Monsters roar in the twilight woods lit only by glowing eyes. Living in the forest’s dark shadow, Silentown’s residents cling desperately to rules they believe will keep them safe from the nightmares. But our heroine Lucy isn’t convinced staying safe is worth never living life. This conflict, and the horror-tinged visuals, are the best pieces of Children of Silentown. However, the wearisome pacing and puzzles I’ve encountered in my seven hours of playtime so far have begun to bog the adventure down.
The first several chapters focus on life in the village. Lucy’s hometown is a world of loose, impressionistic brushstrokes populated by characters with Burton-esque eyes. I play with the local children, clamber after my cat Squinty, and learn to sing from my mother. It’s almost easy to push aside the creepy overtones — until it isn’t. The developers set up a wonderful balancing act between daytime activities and nighttime scares. While it’s light, I learn laudably streamlined point-and-click mechanics. After dusk falls, I get ominous hints of a mystery I can’t wait to get to the bottom of.
Of course, if there is a creepy forbidden forest, I expect to step foot in it sooner or later. Sadly, the game opts for the latter choice, leaving me to encounter the same themes — what panic can do to people, what we miss out on in life when fear takes over, etc. — while repeating familiar challenges in the small village. And while I seem a bit down on the experience, I have to emphasize just how well done the atmosphere is. Early confrontations with the lurking danger often come in the form of dreams, during which I am constantly yelling at the character not to do things. One of my notes from a particularly memorable nightmare just reads, “Don’t F—ing turn around!!”
Children of Silentown also boasts a lovely addition to its point-and-click action: music. While exploring the world or interacting with others, I can pick up new notes for my songs. When a tune is complete, I can sing the melody to unlock people’s thoughts, uncover an item’s past, or unveil invisible secrets. Getting what I want often means solving a mini brain teaser, which gets tough very quickly and these sections could really use a hint option, but the gameplay remains solid even seven hours in.
Though my feet are dragging a little on the path, I still want to follow this adventure to the end. The mystery surrounding the monsters in the forest and the dark, unfolding story beckons me.