What is it?
Moment of Silence (TMOS) is the newest adventure game from the House
of Tales, the German outfit that brought us The Mystery of the
Druids. Right away, I have to admit that I really didn’t like The
Mystery of the Druids, but I stopped comparing the two games pretty
quickly. TMOS contains none of the graphical bugs and
immersion-breaking missteps of The Mystery of the Druids, so this is
the last time I’ll mention it.
so now we’ve dealt with some of my prejudices, let’s get on with the
game at hand. The game arrived in a standard DVD-style box and this
was the first surprise – it comes on DVD. I had thought that the
DVD format was limited to the really big-budget guys like the Myst
franchise and Half-Life 2. But, obviously, I was wrong, as it seems
to be taking over further down the market. This is a Good ThingTM,
because it means developers can offer games that can honestly claim
“spectacular set pieces and dramatic action sequences”, “over 75
rendered and animated locations”, “more than 500 interactive
screens”. All of which, I must say, TMOS does indeed deliver.
Is there a
yes! Most definitely – this game is completely plot driven. The
main character is Peter Wright. He’s a communications designer – an
ad-man, so to speak – working on the government’s latest political
campaign for anti-cryptography legislation. His world, as is so
often the case in such games, is turned upside down by the sudden
arrival of a S.W.A.T. team at his neighbour’s apartment. Peter’s
neighbour is dragged away by armed police, leaving his family
stunned in the doorway. At this point, Peter makes what might be
considered in the real world to be a critically bad move… he goes
round to his neighbour’s place to see if he can help. But, I hear
you saying, there wouldn’t be much of a game here if he didn’t! And
you’re absolutely right. Anyway, the story leads from places in
Brooklyn to locations in various parts of New York City -- including
Peter’s office and Greenwich Village -- and then beyond to the
tropics, the Arctic and even off-world for a time. Along the way,
some of Peter’s recent history is revealed, which makes his
reactions to some of the story elements more than a little
environments in this game are somewhat reminiscent of Ridley Scott’s
‘Blade Runner’. However, this game has none of the empty spaces,
ultra-busy streets, dark drama, or the rain of that film, though it
does rain during some of the sections. We’re talking 2044 here, 40
years hence; the world is governed by a democratic super-state with
Big Brother-like tendencies. Technology has moved on in a
surprisingly understated manner – people carry messengers (hand-held
video phones), desktop computers look pretty much like the current
advanced models with some nice enhancements (like no tower to get in
the way), and the Internet has been renamed GlobalNet. Of course,
GlobalNet is still used primarily for chatting, email and publicity,
very much like today. Public transport has advanced – the maglev
train is the subway of the future, and Peter mostly uses automatic
cabs to get around locations in New York. Other transport media are
used too – aeroplane, zeppelin, space elevator, skidoo and rocket.
But most of the time, Peter is on foot.
How do you
third person user interface of TMOS is mainly mouse-driven, with a
couple of keyboard controls to summon help (displaying the exits
from the scene) and Peter’s Messenger, when it is available. Left
clicking moves Peter around the world and performs actions (picking
up objects, starting conversations, pressing buttons and applying
inventory objects to people, the environment or other inventory
objects). Right clicking gets descriptions of things from Peter’s
point of view, or deselects a held object. As this is a third
person game, navigating Peter around the environment is done using
the mouse. This has one major drawback. It can be difficult to
navigate in confined spaces and there is a particular problem with
controlling Peter within his own apartment. This is really rather
distracting when the start of the game requires you to spend some
time in said apartment finding things.
Escape key brings up the standard game menu for saving and loading
games and setting options. There aren’t many configurable options –
just the voice, music and sound effects volumes and subtitles. What
more do you really need?
Puzzles in this game are varied. There are inventory-based puzzles,
including object-combining ones, and as we’ve come to expect, not
all of the solutions are obvious applications of the particular
objects. There are conversation trees – some of which are quite
deep. Other puzzles include combination locks and dentistry, of all
Regarding the conversation trees, it would be nice if someone could
finally sort out conversation trees so that you don’t get comments
from characters before the main character should know the
information. Using the multiple choices in an order other than that
displayed on the page gave rise to out-of-order information. If
there are dependencies between conversation branches, then the
dependent branches should simply not show up until the leading
branches have been traversed. Sadly, TMOS falls foul of this
sufficiently often that I gave up trying conversation options in the
order that seemed interesting, and stuck to the order in which
they’re listed on the screen.
comes on DVD. This is important and the DVD-style game box makes
this clear in five places, and just so you don’t miss it, that’s the
same number of times I will mention the information in this review.
I repeat, this game comes on DVD – got it? ;-)
those people who have an issue with StarForce protected games, be
warned, this is another one of them. However, the only problem this
caused was that the DVD sometimes was detected improperly by the
StarForce disk checker if the DVD had been in the drive for a long
time before starting the game. When this occurred, I would have to
try to start it again.
is also a big game – 3.4GB full install. It is somewhat unusual in
that you install it normally, and then you use an extra button on
the AutoLauncher to convert the normal installation into a full
developer has already patched the game; however it is a small
download when compared to many others currently available. The
AutoLauncher has a “Check for updates” option that simplifies the
patching of the game quite considerably. I didn’t try the optional
GameShadow program that comes with TMOS, as I’m not a fan of
programs that scan the contents of my hard disk looking for games to
upgrade – even if it is under my control.
not sure if this next comment really counts as a novelty; in an
ideal world, it certainly shouldn’t. The voice acting in TMOS is
almost universally excellent. The box claims “over 35
professionally voiced… characters,” and indeed there are a goodly
number of characters, though I didn’t count them all, and they are
all well acted.
one exception, and this may be the reason I had some trouble getting
excited by this game, was the voice of Peter Wright himself. Now,
given his circumstances, I can understand why he’s somewhat unhappy
at times, but I feel the game suffers for his downhearted
presentation – he needs to show more anger and outrage, and less
TMOS offers two
levels of anti-aliasing in the hardware settings section of the
AutoLauncher. However these caused the game to crash to desktop
when starting, so I gave up on them. Apart from this, the game was
remarkably stable – I can’t, in fact, recall any other crashes or
hang ups whilst playing it.
rather liked the developers’ idea of how the mobile phone will
change over the next 40 years – into the mobile video phone. The
device seems useful and usable; with a simple menu and “start call”
and “end call” buttons. However, the phone is used very little
within the game, compared to how it could have been used. It is
interesting that the phone acts as a metaphor for Peter’s identity.
When he is without his phone, he is a non-person; when he has it, he
is a functioning member of society.
went missing -- beyond the essential excitement that a game of this
quality should engender -- were certain sound effects. With such a
richly rendered environment, including objects that Peter can
comment on but which turn out to never be used (something we
adventurers regularly ask for), it seems odd that the House of Tales
didn’t take the opportunity to include footstep sound effects.
There are times when Peter walks on pavement, carpet, vinyl, metal
plating, concrete, and puddled surfaces, plus varied indoor spaces
where you’d expect some of the sounds to reverberate around the
The Moment of
Silence is a very professionally made, tightly plotted, well-acted
(in the main), good-looking game that would justify all but the
highest of price tags. Just one problem -- it lacks the sparkle and
excitement I need to really recommend this game. It is a good
example of the conspiracy theory genre, and certainly didn’t fall
into the trap of predictability. I’m usually a pretty good
plot-spotter in mysteries and movies, and I didn’t predict this
ending before I got there, although I did have some of the elements
quite early on.
I lied; one more mention of The Mystery of the Druids: TMOS is
much, much better than The Mystery of the Druids. Finally, this
game comes on DVD, so make sure you have a DVD drive before you buy.
What do you
need to play it?
Windows 98, ME, 2000 or XP
Pentium II 450 or equivalent
32MB 3D graphics card
DirectX9 – oddly, DirectX 8 comes on the DVD
DirectX9 compatible sound card
speed DVD ROM drive
used Win XP, AMD XP 2400+, 512 MB RAM, and ATI Radeon 9000 Pro 128
Dekker was a replicant, so there!
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