Silt sees you diving into a vast ocean, braving hazards in your quest to awaken a great machine. Probably.
Why the uncertainty? Because Silt is not a game that doles out answer after answer; your underwater quest is so shrouded in mystery it’s entirely possible there is no great machine and you’re roaming the dreams of some slumbering creature. Which, alongside the black-and-white aesthetic, makes two things Silt has borrowed from Limbo.
For the most part, it works. Developer Spiral Circus Games and publisher Fireshine Games have delivered a haunting outing that will put you off deep-sea documentaries for life. Split into five or so zones (your first playthrough will take two to four hours), Silt tasks you with locating each zone’s leviathan, absorbing its soul, then funnelling that power into the Great Machine.
But it’s getting there that’s the challenge. There are a wealth of obstacles in your way, ranging from aquatic vines through to vast Bobbit Worm-style creatures that lurk in the cavern walls. Silt‘s soundscape is appropriately understated, so the sickening crunch that accompanies your diver’s worm-induced demise punctuates your misfortune.
How do you fight back? You don’t, not directly. Instead, Silt presents these and other encounters as puzzles. Sometimes, the answer is simply to steer clear, whereas at other times you’ll need to take advantage of your diver’s ability to possess other animals and, as the game progresses, jump from creature to creature.
Those vines? Possess a sharp-toothed piranha and you can nibble through them. The Bobbit Worms? If you’re able, you can… actually, I won’t spoil that one. Silt’s biggest joy is figuring out how to use the wildlife, and the associated environmental hazards, to your inventory.
Those piranhas for example, might be on the other side of a rock wall, so how do you bring them into vine-biting range? The further you progress through Silt, the tougher these conundrums get, though the difficulty is typically spot on. You’ll either get a real rush from solving a puzzle or kick yourself for not spotting the solution earlier, but frustration is never a factor.
I say “piranhas”, but in truth it isn’t quite so easy to pin a label on Silt’s creatures. You might recognise their real-world inspiration, but there’s also something disquietingly alien about them. Even your diver, your lone avatar in the abyss, is a little off, with limbs that are too spindly to be human; part of me wanted to know what was behind the mask, the other part was praying I didn’t find out.
Then there’s the bosses, bio-mechanical creatures which would give the ghost of H.R. Giger nightmares. Watching one of them unfurl themselves from the seabed then expand to fill half the screen is quite something. At least it is, until things go downhill.
Because, as much as I love the rest of the game, Silt’s boss encounters are a real anti-climax. They’re imposing but they’re also ridiculously easy to dispatch. It may be that Spiral Circus saw them as puzzles to solve, but the “solution” is typically so easy it lacks the spike of satisfaction you get from solving most of Silt‘s other puzzles.
I wanted to punch the air (or water) when, clearing Silt’s final zone, I negotiated a gauntlet of bloated, diver-munching… things. Ten minutes later, I was sitting in the safe spot at the top of the boss’ chamber while its attacks came nowhere near me. As it expired, I felt, well, not a lot, really.
Things picked up with the ending, but Silt‘s bosses are in sore need of an overhaul. Thankfully, Silt has plenty of stand-out encounters to help erase the memory of those few middling ones. If you’ve the remotest interest in what lies below, this atmospheric aquatic outing is well worth diving into.
Silt Review – GameSpew’s Score