I'm also happy to report that both the voice work and the translation are top notch. There's no hint that the script started life in German, and the actors do a great job of bringing it to life. The actress voicing Renie, in particular, manages to make her not just convincing (always tricky when adults try to voice children) but also full of wide-eyed innocence, wonder and warmth. Even Spot the caterpillar, limited to chirrups and burbling giggles, manages to be endearingly memorable. Returning from the first game, the bickering stone brothers Yngo and Ralv are another gruff, grumpy but entertaining highlight.
The interface is streamlined in some ways, and interestingly rich in others. There's no real inventory: while you can pick up some objects, it's only to use them nearby. Hovering the cursor over an object brings up its name and an animated icon showing the action you can take, which varies from picking it up to tasting it or applying an object you just picked up. In fact, the process of using objects can be simplified further: by default, clicking on an item brings up an outline of it where it can be used, if it’s in the same area. No need to decide what to do with it, just click and drag it across to the correct spot. This aid can be turned off, but it emphasises the fact that this is a game based around story, not brain-bending puzzles. Occasionally, pointing at something will replace the object name with a pithy comment, such as, "Show yourself, coward!" for the tree you're currently hiding behind.
Alongside that simplicity, though, Silence is a very physical game. You'll often find yourself having to lift, pull or push something, noted by arrows around the action icon. To do that, you have to click and drag with the mouse – and a proper long sweep too, not just a short flick. It's a neat way of highlighting something that's taking your character considerable effort to do. At other times, you'll have to keep your balance, indicated by a slowly filling circle that jiggles from side to side along an arc. Move the mouse to keep it centred on the arc and the circle will keep filling; let it drift too far to the side and it'll empty rapidly and you may fall off. This isn’t really a test of dexterity, being fairly gentle and forgiving, and even if you outright fail, the scene instantly resets to give you another go.
The most charming part of the interface, though, is Spot. As in the first game, he's a very adaptable caterpillar. For example, he can squash himself flat like a tapeworm, inflate into a bouncing ball, or slurp up nearby liquids – anything from water to lava to dragon snot. Switching between forms is simple and intuitive: click on him and swipe down to flatten him, swipe up to inflate him, or click on the liquid in question to have him drink it. There are other forms, too, which only occur in certain situations. Many of the puzzles revolve around finding creative ways to use Spot to get where you need to go.
Interestingly, the hotspot highlighter has been merged with the hint system. By default, pressing the spacebar gets you both hotspots and a hint for the current puzzle across the top of the screen. This makes a lot of sense, in that if you've resorted to looking for hotspots you missed, that probably means you're stuck and could also use a clue. If you prefer to go it alone, though, the hints can be turned off in the settings, leaving just the highlighter. That said, despite the detailed backgrounds I never really had to resort to pixel hunting in any case. One thing I would have appreciated is a proper save game option: like many modern titles, the game autosaves for you, with no opportunity to manually record your progress.
The puzzles are primarily environmental: working with Spot, pulling or pushing things, and only occasionally picking anything up. There are also a few standalone puzzles, such as balancing a bridge to get your group across or flying through the clouds. There's seldom much difficulty working out what to do, since there are never all that many viable options, but the payoffs frequently made me smile. You alternate between playing as Noah and Renie, and Renie takes such glee in everything she does. Something as simple as prising a gate open or going in search of bitter berries becomes an exercise in playful wonder. Noah, by contrast, is a bit of a grumpy teen, but even he has his moments. Spot tags along most of the time, too (even getting a couple of scenes to himself), trilling cheerfully all the while.
One casualty of all this play, though, is momentum: the plot rarely really feels like it's picking up steam. Instead, it's as if Renie in particular is just wandering through the world, smelling the flowers (sometimes literally!) and enjoying the journey. Maybe that's because, as Noah remarks at one point, if he's the hero of his own story everything should work out. And if everything's going to work out, what's the rush? Noah's old enough to appreciate and be worried by what Silence represents, but Renie's mostly just tripping along having a fun time, the full impact of their situation only really sinking in as the end nears. Rebel Kyra has a bit more fire in her heart, having had everything taken from her by the false queen, but even she can't chivvy our heroes into any real sense of urgency.
The story also hints at more than it actually makes explicit, making it seem a little threadbare at times. It's like a series of pretty vignettes with just enough of a narrative thread to tie them together but with much of the detail and backstory left out. Kyra's losses, for example, come out in the odd remark here and there in one short scene, but we're left to fill in the rest ourselves. The other supporting cast members are similar: likable and with clear roles and motivations, but more sketched than filled out. Likewise, we follow cryptic clues that sound beautiful and poetic but don't have enough grounding to fully resonate. Occasionally, minor threads just get dropped midway. It's a substantial game at around 6-8 hours, but even so, it could have done with more time to really round things out. What's offered is well-written, and Noah and Renie's journeys in particular tug at the heartstrings, but it feels like a pared-back version of what could have been.
In the end, though, Silence is a genuinely moving, emotional and beautiful experience. The pace may be a little languid and at times it left me wanting more, but even that is a compliment of sorts. The tone of melancholy that ran through the first game is leavened this time by the addition of playful Renie, and the experience is even more polished and cinematic. You could well need a tissue by the end, but for all but the hardest-hearted this sequel comes heartily recommended.