Silt Review: Lynchian horror painted in monochrome
Silt is the debut game of Spiral Circus, and they have hit the ball out of the park. The surreal underwater game puts players in an ocean abyss filled with various creatures, both normal and monstrous.
They have to utilize a number of these sea creatures to solve environmental puzzles to steal the eyes of great goliaths to figure out the mystery of the game world.
Silt's beauty lies in how it depicts the ocean depths and all its horrors on the canvas of the screen in stellar monochrome. Speaking to Sportskeeda, Tom Mead, the Art Director of Silt, explained that he never uses colors and that the color palette they chose for the game "makes the atmosphere even tenser."
And he is right. My deep dive into Silt was negotiating with the creatures and monsters through the lens of black and white, in often suffocating contrast.
Silt's world is filled with terrifying creatures, machines, puzzles, and relics
You wake up in the horror indie title as a diver who is chained underwater. The first thing to do is to possess other creatures and, later on, particular inanimate objects. It is the primary mechanic of the game.
To break the chain, players will have to possess an anglerfish swimming nearby and use its teeth to snap the irons. Thus begins the journey.
Players will make their way forward, be it up, down, left or right. They will be negotiating the terrain, often unforgiving with instances like thorns and carnivorous plants, sea creatures who can kill the character instantly, and various puzzles that act as obstacles along the way.
Art of possession
The possession mechanic is interesting, especially with the white trail that leaves the diver and goes to the being to be possessed. Each sea creature that can be possessed has unique abilities.
For example, an angler fish can bite, an arrowfish can swim quickly, and a manta ray can teleport short distances.
The gameplay is about getting into a section, quickly looking around to see what the challengers are and how they can be solved. I found the puzzles generally relatively easy if sometimes a little vague.
The kind of creature you see in the room usually tells you the moves you have to make.
In the latter stages, I enjoyed taking hold of one fish, making my way through a section to possess another fish, and finally, clearing the way for my character to progress.
In one particular stage, I had to possess an arrowfish and swim quickly past the numerous carnivorous plants in a tunnel.
At the end of which, there was an open space where there was a shoal of fish. I possessed one of them and guided the fish to a billowing cloud of poisonous gas spurt out by an underwater plant.
This coated the fish with the poison. The only thing left was to go and feed these fish to the carnivorous plants, which quickly died and cleared the way.
Your primary aim is to make it to the end of each chapter to face the goliath, defeat the monstrous being, steal the eyes, and give it to a mural within a temple-like structure.
Silt's story is not spoken through dialogs and inscriptions but through the subtle art of environmental storytelling.
Where it shines
While Silt's strange and surreal world does not have much of a captivating storyline, its biggest draw point is its beautiful art style.
Tom Mead refers to both Lynch and Burton's esthetics as an influence, and anyone who plays Silt will be able to notice the similarities. Furthermore, the choice of monochrome exacerbates the stifling feeling of diving to the depths.
The play of light and shadow welcomes you to the game's bleak environment, where those unsuspecting will get quickly killed off in various ways. The art style reminds you of Limbo, with both titles perfectly utilizing the chiaroscuro. The game's audioscape further adds to it.
The sound design's texture and depth speak to the esthetic and narrative tone of the game. The music, for me, reflects both the ominous nature of the surroundings, the foreboding atmosphere, and the vulnerable position of the player within it.
In conclusion — In endless depths
Silt, no doubt, is a beautiful game. The indie title has captivating artwork that perfectly compliments the esthetic and tenor of the ocean depths.
The bosses' designs are intriguing, and the soundscape conveys the idea of the abyss as an alien planet, with its nuances and characteristics.
Even though the imageries, like the machineries and the statues in the temple-like structure, are quite vague, it contributes to the sense of weirdness that pervades Silt's atmosphere. But the intricate beauty of these lies in stark contrast to the game's puzzles and obscure narrative.
The short gameplay could have better-taken advantage of its unique possession mechanic to create more layered and nuanced puzzles. Despite the drawbacks, Silt remains a descent into an unsettling nightmarish world that players will surely enjoy.
Developer(s): Spiral Circus
Publisher(s): Fireshine Games
Release Date: June 1, 2022