Most modern games can no longer afford to think one-dimensionly. It’s not enough to have a princess trapped in a castle with a giant lizard king; nowadays it’s about creating something complex, meaningful and different. That’s why indie games like Braid, Limbo and even Amnesia: The Dark Descent (as horror-inducing as that game is) have been growing in popularity, because they challenge how we think and how we play.
The Silent Age: Episode One is one of these games.
The Silent Age is the first game from Denmark-based indie gaming company House On Fire. It’s an episodic series that’s being funded directly by user donations, and so far only the first episode has been released.
The first episode introduces the main character, Joe, a literal Joe Average who served in the Vietnam War and now works as a janitor in a secret government building during 1972. When Joe is going about his business one not-so-special day, he discovers a trail of blood that leads him to a dying time traveler from the future, who tells Joe that a cataclysmic event is set to happen on that very day. Joe is handed the time traveling device and is unintentionally sent to a brutal, harsh yet somehow calm future. It’s a moment frozen in time, but with more dead bodies.
Joe is tasked with finding the man who gave him the time traveling device before said man traveled back in time, so the (as of yet) unknown disaster can be prevented. In order to accomplish this, the player must complete a series of puzzle-like scenarios using items found both in the past and future.
This is where the game truly succeeds. The player has to exist along two timelines, each of which is different and offering unique items, routes and options. There is no way the player can complete one of Episode One’s chapters without traveling to the past and future multiple times to gather items, open doors and complete tasks.
It’s a really unique premise that offers something fun for the player to experiment with. Whenever I was stuck trying to get somewhere, the answer could often be found simply by pressing the time device and moving to the other period in time for a new perspective. The puzzles were challenging but not too challenging where I couldn’t figure things out, making this a great game for people who aren’t the best at solving puzzles … but it might be a little easy for puzzle aficionados.
Another reason this game succeeds is the environment. The graphics are simple but effective, combining stillness and subtle movement (such as lightly drifting snow or a slowly swinging body) to emphasize isolation and confusion for Joe and the player. I found myself creeped out on a few occasions without any jump scares to speak of.
The music helps create that mood. The game recommends you wear headphones and with good reason — the music slowly pans from left to right and the player is constantly surrounded with haunting noises, effects and melodies. It’s slow and subtle, but effective.
The game also have a fun sense of humor when necessary, which helps break up the tension at times when it can be more stressful or intense.
The only real problem I had with this game was it was really short. I completed it in less than an hour. I know it’s intended to be the first episode in the series, but I’m really hoping the second episode is a little bit longer — especially if the developers decide to charge for it. I also ended the game knowing pretty much nothing about what the catastrophic event was or how it occurred, but that only bothered me a little. I kind of like not knowing at this point, but that only means I’m more eager for the second episode to be released.
For anyone wanting a quick puzzle game that’s unique, insightful and offers more than just the “save the princess” scenario, I highly recommend checking out The Silent Age. It’s a real groovy time, man. Sorry, I just had to say it.
Here’s an App Store link for The Silent Age: Episode One; it’s currently free.
Disclosure: This app was independently purchased by the post’s author. For further information regarding our site’s review policies, please see the “About” page.