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Review: Silent Age Episode One – A Tale for the Ages

by Wessel Minnie (Sillicur)  Posted Tuesday, January 14, 2014 10:49:00 AM

 

Silent Age is a point and click adventure game, created by Denmark-based indie gaming company House On Fire that delivers an absolute gem of a story and atmosphere which I have not yet experienced in mobile gaming.

During my time with the game I used my Nexa Orion10.1, a powerful yet affordable Quad Core 10 Inch Tablet, join me as I put on my red janitorial jumpsuit and ventured into a dark, post-apocalyptic world…

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The Story – A Refreshing Sense of Isolation

The game begins with a brilliantly done introduction in which a few slides show  the early days of the protagonist Joe’s life with memories from his past, first as a soldier, then a war veteran begging on a street corner and finally a minimum wage janitor just working away the days of his life. The introduction creates a sense of isolation and instantly had me invested in Joe, which sets the tone for the rest of the game.

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Joe is truly an “Average Joe”, working a blue collar job in present-day 1972 for a national security agency called Archon and dreaming of a different life which is mostly limited to riding a motorcycle and watching a show called Dragnet.

The game starts as an average day for Joe. After fixing a broken light bulb and having an uncomfortable conversation with an attractive secretary, he is called by his boss and promptly gets promoted to cleaning up spills and toilets on level two of the security agency.

Silent Age quickly becomes much more interesting, as Joe discovers a trail of blood on level two which leads him to a man suffering from a fatal gunshot wound. Close to death, the unnamed man tells Joe of a apocalyptic future from which he came to save the world and that Joe should find the man’s younger self in present-day 1972 and warn him about his untimely demise. The stranger hands Joe a portable time traveling device, passing away shortly thereafter just in time for the police to arrive.

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Now I am not a fan of games that employ time traveling as a big part of the story, but Silent Age is a brilliant exception. The story unfolds at a perfect pace and when traveling to the future it delivers a sense of isolation that is almost suffocating and astoundingly well done.

Throughout the game you will traverse two both the present and the future in order to uncover the mysteries of what caused the destruction of the human race, delving deeper into a horrifying story that will keep you glued to your mobile device until you complete the game.

Graphics and Sound – Atmosphere in Simplicity

Silent Age has a simplistic graphical style, almost minimalist in nature that creates an astounding amount of atmosphere.  Environments are detailed but not cluttered with objects while employing a mixture of stillness and subtle movements that put emphasis on the isolation which the game does exceptionally well to convey.

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Joe is well animated and has an almost featureless face, further creating the feeling that he is indeed just an “average Joe”. Reflections and excellent lightning effects create a sense of horror in the future timeline which gave me the feeling that Joe is completely and utterly alone. For example, a hanging corpse slowly swaying from side to side in a dimly lit room created a sense of isolation and hopelessness in a way no game I have played has done.

Background noises and music are, just like the graphics, fairly minimalistic in nature. The music changes depending on which timeline Joe is in while setting the mood of the environment perfectly and combines extremely well with the graphical style to create and atmospheric masterpiece.

The game recommends using headphones for the best quality audio experience and rightly so, as music pans from left to right while the game surrounds the player with subtle sound effects and downright haunting noises that sends a chill down your spine as you traverse throughout the environments.

Gameplay and Controls – A Rewarding Puzzle Solving Experience

Silent Age at first feels like your standard puzzle solving adventure game but I soon came to realize that this is not the case. Even the simplest puzzles, when solved, feel rewarding. When I managed to find a screwdriver to open a budged door, the game gave me a sense of accomplishing something great. This unique feat is achieved by the fact that the game manages to instantly hook the player and get them so invested in Joe, who is below average intelligence, that solving even easy puzzles feel like an accomplishment.

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When solving puzzles, the player has to make full use of both timelines in order to succeed. Each timeline offers unique items, options and routes. You can travel between timelines at any moment, which opens up a uniquely fun mechanic for the player to experiment with.

Even though Silent Age’s puzzles are not all that hard, the sense of progression throughout the story and the time traveling mechanic kept gameplay fresh until the very end, delivering a perfect balance of puzzles and story progression with easy to use controls.  

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Just like the game's graphics, its controls are very simplistic in nature. Tapping on a location makes Joe walk to there, while tapping twice makes him run to the location. Joe’s inventory is always on screen and never becomes cumbersome, as there are only a few items available at any given time. Using these items is equally easy, as tapping on them and then tapping on a spot in the environment will order Joe to attempt to use said item.

The beginning of the game serves as somewhat of a tutorial as items stand out clearly in the background, yet even late in the game I never felt as if I was on a frustrating pixel hunt which so many point and click adventure games employ, as items were still found relatively easily. The simplistic nature of gameplay and controls blend together perfectly and lets the player focus on experiencing the brilliant story without any frustration.

Closing Thoughts

Silent Age Episode One is indeed an exceptionally brilliant game which tells an unforgettable story through casual yet rewarding gameplay which I just could not quit until I finished it. The game has a wealth of atmosphere the likes I have not yet seen in mobile gaming delivered through brilliantly simplistic graphics and sounds. My only issue with the game is that it is really short and left me wanting more, as it took me only two hours to finish it.    

Silent Age is a five part series which has an Episode Two coming out later this year and the developers have asked for a donation in order to complete development on Episode Two, with a minimum donation of R35.29. Anyone who has donated will get Episode Two on release and I can say with utmost confidence that after playing Episode One twice now, it is well worth the small fee.

I can not wait to see how the story unfolds further, as Episode One is already good enough to earn itself a very high score and I would highly recommend this game to anyone who has a mobile device capable of playing it.

The game has been released for both Android and iOS devices. Silent Age is free to download and can be found on the Playstore here and iTunes here. It requires a relatively small download of 46mb and Android OS version 3.0 and up to play. 

Score: 9.0/10  

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Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not MWEB Connect (Pty) Ltd  


 
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