The Thin Silence Review
In The Thin Silence, you walk around the two-dimensional environment solving logic puzzles by using objects in your inventory on different things in the world. For example, the hook lets you travel past big boulders and the boot allows you to kick boards over to turn them into bridges. The game also has a mechanic where you can combine objects together to create new objects. For example, the hook and the boot can be combined and made into a climbing boot. Combine the boot and the battery, and you have yourself the ability to literally kick machines into operation. When you find a new usable object, you’re actually finding two or three since it can be combined with the ones you already have in your inventory. Discovering how these objects combine is really satisfying.
Despite the potential that comes from you combining objects to make new ones, the game’s puzzles are ultimately all about doing things in the correct order – moving this boulder down into a gap so that you can walk over and power an elevator, which in turn will get you up to a certain lever, and so on. The Thin Silence keeps these sequential solutions from becoming tiresome by introducing new elements each puzzle and also by keeping the puzzles short and generally low in number. By not bloating the game with puzzle after puzzle, the pacing of the game is improved and a spotlight is shone on other elements, such as environment and story.
And story in this game is an essential part, made evident by the time allotted to the cutscenes that slowly reveal the main character’s past, as well as the notes that you can find in the world that expand on the game’s themes of regret, depression, loneliness, and guilt. The focus is mainly on unravelling the protagonist’s mysterious past, but the game also manages to touch on its world’s story, mental illness in general, and philosophies on society, government, and power. It’s impressive how such a short game can so briefly touch on these subjects while also presenting a few poignant ideas about them. The balance between story and gameplay here is very well designed, never drowning the player in a sequence of boring puzzles nor in a treatise of philosophical musings.
The narrative is clearly a big part of the presentation and while the puzzles never get too challenging, they remain difficult enough that the player isn’t simply going through the motions. The pacing between the two elements is fantastic and the entire experience is a relatively brief 4 hours that kept me interested through out. My main complaints are in regards to inventory management in the latter half of the game, where you simply have too many objects and it gets tedious cycling through them to find out what will work where, as well as the user interface, which would have benefitted from traditional key bindings. I simply couldn’t get used to hitting enter to pause my game instead of the escape key and pressing the ‘a’ key to confirm choices in menus. I highly recommend using a controller to play the game because, in direct comparison with its keyboard brethren, the control scheme on a gamepad makes way more sense.
The Thin Silence is a short piece that manages to deliver a satisfying experience through its puzzles and the ideas it conveys. The gameplay is simple but the puzzles are challenging enough so that solving them is their own reward. Little details are to be found everywhere in its art style and its presentation, and the way that the story, the main character, and the philosophical ideas in the game tie together is clever. If you enjoy puzzle games with a subtle and interesting narrative, The Thin Silence is worthy of your time.