The iPad is a perfect medium for point-and-click adventure games, a genre that often plays out like visual novels with puzzles. There’s been a recent resurgence in adventure games, and developers are trying to tell stories in new and inventive ways.
The Silent Age, an episodic adventure game for iPad, is no exception. Using time jumps to alter the physical environment, the game relies on the player to make connections between what is, what was, and what will be. We’ll take a look at The Silent Age and see whether time can be rewritten.
Lost in Space and Time
It’s really hard to talk about The Silent Agewithout giving away too much of the story, and I really don’t want to give away the story. I’ll try to stick to the basics and the stuff you’ll figure out early on, because this one’s good, and you’ll want to discover it on your own. Without revealing too many secrets, you begin in 1972 as a janitor named Joe, working for a big company in a big building.
You’re just an average Joe, but strange things are about to happen. It’s almost predictable, right? Your buddy goes missing and you stumble across a secret lab. There sure does seem to be a lot of blood around, but Joe isn’t that bright and won’t be putting two and two together. That’s your job really. Where’s your friend, how’d all this blood get here, who’s this mysterious guy sending you on a crazy quest, and what is this strange device he’s giving you? (It’s a handheld time machine, is what it is).
The Silent Age is a point-and-click adventure game, full of the same kind of puzzles you’d run into in any game of the genre. What sets The Silent Age apart, though, is the suspense the player experiences throughout. There’s a mystery to be unraveled, and Joe maybe even has less of an idea than you of what’s going on. The post-apocalyptic setting ensures that all of your experiences in the game are heightened, and everything you do seems so important, because maybe you can prevent everything from going so wrong.
The puzzles in The Silent Age aren’t all just about flipping switches and collecting stuff you find on the floor, though there is a fair amount of that. The game takes its puzzles a step further and places the temporal device, the time machine, front and center. You’ll need to position Joe not only in space but also in time so that he can solve puzzles, open locked doors, drop down into sewers, and avoid the cops that are still on the search for him in 1972.
Joe shoots back and forth between 1972 and the present day, where all human life has been wiped out. The Silent Agedoes a great job of set dressing both time periods. The 1970s looks like the 70s, from the secretary’s Afro to the crazy wallpaper in the apartment Joe is forced to break into. And then when Joe moves forward, he’s met with dead bodies instead of brusque secretaries and crumbling desolation in place of bustling, groovy America.
The puzzles in The Silent Age require the player to anticipate how things have changed between 1972 and today. That umbrella you’re going to rely on isn’t going to be there in forty years, so you’d better grab it before you time shift. Likewise, though the door blocking your path is locked in the past, it was likely left wide open as people ran screaming into the streets during whatever event you’re ultimately trying to prevent.
Unfortunately, you can only get so far in The Silent Age right now and then the game just ends. Only episode one is available right now, so while the game doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, you don’t get any closure, either. That said, it played for a lot longer than I thought it would, and I definitely felt like it was a fully developed chapter. It’s just that it got me hooked, and I was ready to load up the next part.
Currently, the developers are accepting donations to get the next chapter off the ground. Links to donate are in the app if you want to help out, and they’re almost halfway to their goal right now. While I understand they can’t make a whole game appear out of thin air, I’d prefer a paid app model. I would certainly toss a few bucks in the hat to download The Silent Age: Chapter 2 right now, but I’m not sure a donations page sits right with me. I really hope it works out, though, because I want to know what happens to Joe next.
The story of The Silent Age is wrapped up in so much mystery, it’s easy to get sucked in. I sat down with my iPad, intending to just play for a few minutes, and I instead got pulled in for the entire first chapter. I literally couldn’t put it down. The Silent Age is that sort of game — you constantly want to know what’s going to happen and what’s around the next corner.
Even though there’s no sign of a chapter two in the near future, I’d still recommend a play-through of what we’ve already got. Sure, there’s no real closure, but it’s still a fun and exciting game as is, and to be blunt, with the developer’s at less than half their current goal, there’s no guarantee the game is going to continue into future chapters.
Think of it like a great show that was canceled after only a season. The people who made it want to bring it back, and maybe they will, but until then, you can still watch it on DVD. The Silent Age may continue on with future chapters, but even if it doesn’t what we’ve got is pretty great on its own.