The yawning abyss, shrouded in gray and black, beckoned to me with the lullaby of the deep unknown. At least, that was my impression when I encountered a Bloody Disgusting article highlighting the indie puzzler, Silt. So of course I ambled over to Steam to download the free demo for PC and dive (literally) into the underwater adventure. The art style is what first drew my attention to the game, simply illustrated and sporting a monochromatic scheme. It reminded me very much of another indie horror title that I enjoy: Mundaun, which is “a lovingly hand-penciled horror tale” created by Swiss developer Hidden Fields. Silt, developed by Spiral Circus, is meant to be a surreal and otherworldly 2D experience delving into aquatic depths not usually seen by mankind and unlocking the mysteries therein.
I start the game as a scuba diver chained to the bottom of the ocean–quite the predicament, but guess what? I can possess nearby fish (how–why do I have this power?! I don’t yet know) to aid and assist me. Borrowing the bodies of my piscine minions is the requisite key to solving Silt’s maritime puzzles and progressing through the levels. So starting off, I possess a rather toothy but small nearby fish. Piranha? Not likely in this body of water, so it’s more apt to be a type of angler or fangtooth fish. DO NOT PANIC, this is not a Saw situation–I get to keep my foot as the fish gnaws through the chain and frees me. I return to my body and carry onward, using another fanged fella to bite through some cables and open my path yet again.
Encountering a larger, more hardy-looking fish that resembles a hammerhead shark indicates that I need to use it to bust through rocky barriers. Not a problem, easy peasy, but I did find out that these fish can kill me if I get too close to them before I can possess them. The best part of the demo, in my opinion, is when I swim through a widening tunnel that becomes increasingly apparent as a giant gaping maw, and from it I exit into more open waters.
From there, I experience my first real challenge as I chase a tethered light into a narrow, winding tunnel. (HMM, what could this be, I wonder. It sure is reminiscent of an anglerfish’s luring headlamp.) Trouble awaits in the tunnel, however, as several eel-like creatures that look like Tim Burton’s sandworms from Beetlejuice emerge and chase me down. Several deaths later, I succeed in a hasty escape from the tunnel of demise, swimming upside down half the time because I am no good at PC controls.
The mysterious light does prove to be a trap, luring me to be lunch for a giant toothsome beast. This is the final puzzle area of the demo, and after more failed attempts than I care to admit (I said I like the art style, okay, I never said I was good at puzzles), I finally figure out the right strategy. It’s my turn to lure the big fish out of his hole, dodging him at the last minute in order for him to collide with the wall to break away some rock and open up the chamber above me.
From there I alternate between little fangs and hammerheads (I’ll just call them that for the time being). The hammerheads allow me to position some big rocks in place above the big, scary angler. Posing as a tasty treat, I incite the giant fish to yet again bash himself into the rocks, finally knocking him out. With the little fangs, I swim into a connected chamber where, lo and behold, another diver is chained to the bottom. Gnawing through the chain does not work in this situation, though, and I am stumped. Returning to human form, I attempt a possession of the other diver, but it appears that I absorb them. Maybe this will be explained in the full game, but for now I just shrug and return to my huge catch of the day, currently KO’d on the ocean floor. I am prompted to Soul Transfer and this action leads to a cutscene that cues the end of the demo. This cutscene, and various aspects of the demo (ambience, atmosphere, environment, obscurity), gives me vibes of Lovecraft and the delicious unknown that awaits mankind’s curiosity to know more.
The demo is short and sweet, gives a quick taste of the game’s puzzles, and most importantly leaves me with a desire to explore more of this title. Silt has been a work in progress for several years now, but it is purported to be released sometime early this year for all platforms. I, for one, cannot wait to unravel the mysteries of the deep.