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Moment of Silence

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I've been playing The Moment of Silence, by House of Tails (UK release by Digital Jesters). Some thoughts:

First and foremost: The artwork in this game is beautiful. It uses prerendered environments, which has allowed the artists to create an incredibly detailed and believable world. The soundtrack is also very, very nice (anyone got the launcher background music as an MP3?). One of the particularly nice things is the way they've blended prerendered assets with real-time rendering - consider the front door at Wright's office, for example. It looks prerendered like the rest of the scene, until you walk up to it... when you see his reflection begin to appear in the glass. Very nice.

The plot's also pretty well thought out (or at least, what I've played of it so far). There are many references to works like Terry Gilliam's Brazil - not just the opening scenario, but also through smaller things (like "Central Services"). I've also picked up nods to assorted cyberpunk works. Sometimes the dialogue is a little unbelievable (regardless of translation - see below); the game opens with your neighbour being snatched by the police, and when you go to see if his wife is alright, she tells you "I'm fine." Hmm. In general, though, it's good - I'm liking ideas like the chat partner (who will blatantly turn out to be part of the conspiracy), or that Wright hasn't told Mrs Oswald that his son is dead. The characters you interact with all come across as deep and interesting, with lives and histories that one could (in theory) ask them about, rather than mere plot points imposed to serve a purpose.

Now, onto the problems [grin]

The translation hasn't been done brilliantly. The game was originally written in German, and I get the feeling that it was translated by a native German speaker rather than a native English speaker. It's always reasonable (no "All your base are belong to us" or "The size of the enemy is huge") but in many places the language feels awkward, which is a particular problem for a language-heavy adventure game. It would definitely have benefitted from DJ employing a couple of English writers to just go through and 'naturalise' it all, as a final step in the translation process.

Interactivity is pretty sorely lacking. The art team have created this beautiful detailed world.. and yet so little of it registers when you move the mouse over it. The game has shipped DVD-only because (they claim) it contains so much voice-acting work - it seems like they should have shipped it on two DVDs, because the way it stands at the moment makes it difficult to become immersed in the game. It doesn't even have the time-honoured generic phrases for unexpected interactions - "I don't think he'd be interested in that," "I can't use those items together," "That doesn't work," "Hmm... no."

The control system's also a little bothersome - it's point and click, which is nice for a 3D adventure, but provides too little feedback with regards to things like when the player is and is not able to walk off the edge of the screen. There's a key you can press to show all 'exits from the scene' but it feels like a real hack - having the cursor change or something would be much nicer.

Iiiin conclusion. I'd recommend picking it up, despite its problems, as it really is beautiful - even if you pick up a walkthrough and just step through the game click-by-click, it's still a pleasure to watch the game world. If you're not a big adventure fan you might want to wait till the price has dropped a little, but otherwise, go for it.
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