The Silent Age is a point-and-click (I mean, point-and-tap) iOs adventure from House on Fire, a small game studio in Denmark. Joe is a janitor on an average day in 1972, cleaning up on in a high-security government lab when he’s summoned by the big boss, to be assigned more duties with no raise. The setting is established immediately, with jumpsuited janitor Joe passing a photo of Nixon (Honest Richard! Joe says unironically), a massive American flag, a chainsmoking secretary, a high-security cardreader, and, is that the capital dome outside the window? Joe is extremely vague and unconcerned about any work that doesn’t involve pushing a broom, but it’s clear to players that all the locked laboratories, mysterious chemicals, and high-tech equipment are pretty shady. What is our hapless hero in for?
While cleaning the labs, Joe follows a trail of blood to a mysterious time-traveler, who’s been injured on a mission to stop whatever actually goes on in that building. He gives Joe a solar-powered mini time-machine and an important mission to find his younger self. Joe realizes just how much the future lies in his hands the first time he transports into the future, and discovers a desolate, destroyed world.
I mean, yes, I wanted to find the mysterious time-traveler and I wanted to know why Joe’s picture was labelled a person of interest, but I also wanted to see what would happen if I asked Joe to stick this paperclip in the hornet’s nest.
The Silent Age: Part 1
To help Joe on his mission, players solve puzzles by exploring, pocketing everything that’s not nailed down, and using items creatively. I remember discovering that some of the “wrong” combination in point-and-click adventures like Monkey Island were funnier than the combinations that actually advanced the game. The Silent Age tells a darker story, but still has room for ridiculous flavor text. I mean, yes, I wanted to find the mysterious time-traveler and I wanted to know why Joe’s picture was labelled a person of interest, but I also wanted to see what would happen if I asked Joe to stick this paperclip in the hornet’s nest. So I did.
The flavortext is so good, I found myself screenshotting scene after scene, and actually giggling aloud over some of Joe’s remarks. But the mechanics are interesting too. Joe is able to pop between 1972, present day for our polyester-loving hero, and a desolate future with a mysterious device. Using the point-and-click system, Joe can change the past to change the future. Destroy a poison ivy seedling in 1972, and avoid a poison ivy outbreak in the future.
Throughout the game, Joe shifts between campy, disco 1970s and desolate post-apocalyptic future, and both time periods work. When Joe time-travels, players can see the very same locations, once with geometric wallpaper, seventies ‘staches and other retro style, and then destroyed and abandoned in the future. The Silent Age manages to be hilariously campy, and still full of dramatic tension.
The Silent Age: Part 2
The second part of House on Fire’s The Silent Age continues janitor Joe’s time-traveling adventures as he saves the world from certain destruction. Like in the first episode, Joe travels between groovy 1972 and a terrible post-apocalyptic future with his solar-powered time-machine.
Players continue using the same time-travel mechanic. Plant an apple in 1972, pick it in the future, bring it back to the seventies to feed a hungry scientist. (Doing this chain of actions, I was about 90% convinced that this was how the mysterious disease was spread) Open a valve in 1972, and drain water from the future. I don’t know if I better understood the time-travel mechanic or House of Fire’s particular brand of point-and-click puzzle solving, but I felt like I flew threw the second half of the game. Especially compared with Episode One, in Episode Two I spent almost no time walking from room to room, trying to figure out what to click, and what to use together. But, of course, I did try some ridiculous combinations to see what Joe would have to say.
The loose ends in the first half — why is Joe listed as a person of interest? Where did Frank go? What started the plague? What will happen to Archon Industries? Will the environmental saboteurs succeed? — are wrapped up well in the second part. In the beginning of Episode 1, Frank, Joe’s boss, leaves abruptly, getting Joe the “promotion” that kicks off off the entire plot. I assumed that Frank was tragically killed while emptying the wastepaper baskets in one of the shady laboratories, but in episode 2, he is revealed as Yuri, a Soviet plant, investigating Archon’s labs. I laughed out loud at that part, and
After endless jokes about disco, polyester, and dying in extremely manly ways, I was surprised when the end was terribly emotional. (Without giving it away, I’m talking about the moment in the stasis chambers.)
The Silent Age: Episode 2 is available on iOs or Android.
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