The ocean is both beautiful and haunting. Although we marvel at the incredible sea life that inhabits stunning blue vistas, there is a wealth of unknown creatures that dwell in the bowels of the deep. As aquaphobia resides in the psyche of many, it’s this territory where Silt lingers; but is this descent into the depths a dive worth taking?
As an explorer, you venture to uncharted regions of the sea to uncover a mythical mystery. While the game’s plot is purposefully vague, Spiral Circus manages to smother Silt with a layer of intrigue. This makes your expedition into the unknown an unsettling enigma where ambiguity festers. Due to a delicious combination of the narrative, art direction, and soundtrack, you quickly drown in a foreboding atmosphere that permeates the entire voyage.
Each area houses environmental puzzles that you must solve to progress. In order to do so, you will need to take advantage of your ability to possess and control a number of creatures. Marine animals have different powers that can be used to manipulate your surroundings. Piranhas can gnaw through ropes and chains while others can send out an electrical pulse to awaken ancient machinery. The puzzles themselves offer a suitable challenge as they often have various elements to explore. Due to this, it successfully captures the feeling of satisfaction upon completion of a multi-faceted task.
Spiral Circus has purposely kept the game at a creeping pace for you to soak in the atmosphere. With the protagonist wading through the abyss, you move at a meandering speed. While you can swim faster, it is only necessary at certain points. To control others, you simply hold a button that emits a tendril to enchant them. You can then use their unique attacks and position them where you require and then instantly remove the hex and return to your body. Unfortunately, it does feel a little stiff, especially in sequences where you need to be nimble. I found some abilities unpredictable as well. For instance, one creature can teleport over a short distance. I had to quickly perform this several times to avoid death, but often the critter would either not perform the action or end up in an undesirable location.
Silt does an incredible job at communicating your task through visual clues. While the game is absent of text, barring a short poem that sets up the narrative, you can quickly decipher the purpose through the design. Often a strange organism halts your progress and you must devise a plan to proceed. This leads to exploration and the discovery of sea life that you can utilize to initiate a chain of events. As a result of the methodical and expert placement of puzzles, I was never confused about what to do.
Fear of the Dark
Claustrophobia enshrouds Silt. Dark tunnels and shadows meander throughout which makes each moment a nerve-wracking experience. The tension increases when being chased by abominations that plague the ocean. Due to only being able to withstand one hit, you will be cautious throughout your expedition. However, death will only reset the puzzle for that area so you will never have to redo a large portion of the game. This means you never truly feel safe and begin to question each asset within. The stark, monochromatic design, similar to that of Limbo, means that you will query whether your surroundings are full of flora or tentacles. This shred of doubt creates an anxiety-ridden dive that will keep you on edge.
The combination of ancient architecture, Lovecraftian organisms and machinery echo the art of HR Giger. There is a disquiet sketch-like quality to the visuals that help to anchor the game in horror. The camera work also embellishes these aspects as it can be tight and intimate at points that accentuate the minor details in the environment and then pull back into a grand establishing shot to show how insignificant you are within the sea.
Silt is a unique game that perfectly blends the themes of horror and isolation. Due to the abominations that manifest within, unease spreads throughout and you will second-guess every narrow path. The wonderful puzzles offer a suitable level of challenge which will you keep you content. Even though the movement is a little rigid and it is relatively short, it’s a brilliant experience that taps into the darkest, depths of thalassophobia.
*** A Nintendo Switch key provided by the publisher ***
- Stunning Art Direction
- Logical Puzzles
- Forboding Atmosphere
- Rigid Movement
- Some Creature’s Abilities
- Over Too Soon