WIf you not only want to explore the underworld of the small, darkly sparkling video game “Silt” but also want to experience it, you have to become a diver. Privacy is recommended, as well as good, comfortable headphones and a certain lack of light that is just easy on the eyes. Then you put the watch aside. She would only complain to the player. But don’t worry, “Silt” can be completed in just over an hour by the time standards of our dimension, it just doesn’t feel like it.
It begins with a poem, white on black, with an inscription on an unknown ground: “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, awakens it to seal your fate.” So there is talk of gigantic beings in endless depths, of eyes that need to be removed, and of a great machine that needs to be awakened. More words are not used in the game. Instead, the player finds himself in the character of a diver, tied with a heavy chain to the bottom of a silent world composed of shades of black and gray.
Why are we chained? Well, perhaps because we are given the disturbing ability to possess other beings via soul transfer. And so, even before we have even swung our fins, we force the white glowing soul of our diver into the dark with an electric squirt through the diving goggles and use it like a fishing rod to reach for the unsuspecting fish whose robust teeth we are freed from the bonds.
Surrounded by organic-looking walls that are streaked with fine veins, we dive through caves where hollow hearts have stopped beating. In order to advance, we keep possessing the denizens of the deep. They nibble, ram or smash obstacles and clear the way. So we move from riddle to riddle on a transmigration of a different kind. Until we emerge from the toothed maw of one of said Goliaths, without even getting close to anything that could be called the surface.
It seems almost life-wise how “Silt” tells the inevitable path to misfortune, but also how to overcome it: We follow a kind of glowing tassel lantern through dark caves – and yet we know exactly what awaits us in the deep sea at the other end . But once we suck the soul out of the eye of the frogfish with the glowing needle teeth, something cosmic happens and we arrive as a glowing form at the heart of a machine where statues of beastmen juggling diving helmets tell their own unique stories and which can conveniently be fueled with the soul energy of the underwater giants. Elsewhere, one thinks one is doing good by feeding the hungry, blind maws of an arboreal creature, only to find that in doing so one is invoking an even greater evil.
In addition to its monochrome level design and the restrained and precise use of noise and sound, “Silt” is particularly impressive because the player has to craft the story that the developers of Spiral Circus came up with from what he sees . A lost civilization? A machine as a gigantic Nautilus with libraries, stairs and genie lamps? Sunken statues of fanfare foxes? Horned diving helmets?
Of course, as in any bold storytelling medium, there are weaknesses and pitfalls. Mysteries that aren’t immediately obvious. Passages in which one is pursued by striped-ravenous trumpet worms or snatched by their big brothers, who dart out of crevices with large prehensile tools; that you try again and again. But because “Silt” is what it is, curiosity always helps with the necessary patience. Nobody has to rush. Sometimes it is enough to sink into the depths and observe. Something that could certainly be used in real everyday life – if it weren’t always teeming with striped trumpet worms.
silt is available for around 50 euros for Playstation 4/5, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One/Series and the Windows PC.
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