By Marty Mulrooney
The Silent Age is a science fiction point-and-click adventure game developed by Danish indie game studio House on Fire. Originally released as two separate episodes (the first in 2012, the second in 2014) for Android and iOS devices (with over eight million mobile downloads worldwide!), the game has since been released on PC/Steam with added voice acting and Ultra HD graphics.
In The Silent Age, players take control of everyman working stiff Joe. The year is 1972 and Joe is working as a janitor at Archon, a wealthy American company that focuses on scientific research and development. Joe arrives to work one rainy morning and is told by his boss that he has been promoted: his co-worker and supervisor has resigned the previous day. Although there isn’t an increase in pay (his boss can’t even get his name right), there is an increase in his responsibilities.
Now given security clearance to the lower labs, Joe soon discovers a trail of blood leading to an elderly man who is obviously dying. The man explains that he is from an apocalyptic future where mankind has become extinct. With his dying breath, he instructs Joe to find him in the present and hands him a small portable time travel device. Then the company’s security guards burst into the test chamber and Joe is arrested.
As The Silent Age is such a story-driven game, to reveal too much would be to rob new players of the constantly surprising, highly enjoyable story being told. Suffice to say, not everything is as it seems and the game is best experienced as a regular guy like Joe (an average Joe, if you will) precisely because he is initially left as much in the dark as the player.
The portable time travel device figures heavily into both the story and the puzzles. Charged via sunlight (which can be surprisingly difficult to come by in the present and the future), a simple click of the device’s button will transport Joe and the player immediately into the groovy past (Joe’s 1972 present) or the apocalyptic wasteland of 2012.
It’s a mechanic that never gets old, with each screen effectively serving as two locations. It’s wonderful to be standing in a present day location, then shoot forward to the same location in the future and see what has changed. There is even an element of humour to this mechanic (and the game in general), for example a clothesline of clothes in the present will have disintegrated in the future… apart from a pair of 100% polyester trousers which are absolutely fine.
This makes the relatively simple puzzles a lot more engaging too. As The Silent Age was originally released for touch screen devices, input is limited to the left mouse button only (with the traditional item inventory present and correct at the bottom of the screen). Although the puzzles aren’t overly challenging, they build up to create a satisfyingly rhythmic sense of progress.
Can’t get past an obstacle in the current time? Use your time travel device and see what happens. You can also have a knock-on effect on the future, for example killing a small poison ivy plant in the present so it hasn’t grown out of control – therefore blocking your progress – in the future, or planting apple seeds beneath a dripping pipe to alter time and create a tree.
The graphics are deceptively simple, packing an impressive amount of detail into each location. The psychedelic essence of the 70s has been captured beautifully and the ravaged future of 2012 is equally stylish. The sound design takes a similar minimalist approach, with moody sound effects doing the majority of the legwork. This makes the occasionally featured music, a mixture of retro and futuristic sounds, even more effective when it plays.
The graphics have made the transition to HD admirably and the newly added voice acting is splendid too, featuring the likes of Brian Sommer, Adam Harrington and Gavin Hammon. Owen Thomas is perfectly cast as the moustached Joe and the developer has made the wise decision to only have him voice spoken dialogue, with environmental observations kept as text. This keeps the moody sound design and hard-earned feeling of isolation intact without unnecessary distraction and honestly, it just makes sense.
There are 10 chapters in total and they will take approximately 3 hours to play through. It’s admittedly a short adventure, but in terms of pacing and the story’s natural sense of progression, it feels about right and never overstays its welcome. It should also be noted that the iOS and Android versions have been updated to match the enhancements of this HD PC version free of charge.
This is wonderful news, as The Silent Age is a gripping tale of time travel gone wrong that should be experienced by fans of the point-and-click adventure genre and those who simply enjoy a good story alike. No matter which version you play, you’re guaranteed to have a memorable, trippy adventure.
8 OUT OF 10