The Moment of Silence

The Adventure Company is an award winning game production company whose games expand on the formula made popular by the Myst franchise: stunning graphics and complicated puzzles.

I'm a big fan of the investigative/puzzle genre and really enjoyed TAC's previous release; Syberia.  So I was pretty happy to get my hands on The Moment of Silence.

Installation

                

These days, installation should be a pretty standard procedure, and in this case, The Moment of Silence failed me pretty miserably.   My system isn't an Alienware machine, but it's pretty solid, I had more than the recommended hardware (as opposed to the required), and yet the game took a mind numbing two and a half hours to install.  Now, I'm used to slow installs, and The Moment of Silence does come with a four-disc install, but the length of the install wasn't the only problem. 

The installer didn't launch any progress screen to give me any indication of how much longer I was going to be waiting.  Also, the install discs kept repeatedly ejecting and asking for themselves. 

Eventually, the game installed and I was ready to forgive the installation nightmare for a good game.

Story

               

The Moment of Silence starts the player off in the middle of a police raid.  Through your apartment door's peephole, you watch as police storm your new neighbor's pad, and haul him off in cuffs while his wife and son look on in terror.

It's a pretty great start.   From there, your role is to be the nosy neighbor and figure out what the hell just happened.  You also need to figure out just who you are and what your dark past is hiding.  Your only clues come from the fact that your apartment is new to you, and that your only friend is a pretty and flirtatious avatar on your computer who is very interested in you.  Frustratingly, everyone who even slightly knows you already seems to know your history, and is politely avoiding discussing it with you.  In fact, even your character seems to know his history, he just never sees fit to remind himself of his situation leaving the player as the only person in the dark.

In talking to your neighbor's wife, you discover that there is no police record of the raid.  She's distraught, and her kid is in shock.  As gallantly as your gruff demeanor can muster, you offer to help her find her husband.

The problem with this setup is that you're not really told why you should care.  It's hard to enjoy a lot of the story because it seems to all be coming from nowhere.   This is a pattern that repeats itself throughout the game.


Graphics

At first glance, the graphics are fantastic.  The movie scenes are really pretty and the inside action is all beautifully detailed and rich. 

Then you step outside.  Suddenly, instead of the high-quality 3D environment, you're stuck in a top-down 2D world that's straight out of the 80's.  Instead of Tomb Raider, you're in King's Quest.  The controls are terribly limited and the action is really slow. 

This disparity is made more glaring when you approach the local newsstand to gossip.  Suddenly, you're back in a richly rendered world that's somewhere halfway between the horror that you just came from and the lush environment you started in. 

Throughout the game, the graphics change from up close and beautiful to way too removed and dated.   In this day and age, there's really no excuse for such inconsistency. 

Gameplay

Investigative games can get pretty dialogue heavy, and The Moment of Silence has a lot of talking.  Frustratingly, the dialogue is used to trigger events.  So even though you know that you need to take a cab to your office, unless you actually have the conversation with a specific person about going to your office, the cab won't let you go.  You don't have amnesia, you've mentioned going to your office already in the game, but you have to discuss it with a very minor character in order to proceed.  It's little limitations like this that make a game less than it could be. 

For instance, in order to get into a taxi, you need your ID (which also serves as a palmpilot/communicator, it's pretty slick.)  If you don't have your ID on you, the cab won't open.  Once you get your ID from your room, you can get in and access the autopilot.  Of course, since you've already had to use your ID to communicate, you probably won't notice the connection unless you've opted to drop the one object that seems to be of any use to you in the game. 

The first location you visit is your office.  The door has an ID scanner, and it seems logical that having your ID on you should be sufficient.  If a taxi cab can verify who you are just by sensing the ID in your pocket, a door should be able to do the same.  Instead, you have to physically equip and then wave the ID over the right spot an action that you've never had to do, and never have to do again.  No one tells you this, and there's no hint that explains it.  It's a cheap trick pretending to be a puzzle. 

As soon as you get into the building, you have to further verify your ID with a robot.  Now, the robot's personality problem is a part of the plot, so I understand the need to make the player interact with it.  But the game won't let you off the hook until you go through all of the tedious motions several times.  It gets boring pretty fast.

Somewhere along the line, the developers at TAC lost their feel for what a puzzle should encompass.  The result is that their game is frustrating and the solutions don't give you any sense of satisfaction.  You simply managed to click through their story.

Sound

The sound design is great.  All of the voice acting is clear and well done.  There are tense moments where the music kicks in just right.  No complaints sound-wise.

Overall

I really wanted to be a booster for The Adventure Company's most recent title.  But The Moment of Silence just doesn't measure up.  From the moment you put the first install disc into your machine, you're met with slow and tedious action.  The graphics can't seem to settle in on one style and the story refuses to engage the player.  If you can get past the game's shortcomings, it offers a complex plot with a wide range of environments to explore but there's little incentive to do so. 

 

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