The Moment of Silence, from developer House of Tales, is a point-and-click DVD adventure about a global conspiracy. You play Peter Wright, an ad executive, and one day your neighbor is arrested for no apparent reason. As a favor to his wife and child, you agree to look into the matter, but the police claim no knowledge of the event, and the more you search, the stranger the people are who you meet. Some think the arrest / kidnapping is the work of an alien conspiracy while others decide that it must be the government doing its best to act as Big Brother. But what’s really going on? That’s what you’ll have to figure out as you play the game.
Oddly, The Moment of Silence covers a lot of the same ground as the last game I reviewed, Legacy: Dark Shadows. Both games involve a conspiracy, both games start off with an acquaintance of the protagonist being kidnapped, both games see the protagonist getting arrested and having to escape, and both games end the conspiracy with a big explosion. But while Legacy was about as silly as a game could possibly be, Moment is more serious and makes more sense.
In fact, the story behind Moment works pretty well, and House of Tales went to great lengths to develop its characters and create believable scenarios. Consider its vision of the future. The game takes place in 2044, but people aren’t flying through the air in extravagant versions of cars, and there aren’t fancy androids walking around that can be mistaken for humans. No, 2044 looks much like 2004, except that cars have been outlawed from cities (people have to use automated “satcars” now), and everybody uses “messengers,” which are sort of like combination phones, credit cards, and identifiers. These are things I could actually see happening.
Where Moment has its problems is, well, almost everywhere else. For starters, House of Tales seems to like the world it created way too much. You learn the life story of every character you meet, and there’s a whole lot of walking around you have to do to get anywhere or do anything. Take this as an example. Early in the game you need to ask your boss for a few days off, but no, you can’t do just that. Among other things, you also have to ask him how Fiona and the kids are, and of course he doesn’t simply answer that they’re fine. He goes on and on, and eventually you learn that Fiona had a miscarriage or something, and it’s just way too much. I came to dread seeing new characters to talk to, because I knew I was going to be in for over 10 minutes of dialogue. In other words, the pacing of the game is just terrible. Between the lengthy conversations that often don’t progress the story, and the 2-3 minutes it takes to get anywhere, Moment has a lot of dead space. I think I spent around 15 hours playing the game, but it only needed to last around 10.
Not helping matters a whole lot are the puzzles. During the early parts of the game they are few and far between (I’m pretty sure the most complicated thing I did during the first five hours was cook a meal in a microwave oven), but then later they become overly obscure and unfriendly. Moment mostly features inventory puzzles, and while inventory puzzles are usually pretty solvable, here there is a particular order that must be followed to do anything, and the game almost never gives clues about what that order might be. For example, at one point during your investigation you get arrested, which means that you have to escape from the prison. But before you can leave, you have to remove a tracking device from your body, and you also have to wait for it to be nighttime. If you don’t realize that those two things have to come first, then you can waste a lot of time running around in circles trying to get out of the prison. And it’s not like your character helps you out by saying even cryptic lines like “I need to do something first” or “Maybe that would work better later.” Your character doesn’t say anything, and so that sequence, like a few others, is much more frustrating than it needs to be, and you’ll probably end up consulting a walkthrough a few times before you make your way to the end of the game.
Fortunately, Moment looks and sounds pretty good (your character in particular manages to evoke a lot of empathy), but those are areas that I consider to be secondary to how well a game plays, and Moment plays pretty badly at times. And so while the score I’m giving the game makes it look like it might be a decent pickup, I wouldn’t really recommend it, unless slow-paced, frustrating adventures are your cup of tea. Or unless you really want to play a conspiracy adventure, and your only other choice is Legacy: Dark Shadows.