Fear and curiosity about the unknown are the driving force behind Children of Silentown. In this eerie adventure, you’ll investigate whether what you’ve been told all your life is true. Its narrative is engaging enough to keep you interested. However, its shortcomings often appear come in its gameplay. The required puzzles throughout the game can feel like busy work that holds back the momentum of that narrative.
What’s in the Forest?
Lucy is a young girl living in a small town with her mother and father. The town is isolated from the outside world and is surrounded by an infinite forest. There’s one rule known amongst the townsfolk: don’t go in that forest at night.
People have been disappearing, and the community has been attributing it to them being out in the forest at night. It becomes a point of contention between Lucy and her parents, who had experienced past trauma from the woods when they were children. Still, Lucy’s curiosity for the forest blinds her better judgment and angers her parents.
Early in the story, someone close to Lucy goes missing, and she begins investigating what’s happening. You’ll learn that the town’s citizens fear the forest and will quickly shut down any conversation surrounding it. Again, tradition plays a prominent role in the narrative as this fear of the forest monsters has been passed down from past generations.
Lucy’s investigation will eventually lead her into the depths of that cursed forest. But, unfortunately, she and the town’s youth seem to be the only ones to question what lies beyond the town walls.
This community’s fear of what’s beyond its borders provides some insightful commentary on reality. There are communities in the world that will demonize those on the outside of them, and Children of Silentown tells that tale wonderfully.
Children of Silentown has a story taken from the pages of a Brothers Grimm tale, and it has the visuals to complement it. Most of the game features a muted color palette and an overall dreary design. Characters have soulless white holes for eyes and digitless limbs. It all comes together to create a unique visual design. The visuals are especially chilling during sequences where Lucy experiences nightmares.
Children of Silentown has an engaging story and memorable visuals, but it often falls short with its moment-to-moment gameplay.
In the same vein as Cartoon Network Summer Resort and other point-and-click adventures, Lucy collects items throughout her experience that must be paired with other characters or environmental objects to progress the story. The items you collect can even be combined to create new items, something I had never seen in a game before.
The game’s signposting isn’t consistent enough to make matching items gameplay go smoothly. This leads to walking around levels aimlessly to see if any item you have matches what a person is looking for or if it solves an environmental puzzle, much like throwing spaghetti at a wall to see if it sticks. As a result, you’ll sometimes put together items that make little or no sense, such as combing a snail with sap to fill a hole.
Children of Silentown’s Puzzles
Other gameplay involves completing puzzle mini-games. Lucy gathers a collection of songs to initiate these puzzles and advance the story. For example, Lucy will need to initiate a song to get a person to open up more in conversation or move something in the environment.
One type of puzzle is threading a needle through a piece of fabric to patch together someone’s memory. Another puzzle type involves placing gears on a board to rotate road panels to complete the end of a trail.
The game does an excellent job of explaining the mechanics with simple introductory puzzles. However, the puzzles following the tutorials become significantly harder too quickly. I should acknowledge that puzzle games are not my preferred genre of game. Still, puzzles that don’t seem logical don’t make for a good experience.
For a game where puzzle-solving is not the core gameplay and is required to progress the narrative, there should have been an option to skip puzzles or receive hints during them. It would have benefited from having its narrative beats breathe a little more. Instead, you’re constantly walking around levels repetitively trying to match items to anything and solve puzzles with minor story progression in between them.
Point-and-click adventure fans will enjoy Children of Silentown. It has a beautiful hand-drawn art style with drab colors fitting its dark and twisted narrative. It provides a meaningful look at how fear manifests itself, specifically fear of the unknown, and how the curiosity of the unknown pushes back against it. However, where it falls short is with its puzzle-solving and matching gameplay. While the puzzles may be easy for some and difficult for others, too many are halting the game’s narrative.