Review: 1 Moment of Time: Silentville (PC)

1 Moment of Time: Silentville
Publisher: Big Fish Games
Developer: 2 Monkeys
Genre: Hidden Object
Release Date: 06/17/2012

By this point, everyone knows that I’m the “hidden object game” guy around here. Despite barely touching the genre in years prior, I’ve reviewed a bunch of them in 2012. Still, I haven’t soured on the genre. In fact, I continue to grow in my appreciation of it. Hidden object games offer a level of accessibility and addictiveness that is simply hard to match outside of something like Bejeweled.

Silentville is an interesting game at first look. In terms of the story, it offers the typical intrigue, but with a different way of telling it. In terms of gameplay, it turns the hidden object mechanic on its head by making things more complicated. It was interesting to see how these differences would pan out for Silentville.

Let’s find out.

Story

The town of Silentville has always been a quiet town where nothing happens. Denizens live in peace, and are more than contented in that fact. However, upon traveling to the town, you discover that a curse has seized the town. People are missing, other people are stuck performing menial tasks for eternity, and even you are affected. Before your very eyes, you start to age rapidly. With the town exit blocked off, your only hope is to reverse the curse before it’s too late.

Since you play as an extension of yourself, the main character isn’t given much to say. However, there are several town members that can be found and conversed with. Each has a different take on what happened, and each is quick to tell you their story. These bits are done with some nice hand drawn scenes and voice overs.

If there’s one caveat, it’s that you pretty much know what to do very early on. From not so subtle clues, you can tell you need to investigate a mansion. However, like most hidden object games, the path to said mansion is blocked off. This means you spend almost the entire game trying to get to one area of the map. It drives me a bit crazy, because anyone with half a brain could get into that house without going through all of the trouble you’re forced to endure. Why not bring that ladder you found earlier and simply scale the fence? That’s about half an hour of searching for the materials to create a key saved right there.

So, while it has some interesting spots, the trappings of the genre give it some huge pacing problems.

Graphics

For a town so cursed, there isn’t all that much going on in Silentville. While a couple of gates are locked by strange means, it looks like any other small town at night. That being said, there are some really nice spots. The garden is a visual delight, thanks mostly to the old VW overgrown with vines. There are more lame than interesting areas to be sure, but the highlights stand out.

Animation is not a strong point here. All of the characters you meet are frozen in place, which may or may not be due to the curse. There are still other areas where there should be some decent animation, but the reality is pretty crude. These include a rat scurrying after some food, a spider building a web, and other such things.

The best part of the visual package are those story sequences I mentioned earlier. When characters tell you their version of the events that led to the curse, they tell them in illustrations. These aren’t revolutionary or anything, but they are still fun to look at.

Overall, this is a typical looking HO game.

Audio

For a casual title, the voice acting isn’t half bad. There are some oddities, such as effeminate voices reading masculine lines. The big issue, though, is the implementation of these lines. New sentences start abruptly after the last one, creating a harsh transition. If you’ve watched any English dubs before, you’ll know what I’m talking about. It kind of ruined the experience for me at times.

Musically speaking, the game uses the typical HO soundtrack. The tunes are pleasant background music, nothing more. If anything, there needed to be more variety. The end of the game deserves a more rousing tune than the one provided. It made the act of performing a dark ritual in order to summon a god seem like just another slide puzzle.

The effects are standard as well, making this an overall typical aural production. Really, you could play with the sound off and have no problems. I did find it amusing how you could honk the horn of a car during a hidden object section, but there was nothing to set this apart from the pack.

Gameplay

Hidden object games tend to run pretty much the same from one game to another. For the most part, Silentville, sticks to traditions.

The bulk of the game is spent traveling from location to location. Your goal is to investigate the surroundings in order to find objects of interest. Some items can be added to your inventory, some objects can be interacted with by using items in your inventory, some items require you to solve a puzzle, and other areas ask you to play a hidden object mini-game.

The puzzles in this game were pretty simple. There were a number of puzzles where all you had to do was rotate objects until a connecting pipe or other such object reached from start to finish. A couple of the puzzles were a bit more involved, but at a cost. For example, one game required you to fire a ball into a basket. The controls for this were horrendous, and the whole exercise was nothing but an example of trial and error. Thankfully, you can skip any of these puzzles by waiting for a meter to fill. Most won’t require such drastic action, but the option is there.

The hint system is pretty nifty. If you use a hint, than you’ll be transported to the area you need to be. Press the hint button again, and it will show you what you need to interact with. This allows you to use the hint system as a way to fast travel from one location to another. While there is a map function that has a similar function, the hint system is far more useful.

The biggest change comes in the hidden object sections themselves. In these almost every item requires a trick to find. If you want that sliced meat, you’re going to need to find a knife and get carving. If you want a working lantern, you’re going to need to put a couple of pieces together. Some items require three or four steps before you can cross them off. While many other HO games do things like this, Silentville is the only one I’ve played where such mechanics were the rule rather than the exception. This made these sections much more interesting to play.

In the end, it’s those hidden object sections that help set this game apart from its peers.

Replayability

This game has absolutely no replay value. It will take a few hours to complete unless you refuses to use hints. In that case, you can probably add another hour for wandering around like a lost puppy. After those few hours are up, there’s nothing to come back for. The game plays the same on every playthrough. Changing the difficulty merely mixes up how often you get hints, which isn’t a good enough incentive to come back.

This is one area of the casual market where special editions are the way to go. They tend to offer bonus gameplay and other extras that add some length to the game. Silentville is sadly typical of regular versions. It’s a one and done game to be sure.

Balance

My biggest pet peeve with HO games is when you’re absolutely stuck, and it turns out the reason is because you didn’t travel back to the beginning of the game in order to replay a hidden object section. This game has that problem in spades. It happened on several occasions where the only way to move forward was to go back and get an item from an area where previously wasn’t available. This is where that hint system came in handy. It saved me a lot of frustration.

The rest of the game is pretty easy. Apart from the broken ones I mentioned earlier, the puzzles are all really simple. Anybody could solve them, provided they have some patience. Best of all, there were no slide puzzles! Boy do I hate those!

Ahem.

Anyways, this isn’t a particularly balanced game. The hint system makes it a breeze to go through the game as it is. The easy puzzles weren’t needed. A little more challenge, optional though it might have been, would have been much better received.

Originality

I’m actually going to give the game some points for originality. The hidden object sections, though extensions of an already present idea, really made a difference. It mattered enough that coming across such a section warranted an entirely different mindset than before. At no point can you just blindly click away until you stumble across the missing object. That’s simply an improvement.

Apart from that, Silentville is the typical HO game. It hits all of the expected notes, and does so with the usual (lack of) flair. Developers are proving quite stubborn when it comes to moving the genre forward. I suppose it’s too much of a cash cow for them.

Addictiveness

As usual, the game is pretty addicting. Investigating, solving puzzles, and hunting for hidden objects proves as enticing as ever. There’s a reason why this gameplay type is the number two casual game behind Bejeweled clones.

That being said, it’s not like Silentville does anything in particular to make itself stand out. The HO sections I keep praising aren’t so fascinating that I had to rush to the next one. I kept playing simply because I found it hard to stop. It’s the same feeling I get from just about every game in the genre. A few have stood out thanks to strong stories or visual design. Silentville isn’t among them.

Appeal Factor

As always, this game will appeal to a certain type of player. The fan base is fairly substantial, which is good. However, it’s not like anyone will use this game to bring in new fans. It’s a great time killer to be sure, but nothing radical.

Also as always, this is an affordable, accessible and addictive game. Ten dollars isn’t too much to ask for how much play time you’re going to get out of this. Any more than that, and there would be problems though.

For fans, this game is a safe buy, especially if you like more involved hidden object sections. The story is interesting enough to see you through, and there are some strong visual moments to make up for the more drab sections. Don’t rush out to get it by any means, but keep it in mind if you need to satisfy a fix.

Miscellaneous

This isn’t a Collector’s Edition. As such, it offers nothing in the way of extras to reward you for completing the game. There aren’t any collectables, achievements, or anything of the like. This is to be expected, but it still kind of sucks.

What we’re left with is a run of the mill game that will satisfy existing fans, but likely not bring any new ones to the genre.

And by the way, they’re not fooling anyone with that “1” instead of “One” business. It’s just a blatant move to get the game on the top of alphabetical lists. It’s an amusing tactic at least.

The Scores
Story: Mediocre
Graphics: Mediocre
Audio: Below Average
Gameplay: Enjoyable
Replayability: Worthless
Balance: Poor
Originality: Poor
Addictiveness: Above Average
Appeal Factor: Decent
Miscellaneous: Poor
Final Score: Below Average Game!

Short Attention Span Summary

While it certainly does some things well, Silentville also hits all of the traps of the genre. The story lags due to pacing issues, the presentation is often bland, and the challenge is nil. On the plus side, it has the most engaging hidden object sections I’ve seen is such a game. While that earns it some points, it doesn’t do enough to outweigh the less than worthy aspects. For fans, this is a safe buy regardless. However, this is definitely not a must buy by any means.

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