Silt Review – Glittering Through Muck

The pristine graphics and thought-provoking narrative shine so brightly in this puzzle/adventure title that the game’s flaws, such as the frustrating disorientation, stand out in a dirty, stark contrast. From the moment I started playing, I was drawn into the monochromatic and unsettling spell of the aquatic world. However, the magic was continually dissipated as I increasingly encountered unbalanced challenges and boring objectives.

Silt is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful games I’ve played this year. His underwater world comes to life in shades of black, gray and white. But although the color palette is limited, it is applied masterfully. Inky darkness gives way to a misty gloom pierced by brilliant illumination. The artistic visuals are meticulously detailed. Every feature and character is so shaded and ornate that I stop and admire the screen instead of moving on to my next objective. One moment I’m swimming along a seabed choked with reeds; in the next, I emerge from the gaping jaws of a lazy, needle-toothed monstrosity, and both scenes demand my attention equally. The dark and light themes of the graphics also flow beautifully with the game’s exploration of these themes.

I begin my adventure with a few ominous and poetic lines written across the screen. They aren’t words of encouragement. Rather, they point the way to power with instructions and end with the sentence “seal my fate”. It’s a captivating opening. In simpler terms, however, the goal of the game is to solve puzzles and defeat multiple watery bosses with wit, rather than fighting to bring a mysterious machine to life.

Shortly after the words disappear, the limp silhouette of a diver appears and comes to life as a glowing light fills the helmet. I quickly learned that I could force this light from my diver form into the body of the surrounding aquatic life, thus gaining their powers until I decided to return to the humanoid swimmer. The implications of manipulating other beings for my purposes are unnerving and intriguing. And the game delves even deeper into them, as it exploits one thing that video games can inspire that other, non-interactive forms of entertainment can’t: guilt.

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To solve puzzles that will take my swimmer to the next goal, I often need to own the fish around me. In the beginning, that meant borrowing the fangs of a toothy fish to cut a progress-blocking rope. However, as the game progresses, I must increasingly endanger the creatures I control, eventually sacrificing them for my greater good. When I encounter a puzzle that involves leading a school of fish into the hungry maws of carnivorous plants, I hesitate. Realizing I have no choice if I want to continue, I destroy the trusting, harmless creatures. My growing suspicion that I’m not the good guy here is confirmed and I love it. It’s satisfying when developers use gaming’s ability to make me, the player, complicit in what’s happening, and a perfect tool to draw me deeper into Silt’s mysterious and eerie plot.

Unfortunately, these moments of beauty and contemplation are soon marred by poor design. Forgoing any form of HUD to leave the art uncovered makes for a stunning experience, but in this case it also adds to the player’s confusion. Problem solving is crucial in a puzzle-centric game like this, but many times during my playthrough I just couldn’t figure out what to do next. A helpful nod from the camera or an extra light could have been a tremendous help, but I frequently found myself floating through the world, aimless and confused, looking for a clue as to what to do.

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Many challenges are also tedious. For example, there’s a room where I could own a stingray-like creature with a teleportation jump that I could use to fly past multiple predators, grab an exploding creature, and clear the dangerous path for my diver. Annoyingly, I had to go through the long process of taking control of each stingray and destroying each predator one by one, doing the same things over and over again before moving on. It took an annoyingly long time, and every time I failed – which felt undeserved most of the time – I had to start all over again.

Everything that is spectacular about Silt – its stunning art style, atmospheric environments, and thoughtful story – made me want to love this game. It just wouldn’t let me. Annoying puzzles with little guidance often slowed my progress to a halt and caused me to bang my head against a wall. Nonetheless, I encourage players to claim the title, if for no other reason than to experience such a great game.

https://www.gameinformer.com/review/silt/glittering-through-muck Silt Review – Glittering Through Muck

Sarah Ridley

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