The Moment Of Silence

Platform(s): PC
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Digital Jesters / DreamCatcher

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PC Review - 'The Moment of Silence'

by Tim "The Rabbit" Mithee on March 31, 2005 @ 1:17 a.m. PST

The Moment of Silence is a high-tech political thriller. Players step into the shoes of Peter Wright, a communications designer currently working on the Government's 'Freedom of Speech' campaign. When a SWAT team storms his neighbour's apartment, it is Peter's job to uncover the truth behind his mysterious disappearance.

Genre: Adventure
Publisher: The Adventure Company
Developer: House of Tales
Release Date: March 1, 2005

The future's all right. It's not perfect, but then, how could it ever be? Everyone's getting by, no one's really complaining...everything's all right. Isn't it? Is there some kind of sinister undercurrent to the whole situation, a conspiracy to keep the masses silent? Don't ask questions, or you'll disturb the whole thing...

And that's where we find one Peter Wright. On a future Earth, right in the heart of New York City, Peter lives an average life; he works for an ad agency, he has a posh apartment in a good part of Brooklyn, and really can't complain about anything. Sure, he's drinking a lot, and his previous family life is in ruins after a horrible accident, but he's not going to let that bother him. Right up until the beginning of the game, when Peter witnesses a brutal kidnapping by the government police forces, everything's fine, and then, before you can snap your fingers, it's all gone wrong again.

Moment is your traditional adventure game, set in a decaying America some 40 years in the future. The world is neither utopian perfection nor utter chaos – in many ways, it seems that nothing has changed from our own environment. Crime is rampant but only in certain areas, the job market is bad, the government is pushing the limits of its authority and big business infringes on everything. Via all the traditional trappings, you – in the guise of our clueless adman – will descend from the veiled heights of suburbia into a mass of conspiracy, deceit, and what may or may not be alien intervention in our very lives.

As a piece of technology, Moment is not going to turn many heads: it looks strictly average, leaning on an engine with an extremely dated look and feel. Models are blocky, poorly detailed, and have little to no facial animations. Few actors have more than a limited range of looped animations, none of which are anything special. In and of itself, the game feels like something dragged forward from several years back, and while it gets the job done, it has little to draw in anyone. Voice acting is the same utilitarian grade as the visuals, delivered clearly and effectively but completely unexciting and drab — half of the cast sounds asleep quite often. It's also riddled with bad stereotypes: Latino gang members, geeky researchers, Peter's "not gay, just really really into bodybuilding" co-worker, and a few others.

Interfacing is a stock standard mouse-based affair, done the same as you've seen a million times before. Nearly everything is handled by the left mouse button, with the right one used to examine things. There are no actions to sort through — a left click performs a context-sensitive action — so a lot of rooms simply become exercises in sweeping the mouse about, looking for stuff to click on and things to do. There are a few cast members you can yammer with about the plot as it develops via a menu of dialogue choices. Many of these choices don't do much other than fill up time, but many events won't click into place until you've exhausted everything.

Adventure games have stood before on dated technology and questionable design quality simply by becoming more than the sum of their parts — a good story will pull players through headfirst and dull most complaints. Sadly, Moment trips over its own feet right there. The basic plotline seems excellent, with the game starting on an intense (though poorly explained) note and trying to pull in some dramatic tension. The pacing afterwards is so badly handled that any and all excitement or suspense simply melts away. Most of the game is based off having long conversations with people and periodically causing an event or picking up a few items. Here's a piece of advice: when the scene I've worked for hours to try and get to is nothing more than a conversation and an item pickup, the structure really needs to be re-examined. It's tough to stay interested when several hours of play result in only marginal progress. Many elements are confusing or poorly explained as well; oftentimes, someone will know something they have no reason to know, caused by a small number of active characters. Someone has to tell you that X happened so you can get Y, and there's maybe a half-dozen viable actors.

If you like puzzles, you'll have to go elsewhere. Moment is mostly about exploration and conversation. While this gets around the total absurdity of puzzles existing in real life, it makes the experience dry and unexciting. It's all dulled even further by areas with far too many pointless screens (an airport that exists solely to make you find an item, then only acts as a transition point to another area; there's nothing else there), unmarked exits (walking to the screen edge will sometimes send you to a new section, but not always, and there's no way to tell if you're missing something), and absolutely abysmal pathfinding. More times than not, the designers have placed extremely narrow paths that Peter can walk on, meaning that if you're more than a bit off, Peter will run around the wrong way, sometimes completely off the screen and into new areas. Things that look perfectly normal, like a stairwell, may work in one screen but not in the next, meaning that after the transition, Peter must walk back to the previous screen, change his route, and then transition again. It's grating, to say the least.

I love conspiracy theories and stories that get written around them. Sure, they're usually silly things, but the "bending your perceptions" idea works. Moment Of Silence takes so long getting to the meat of the story that all but the most die-hard of players will have gone elsewhere to eat long before then. Even dedicated players will have to deal with some technical issues, a lack of interactivity, and dry conversations in their quest to find out just what the government is up to. It's a great idea that flounders in the execution.

Score: 5.5/10


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