Name: The Thin Silence
Developer: TwoPM Studios
Publisher: Nkidu Games Inc.
Platforms: PC, Mac
Reviewed on: PC
Acquired: * A copy of this game was provided from publisher for review purpose*
Before I say much about The Thin Silence, I should make it clear that I did not finish the game. After putting it down for a few days, I started my save back up and found myself stuck in an endless loop of spawning outside the map, falling to my death and respawning at the same point outside the map. Being about 70% of the way through, I had no desire to start it back up – which I suppose is a judgement of its own.
The Thin Silence starts up with a serious content warning. “The Thin Silence has strong themes of depression, suicide and negative mental health. Help is never far away,” it says, and while I did not personally feel like it hit a lot of those notes, it is a commendable choice of subject matter and it is obvious some care has been put into making sure players have a good experience.
In terms of plot, The Thin Silence follows Ezra Westmark – a military veteran who needs to make his way back from self-imposed exile. Along the way, the player discovers Ezra’s story through flashbacks and found documents and gains some understanding of what this character has gone through.
As far as I got though, there was not really an exploration of the themes The Thin Silence claims to deal with. While the game is sad — and occasionally moving — in large part due to a very good soundtrack by Lightfrequency(https://soundcloud.com/lightfrequency), it never really grapples with its themes beyond “some things are sad and that can be difficult to handle.”
The Thin Silence sports a distinctive style of pixel art. Characters are blocky and tall, with thin limbs and blank faces while backgrounds consist of repeated patterns and simple, but striking shapes. The lighting, especially in outside sections is also excellent and brings a lot to the atmosphere of the world. In fact, I think the art-style is one of the strongest aspects of The Thin Silence and it manages to make a visually compelling game with relatively few assets.
When it comes to gameplay, The Thin Silence is a bit like an old-school adventure game. The player solves puzzles by combining items in their inventory into new items and then using those in conjunction with the environment to progress.
While this core mechanic generally works well, it does suffer from some of the same issues those old adventure games had; namely obtuseness in solutions. How are you to know that combining a grappling hook with a stop-sign creates a “weighted grapple hook” which is necessary to progress? The game could probably do a better job of clueing the player in to these solutions, but it’s not an insurmountable obstacle.
The movement in The Thin Silence is another story. It is always painfully slow, which suits the tone of the story very well, but does not make traversing the world a very enjoyable activity.
Overall, the gameplay is worth looking at for the creative puzzles and elegant item combination, but slow movement and execution makes it a bit of a drag.
The controls in The Thin Silence are serviceable, but nothing to write home about. Movement – as discussed in the gameplay section – is slow and a bit clunky, but this is not really an issue as fast or precise movement is never needed.
The item combination menu is actually very well put together and the rotational selection works well with gamepad inputs, and this is very good because it is where most of the actual puzzle-solving is done. However, switching between these items in play is less elegant. To select an item that was not recently used, you have to scroll through all the other items by spamming the shoulder buttons. On top of that the items are re-ordered by recent uses, which seems like a good idea until you realize it means you can’t remember where things are and access them by muscle memory. The combination of these two problems with how often you have to use items becomes a real source of annoyance as soon as you have more than a handful of items – which is very soon.
While I played the game with a gamepad, I do not think it is necessary. It’s not like there is a lot of tight precision-platforming or high-speed action.
As I mentioned at the start of this review, I did not finish the game. Having played the first 70% I had no interest in going back and doing it again.
Moving is so slow and the puzzle solving is only mentally engaging once, before it becomes annoying due to the controls. While there are a lot of collectibles it seems like most of them are easily found on the first playthrough and the world is linear enough that exploring it is not really an option.
The only real reason to replay The Thin Silence is for its atmosphere. If you ever just want a melancholic mood to settle in over some light background puzzling it is there for you.
Replay Value 4
While The Thin Silence wants to be a serious and deep game, I do not think it sticks the landing. There is not enough in the mechanics to keep me interested in the story, and not enough in the story to bear with the mechanics.
As a study of interesting puzzle design and atmosphere in 2D adventure games it might be worth playing, but unless that is your jam I cannot recommend The Thin Silence.
User Review( votes)
- Good atmosphere and music
- Interesting main puzzle mechanic
- Slow movement
- Clunky item controls