I have a soft spot for adventure games. It surely comes from my history with Infocom, Sierra, LucasArts, and others, and it carried over into the genre’s resurgence when developers realized that point-and-click adventures were perfectly suited for touchscreen devices.
Daedalic Entertainment is one of the more recent development companies that has continued to champion the adventure game, and they’ve now brought 2016’s Silence: The Whispered World 2 to the Nintendo Switch.
Although it’s a sequel to The Whispered World, you don’t need to have played that to understand what’s going on here. Silence makes numerous references to the original and often treats places and characters as if we’ve seen them before, but everything you really need to know is recapped in the dialogue.
Silence begins with two children—Noah and his little sister, Renie—running to find shelter from a bombing run. They do, but we quickly learn that this game won’t shy away from the horrors of war and the impact they have on those trying to survive. After a brief recap of The Whispered World and an introduction to the point-and-click interface, our heroes are torn apart and thrust into the world of Silence.
Here, we find a beautiful but deadly land that is also under the thumb of oppression. Noah and Renie individually meet up with members of a rebel group fighting to break free from their enemies, and it’s up to you to help them.
This being an adventure game, that means you’re presented with an environment, a goal, and a handful of usable items. An early problem, for example, is for Noah to simply find a way up a steep embankment. He can’t just climb, after all, he has to put together a complex string of events that will enable him to get the right items in the right place for him to climb.
In the glory days of adventure gaming, this would involve an often illogical combination of triggers and inventory items that—because there was no Internet—would require a call to a 900 hint line. Here, the puzzles make a bit more sense, and you have the option to get hints by pressing down on the left control stick. Doing so gives you a tip and highlights the interactive elements on the screen. As such, you should have no worries about getting stuck.
You also have plenty of time to work through the puzzles, although the game does contain many Quicktime moments in which you have to balance yourself for a certain amount of time or grab items before it’s too late.
Although you mostly control Noah and Renie when solving puzzles, you’ll need to interact with many NPCs along the way. The most unique element comes in the form of Spot, a large, green caterpillar who accompanies Noah and helps in many unique ways. When controlling Spot, you have the option to flatten him like a crowbar or inflate him like a balloon. In other words, Spot becomes your inventory as he can manipulate items in a way that Noah cannot. You still will occasionally need to pick up and use items, but you’ll never have a dozen items in a backpack that have to be combined in ridiculous ways to get to what you need.
Despite this unique element, the relatively simple point-and-click puzzles of Silence take a back seat to two other features: the game’s graphics and the telling of its story. The graphics are lushly drawn 2D backdrops that integrate beautifully with the 3D characters. Each new screen is a joy to explore, and its for this reason that I recommend you play the game in docked mode.
The interface is easy to see on the portable screen of your Switch, but some of the interactive elements are hard to distinguish without that help button. Also, the lack of touchscreen support means you’ll be using the Joy-Con in portable mode, anyway.
Silence also benefits from its wonderful story. It’s a sad tale, filled with moments of tension, but it can also be quite tender and funny in parts. It helps that the characters are superbly acted, especially Renie. She actually sounds like a young girl, not like a 25-year-old trying to talk like a young girl, and that really improves the impact of her and Noah’s predicament.
Unfortunately, Silence is surprisingly short, even for an adventure game. I finished it in around six hours and could’ve shaved a couple of those off if I hadn’t allowed my 7-year-old son to solve many of the puzzles with me. It also has little replay value, making the asking price of $40.00 quite steep.
Review: Silence (Nintendo Switch)
Silence provides a fun, thoughtful, but brief experience on the Nintendo Switch. Its charms may be lost on younger gamers, but old-school adventurers will like the way it harks back to the days of yore while eschewing many of the more annoying aspects of the genre. Silence has a great story that’s well acted, wonderful environments to explore and puzzles that are fun to solve, but you may want to wait for a sale before you set off.