In 2004, German games developers House of Tales released a futuristic espionage thriller called The Moment of Silence that gave a much needed jolt in the arm to the adventure genre. Now they’re back with their latest offspring and, as you’d expect, they’ve devised a storyline and gameplay method that is anything but predictable.
At the outset, five half-naked, screaming young men and women, brandishing weapons, are found wandering the New York streets with traumatised amnesia. You play David McNamara, a former army forensic psychiatrist who’s called upon to examine the youngsters, who are being held in the dilapidated Staten Island Forensic Hospital in New York.
The action takes place over five days, during which David uses hypnosis to help the five gradually remember the events leading up to their discovery. At the same time, a ferocious thunderstorm is raging over the city and it soon becomes clear that David himself has issues with alcohol and mental instability that threaten both his marriage and his grasp on reality.
Effectively the story is told in reverse, where you become each youngster as they slowly recall another instant from the terrifying nightmare they’ve been caught up in. The ‘trigger’ for each flashback is the use of the patients’ recordings on David’s PDA and part of the puzzle structure is working out which recording should be played to which character to begin the recollection.
Outside figures also have a role to play, including detective Joe Moretti who’s investigating the case (and perhaps David too), colleagues Dr. Young and nurse Tamara (who detest David’s methods and clearly have secrets of their own) and David’s lawyer and supposed best friend, who becomes increasingly hostile.
The music and effects create an impressively menacing atmosphere, the graphics are detailed (although locations are limited) and the cut-scenes during the flashbacks are frequently chilling. The voice acting is some of the best to have emerged out of this genre in a long time, especially in the case of the (anti?) hero whose growing anger, frustration and disorientation are powerfully conveyed.
The puzzle solving is kept relatively simple (there are inevitably a few doors and combinations to be unlocked) in order to keep the narrative flowing as rapidly as possible. There’s much use of cinematic techniques like split screens and white flash mixes and by the end you almost feel you’ve experienced a tense and shocking movie. As for the title? Let’s just say it has something to do with cranking computers to the max…