Silence Is Golden
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The Adventure Company has done it again. Of course, this statement usually means two things: one really great, and one not so great.
The great thing about Adventure Company is they always manage to find these developers that are either totally unknown or have developed primarily in Europe (as is the case of Digital Jesters). These developers invariably crank out these phenomenally good games, and you usually can't wait to see what they will do next.
The not so great thing is the commonality of packaging problems that seem to invariably come with these games.
I guess I'll touch on this first to get it out of the way. First, the install process was a harrowing experience for me. The CDs make rattling noises when inserted into my drive. I don't know why they do this, but they don't make that noise on another computer I tried, and I have never gotten that noise out of any other disk I have used on my computer. I'll chalk that up to weirdness, and it didn't really affect any ratings (it still made the noise while I played the game, but there are often far more distracting noises where I test games that I was able to ignore it).
What did effect the ratings slightly was what happened when I inserted disk 2 after being asked for it. The progress window (which wasn't very accurate anyway) went away, and the disks explorer window was auto-opened. It appeared as if the install process was abandoned entirely, and something got stuck. But in reality it was still chugging along, unpacking files from what must be really big-time compression. After the second time of just halting the process (which I believe said 'Not Responding', but I guess I should have known better than to trust Windows XP), I made a leap of faith and just let it go. Sure enough, after a time it asked for the rest of the disks, and it got installed. I think if the install wizard had been a bit more descriptive about what was going on, there would have been much less panic, and the game would have gotten installed the first time around.
Now, on to the good stuff, because when talking about the actual game, there is a lot of good there.
The story is a layered and in-depth mystery which slowly reveals itself as the game goes on. This is quite easy to screw up - the pacing can be off, etc., but Moment of Silence manages to keep your interest peaked throughout the process, revealing just enough to make you want to know more. Too much and the game would lose punch; too little and the player loses interest. Digital Jesters manages to ride the line between and bring us a truly intriguing mystery story.
In the game you play the character of Peter Wright, who had lost his wife and son in some kind of accident he doesn't like to talk about, and slipped into a period of alcoholism. Sometime just before the start of the game, he dries himself out and gets a job with an advertising firm, who moves him to New York and puts him up in a nice apartment.
The opening movie shows a SWAT team entering an apartment building. Peter watches through the peephole as he sees the team break into an apartment down the hall, come out with a man in custody, while a woman and boy look on helplessly. After the SWAT guys leave and the woman and child go back inside, Peter decides to open the door and get involved. This is of course where the movie ends and you now have to do stuff for yourself.
The game's interface is a 3D 3rd-person view, and to go places you just click there, or click on items to inspect, manipulate or take them. Double-clicking causes the guy to run to his destination, but let me ask you something that I have never understood in these games - Why? Why doesn't he just run there with a single click, since all anyone does is double-click anyway? You see the same things whether he runs or not, since you get to examine the scene he is running across whether he's running, walking, or standing still. But I guess that's just me.
The left-click to interact and right-click to examine an object/location/person works really well, since there is really only one way you can reasonably interact with a certain object. The icon will also change to tell you how you can manipulate something, so in case there was any question, you can see before you click.
Finding the thing you are supposed to click on can be difficult, especially in the larger screens (the ones where you are so small you can barely see yourself, that is). But, with a little perseverance you can locate everything on the screen eventually. Or, if you get frustrated, you can hit the 'H' key to put outlines on all objects and exits.
Your inventory is easily accessed by moving the cursor all the way to the bottom of the screen. It then pops up, and you can see what items you have available. To use an item, simply left-click on it, go back to the game screen, and click on the thing on which you want to use it.
There is one inventory item that bears a specific description: the Messenger. Once you pick this up, it stays with you, and, instead of using it with an object, you click on it to bring it up in the game window. You then turn it on, and use it to make calls, either to information, or numbers you've already dialed. You can do other things with it so, trust me, you are going to be using it a lot.
The art is quite good, giving often breath-taking views of the near-futuristic Manhattan skyline and environs. The 3D characters are well constructed, and integrate seamlessly with the rendered backgrounds. All in all, MoS is very easy on the eye.
The voice acting is actually above par for this type of computer game. The people sound real, and you can tell just through their voices that they know how to emote.
I really liked the music in MoS. It's edgy and sort of techno, but it has sort of familiar overtones that tell you that you haven't strayed too far from reality. The sound effects are all through the game, and everything sounds just how it's supposed to, which is a lot harder than it sounds.
The game's story is rather in-depth, and all of the characters in it have rich, full backgrounds. As your gameplay proceeds, it becomes apparent, bit by bit, just how much work went into this aspect of the game.
The Moment of Silence is well worth the time of any adventure/puzzle game player. It had no problem earning the 4.5 GiN Gems I awarded it.
Greg Crowe is Game Industry News Features Editor. Due to his established history of having played every game in the universe he is uniquely qualified to evaluate games based on playability, innovation and place in history. You can contact him at : firstname.lastname@example.org.