Review: Silt is a short, disturbing trip that leaves an impression
This deeply creepy exploration game maintains its mystery, but doesn’t quite nail the puzzles
- Key Credits
- Tom Mead (Art director)
When you begin Silt you’ll instantly be drawn to the game’s incredible art style. Each area looks like the hand-drawn etchings of a 19th-century diver, fervently trying to recount the horrors he witnessed beneath the sea.
A monochrome, contemplative horror, Silt is one of the most visually striking puzzle games in recent years. It reminds us of an underwater Limbo, a Swimbo, if you will.
The game begins by telling the player to seek out the eyes of the goliaths that lie deep beneath the ocean, and that there’s a great machine laying in wait for them at the end of their journey.
It’s a suitably creepy set-up to the game, letting the player infer what’s going on rather than spelling it out for them. This works well as the game evokes old horror stories rather than a realistic exploration of under the sea.
Puzzles are often solved by possessing one of the sea creatures and using their ability to bypass an obstacle or collect. This works fairly well, and remembering what each creature does and how they interact is enjoyable, but the possession mechanic itself is often slightly too slow for its own good. The sharp white beam that emerges from the player as this happens looks great, but it’s not the easiest thing to control.
The sea creatures all look brilliant, bringing to mind an old, pre-photography maritime book. It’s also strangely hypnotic to swim about as them. The game is also brilliant at relaying the scale of the monsters you’re facing. Horrific mouths filled with 20ft teeth ready to impale the player.
Underwater levels have been a strong horror troupe in video games for as long as the medium has been able to depict water, and Silt plays on this well. While there’s no chance of drowning to worry about, the glacial speed at which you turn and re-adjust means escaping from the jaws of death is often an extremely close call.
At times it feels like the puzzles are mostly there as an avenue to guide you through the amazing art. While some areas are more themed around possession and others around manipulating light, we didn’t find ourselves hugely challenged by the puzzles themselves. Which, to be honest, is probably a good thing because we just wanted to see which creepy environment was waiting for us in the next section.
It’s difficult to talk about how the narrative develops in the game, not only because it’s a game that’s full of surprise and absolutely worth going into blind, but because it isn’t hugely explicit about what’s actually going on.
You’ll find yourself in a ruined temple with images of gods and ornate architecture, or swimming next to what appears to be huge beating heart at the bottom of the ocean. Silt is a game that will have you asking, “What the hell was that?,” even if it doesn’t always get around to providing the most satisfying conclusion.
“The sea creatures all look brilliant, bringing to mind an old, pre-photography maritime book. It’s also strangely hypnotic to swim about as them.”
Silt is absolutely worth the journey, purely to see all of the incredible art that’s hidden at the bottom of the ocean. At times it’s like floating through a distrubing sketch book that was found in abandoned diving boat.
The puzzle’s don’t quite hold up their end of the bargain, and serve more as tour guide of the horror, but they’re never frustrating. The possession mechanic is fun, if slightly fiddly, but all of the creatures you posses are extremely detailed and enjoyable to swim around in.
Silt isn’t a game that’s going to have you throwing your controller in the air with the biggest jump scare in the world, but it is a game that just might wear down the screenshot button on your controller.
Every screen is a feast for the eyes. You’ll find yourself too distracted looking at the gnarled detailed to notice the skyscraper sized fish about to devour you.
A year from now we’re unlikely to be able to recount an incredible puzzle or ingenious solution, but Silt’s lasting impression of incredible art and perfectly pitched atmosphere will be giving us nightmares for some time.
- Incredible atmosphere
- Omnious, creepy levels
- Unique art style
- Forgettable puzzles
- Possession mechanic isn’t very precise.