In a world full of AAA games with increasingly life-like graphics, games like Silt stand apart. It is a minimalist game in the best way possible akin to games like Limbo or Inside. The spooky atmosphere also invokes games such as Dear Esther or Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture.
The game always hints that something more is going on; you just have to unlock the keys to the clues. Let’s review the game’s story, mechanics, performance, and more.
Silt background: unlikely inspiration source
The developers of Silt made many comments about the visual influences of the game. Spiral Circus co-founder Tom Mead brought his fear of animal suits and nostalgia for Beatrix Potter characters to Silt for an otherworldly effect. The seemingly biomechanical creations that exist in this ocean also unsettle the player.
Created by a very small group of people, this deep-sea puzzle game plays with light, shadow, and expectations.
Setting & tone: moody, ominous, and abandoned
The player awakens as a Diver in an underwater setting filled with grotesque creatures big and small. The monochromatic color scheme makes use of light and shadow to communicate tone. But the shading on the intricate, hand-drawn style creatures and buildings.
Expect an eerie setting — especially for those who suffer from thalassophobia or fear of open water. There are fearsome “Goliaths” or giant sea creatures that usually sport terrifying jaws or tentacles.
There are also relics of an industrial society of humanoid animals that the Diver encounters.
Silt story: short, but engaging
Without spoiling too much of Silt, the story is opaque in a good way. It withholds information, waiting for the player to stumble upon it and unravel the game’s mystery. The opening poem at the beginning of the game best sums up the approach and plot:
In endless depths, Goliaths roam, Beneath the waves and crashing foam,
Hunt them down, remove their eyes, For this is where their power lies,
A great machine lies deep in wait, Awaken it to seal your fate.
How long to beat Silt
The game has a few easter eggs, as well as hidden things like Chained Divers to discover. It has a naturally open world with no UI for players to explore freely. That means that each and every player will have a different overall playtime. In general, however, you can expect these timelines for how long it takes to beat Silt:
- Story: ~3 hours
- Completionist: ~5 hours
Silt performance: solid and consistent
For most players, Silt should run smoothly. It does have a higher footprint for a game that only lasts about 5 hours at 5.5 GB of space. But the main issue with the game’s performance lies in a critical component: the Diver model.
It sticks out immensely as an unfinished 3D model instead of an animated entity as the other creatures and even Goliaths are in the game. This especially becomes obvious in lower light areas as you can see in the image on the left.
Silt gameplay & functions: straight-forward and basic
The gameplay in Silt is deceptively simple. The hard part comes in deciphering the various puzzles found throughout the game and how to leverage the Diver’s possession powers. That said, you won’t find any UI past the initial tutorial stage that tells you the basic controls.
Key mechanics in Silt
There are three basic “controls” in Silt:
- Possession – this lets the Diver shoot out a beam of energy to possess nearby creatures such as piranhas or schools of fish
- Toggle helmet light – this turns the Diver’s flashlight on and off
- Useability – while possessing a creature, the Diver can use its ability to bash obstacles, bite chains, and more
Of course, “mechanics” don’t stop there. While possessing different creatures, you can do different things as follows:
- Piranha: small fish with giant jaws that can chomp through ropes and chains
- School of fish: a single fish who leads a group of fish as you see fit
- Hammerhead: can slam against obstacles with its hard head
- Swordfish: can swim quickly past dangers
- Stingray: can skate through certain obstacles
- Crab: can jump up high and withstand crushing blows
- Lightfish: can turn their light source on and off to herd larvae
- Electric eels: can restore electricity to old machinery
- Amoeba balls: small balls like a little sun that can incapacitate dangerous creatures
World, sound, & character design
World design: straight-forward, but not in a bad way
Despite the world design being quite simple, it is still easy for players prone to exploring to get “lost” in a way. For instance, there’s an area with a tree that has exits in the top left, top right, and bottom-right areas. However, if a player only explores the area around the tree, they might miss the exits in the top right and left.
In this way, Silt encourages players to really search from corner to corner on every screen. The biggest impediment to that might be the player’s own trepidation at what monstrosity might await them in the shadows.
Sound design: a bit lacking
With something like an underwater game, you expect there to be a bit more auditory cues that enhance the atmosphere. In games like Subnautica, for instance, there are lots of little touches that distinguish locations and unique animals from one another.
For Silt, it feels a bit more one-note. This may be due to the fact that the game is so focused on minimalism, but it ultimately works against the player experience.
Character design: superb and consistent
Players really can see the influence of Beatrix Potter’s characters in the humanoid animal race. Though not often depicted and never seen alive, this race seems to have been the controlling group in this game’s world at a previous time. There are even birdcages filled with empty Diver helmets and other chained Divers to be found throughout the game.
Beyond that, the creature design of fish and the frightening Goliaths is excellent. They are just enough like animals in our world mixed with a few too many teeth, gargantuan size, or something else that’s just a little harrowing.
Verdict: worth picking up!
While Silt doesn’t do anything too extraordinary or novel, it does what it does very well. It presents a unique world just enough like our own with a story left open to the interpretation of the player. The animation style pairs with the ghostly underwater setting and fearsome, at times grotesque creature designs.
At just $15 USD, the game feels like a good value and it is always good to support small game studios. Try out Silt for yourself — if only to confront your fear of the deep, dark, unknowable ocean…or humanoid animals.
- Excellent atmosphere of spooky underwater depths
- Straightforward mechanics
- Beautiful (if unnerving) backgrounds and creature designs
- Intriguing story
- Great for a casual gaming experience
- Short run time
- 3D Diver model can distract some players from the hand-drawn style of other game aspects
- Inconsistent or rudimentary puzzle design in some sections
Developer: Spiral Circus
Publisher: Fireshine Games
Game Modes: Singleplayer
Game Engine: Unity