At the start of Silent Streets, you are on a boat bound for Snowport, a dark, lonely and cold town where secrets whirl in the shadows and a mystery waits on every corner. You’re supposed to go and visit Thomas Horgan, somebody you used to know well, an exiled detective. Some time ago, you fell out with each other, so why is he asking to see you now?
It should surprise nobody that Horgan is dead when you get there, and you’re hauled off on suspicion of his brutal murder. But of course, it wasn’t you, so once you’re out of there it’s down to trying to find out whodunit. Meanwhile, Horgan left a case unfinished, so it’s only right to pick it up and help a distressed family find their beloved daughter in the meantime.
Silent Streets has beautiful artwork and commits to a Victorian setting, enhanced by some good audio that really conjures the atmosphere of smoky, cold cobblestone streets. The art is mostly black and white sketches with subtle spots of colour to draw your attention to points of note. You get plenty of this artwork as you walk around the town and talk to people, and you get plenty of well-written dialogue and narrative that matches with it.
Characters slot into the tropes of the genre in just the right way – the feisty reporter, the frustrated police chief, the friendly (as long as you’re well-behaved) owner of the neighbourhood watering-hole. You can talk to characters, and choose conversation options that will make them more friendly, or more hostile, which affects the information they share with you. I’m a sucker for a good story and good characters, and would definitely say that Funbakers have done excellent work with building a world and telling a story which is dark, but engaging.
There are two distinctive gameplay features: the use of AR to look around crime scenes and find clues, and the use of step tracking to travel between locations on the map. The AR is interesting enough, although I found myself quickly looking to disable it because I didn’t much enjoy holding my phone up and spinning around on the spot to try and find an awkwardly placed bloody knife (it was on top of my foot in the end).
Step tracking means that you have to physically take steps in order to travel between locations on the map, although thankfully you don’t need to be connected to the internet to do so. When you choose a location to travel to, it will tell you how many steps there are, usually 200-500, and then a popup counts your steps as you travel. The distances were never too cumbersome, although it did limit when and where I could play this game. You can, if you don’t want to walk, ‘take a cab’, as in pay a little bit of money to skip the steps and take you straight there.
Sometimes, while you’re walking, you might trigger an event, but the majority of the time, walking is just step counting and crossing your fingers that you’ve picked the right location and don’t have to go all the way to somewhere else. I’m a little torn on whether I find this mechanic interesting, or annoying. On the one hand, there’s something to be said about the realism of being a plodding detective and it is different enough to make it a positive feature; on the other hand, the game is so atmospheric the rest of the time that the walking just feels like a distraction that breaks the experience, particularly if you’ve reached a point where you really want to progress the story by chasing down a lead.
Having said that though, there are occasions where this mechanic is used to good effect, and that’s when there are time-sensitive events where you have to make a certain number of steps to travel to a location within a time limit. No spoilers, but you can imagine the kind of scenarios where this might happen. However – or maybe I’m just a faster walker than I thought? – while you’re given a time limit that at first seems pressing, it’s… really not that bad. I kind of wished that it was a little more pressured than it was, because that time limit was what made it fun.
Silent Streets holds the central mystery of Horgan’s death, while providing separate ‘cases’ for you to solve. The first case is a solid introduction to the world and has enough to pique your curiosity and hint at a good mystery story, and it also helps that the stories aren’t quite linear with certain decisions that can change some outcomes. It’s almost a disappointment to finish the first case and find that you need to stump up the cash to unlock more and find out what happens next. That’s a compliment though, and a testament to the world and the tale that Funbakers have crafted. When the next cases are complete, I’ll be more than happy to drop a few quid to continue.
Silent Streets is developed by Funbakers. Follow them on Twitter @TheFunbakers or visit silent-streets.com The first case of Silent Streets is available on Android for free and iOS for 99p. Additional cases, coming later this year, can be purchased for £2-3.