I always imagined that when you go underwater in the ocean that it would be deathly quiet. Nothing much more than the gentle lapping of the waves above your head somewhere. But, it’s not. Underwater noises are almost ethereal, sometimes oddly metallic with the clanking of rock on rock, the ripples of the thriving sub-aquatic flora, and other almost alien sounds. Silt captures that submerged otherworldliness perfectly with its own soundscape, plastering it on a game world that’s just as mysterious, and completely monochrome.
It’s a world that you won’t quickly forget. It’s unsettling, aggressive, and just the right mix of biological and mechanical that makes you never want to find yourself swimming through such a place. Known only as ‘The Abyss’, this is an unforgiving place filled with teeth and bones, and you alone must explore and figure out how to reignite the ancient machinery that sits at its core.
You play as a deep-sea diver that finds themselves in The Abyss with little guidance or information. You must just swim on, hoping to see something through the next dark and foreboding tunnel that might give you a hint as to what to do next. But, thankfully, you’ve got a few tricks up your scuba sleeve that will help you with that – namely the ability to possess fish. Yes, in what can only be classed as The Little Mermaid in nightmare mode, you won’t be chatting with the fish but taking over their souls, eeking your consciousness into their fragile frames.
Fish are friends, not food (sometimes)
Fish are, handily, everywhere. From small ones that you can control as a roaming shoal to what I can only describe as glowing, explosive amoebas, each one has its unique ability to help with puzzle-solving. Wires will need to be cut with piranha teeth, things that will snap you up for dinner will need distracting or otherwise placating, and switches flipped. All can be achieved by sending out a glowing tentacle from the front of your diving helmet, wiggling through the depths until it’s connected with your chosen target. It’s an odd but satisfying mechanic when it works well, although if you’re trying to move quickly it can be a tad awkward and gangly.
Although that’s very much what Silt is all about. It’s by no means an easy game. Success comes from trial and error, which means that it’s not just aesthetics that draw Limbo comparisons, but also the gameplay. Boss fights are tricky to figure out, often with unrelated fish swimming about nearby as cheeky red herrings. But, taking each one down is always satisfying, particularly when you rip out their glowing soul and feed it to the machine.
However, the one thing that almost put me off exploring the stunning and eerie world of Silt was the checkpointing. Some things in the game are slow and tedious, literally like wading through deep water, which makes them extra annoying to repeat after a particularly fiddly – and deathly – section. One particular section near the end required such precise possession and movement – not easy in water – that I had to repeat it many, many times, to the point of utter frustration.
And yet, I was sad when the credits rolled on Silt, some six or so hours after I started. It’s mysterious and intriguing, and never stops being utterly stunning in that kind of bleak, morbid way that monochrome terrors can be. Definitely worth your time if you’re looking for a new and atmospheric game like Limbo to die repeatedly in.
Silt is out now on PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X, Xbox One, PC, and Nintendo Switch.