore, to find out the cause for the noises, his exploration leading him to strange events and even a new world entirely.
The Thin Silence follows Ezra, a man with a dark past and haunted by it, alone in a dark cavern in a self-imposed exile, until he’s forced to move again and face his past and those he left behind.
Release date: April 2018
- Looking Good. Weird, but Good: It struck me how good the game looked and many times I wondered if the rooms in the house were 3D models or photos. Of course, some rooms look better than others but even the surreal, nighmarish dimension you stumble unto looks incredible, a hellscape straight out of the Hellraiser series. Instead of puzzles, I almost expected Pinhead and the other Cenobites to show up!
- Oppressive and Disturbing: The atmosphere is gripping, and accomplished with both the incredibly realistic look, the insanely hellish one of the nightmare world and the sound. Without Escape’s sound design includes humms, short melodies and a plethora of sounds that unnerve you, if not fill you with dread.
- Interstellar Logic: Moon Logic is a phrase used to describe puzzles with weird solutions, taking leaps of logic outside the bounds of conventional reason. Well, Without Escape takes that a step further, not just with the puzzle solutions but the placement of items. Keys in toilets, beakers and test tubes in speakers, the number of seemingly random puzzle elements in Without Escape is baffling.
- Minute: Without Escape is a very short, very small game. There are multiple endings, sure, but it doesn’t take long to go through the game once you figure out the insanity behind the puzzle design. Hell, there’s a secret ending available for finishing it under 5 minutes.
The Thin Silence
Release date: April 2018
- Quick and Easy Crafting: In a world with overly complicated crafting mechanics, The Thin Silence makes its items easy to combine and switch around. Best of all, combining the items doesn’t remove them from your inventory, so you can use them in their base and combined forms. Most items also have multiple combination possibilities.
- Puzzle Perfect: Even the most complex and ultra long puzzle in The Thin Silence can be broken down into smaller chunks of easily solvable and identifiable parts, which the game trains you on as you go. So by the end, you’ll know when you have to push a rock, pull a lever, yank something with a grappling hook and more, because you’ll learn to break the puzzles into its base components and compartmentalise them.
- Low Res Beauty: The Thin Silence features low res visuals, so low that characters have very few identifiable features beyond the colour of their clothes and skin tone. But much like other low res games I’ve played, The Thin Silence proves just how much you can accomplish by having breathtaking environments, complex despite their simple art style.
- Snail’s Pace: The Thin Silence is the first game in a long time to thoroughly annoy me with how slow its character moves. It takes the better part of a minute to cross from one end of the screen to the other, even if there’s nothing in between. The result is that is on many screens, without puzzles or anything to grab your attention, The Thin Silence becomes a mind-numbingly boring experience.
- Do you get it? Do you? Do you?: The Thin Silence is game about depression, suicide, traumas and it’s not subtle about it, its storytelling clumsily reminding you of it every few screens, almost shining a spotlight on it every time. There’s a hallucination, a memoir, a flashback and so on every other screen (in addition to the notes and books I’m already picking up for exposition), without any concept for pacing, or keeping the secret or mystery going. No, the writers wanted you to know about the character’s tragic past and remind you of his trauma constantly. Pace yourself, Thin Silence, please. Subtlety goes a very long way!