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Game Maker Games - Virtual Silence
 Virtual Silence by Virtanen
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Review by edenb
Note: This is an excellent game. You don't need a review to tell you that. Go download it. But there's a review below anyway!

Virtual Silence is essentially sex on wheels, with Kurt Cobain playing the role of the driver and Steven Hawking spitting into the fuel tank at an exhaustive pace, but Steven Hawking is only "one man!" and he cannot spit that much. Nevertheless, it's still sex on wheels. Apart from it's grunge, not punk.
It's what would happen if Moby designed a game and Moby wore plaid instead of the white minimalist Helmut Lang designed spacesuits that he probably wears.

I want this game to be a white spacesuit of a game. But it's too lo-fi for that. It's like a teenage minimalist- no, a 20-year-old minimalist who's broke. He's trying like hell to be minimalist, with all those white surfaces and an Apple computer and simple-but-elegant clothes. In reality though, he can't afford the elegance of white minimalism- and attempts to make do with an old beige bomb of a PC and plaid shirts because the ones he wants are too expensive, and an old couch that has coffee stains (and who knows what else) on it. And his room has flower wallpaper from the 70s, and he's too cheap to even afford paint from the Indian man down the road whose wife left him and it was her that wanted to walls of their house painted white.

When you open the game up you've got the black screen and very simple colours. It's all very simple. There's a bit of pixelation here and there. That's where the mood of this game is established- it's the opening key. Plaid minor.

Bob Dylan once said "my music is mathematical music". Of course Bob was just playing with the possibly drunk/stoned/bad-smelling reporters that were positively stuffed into those anonymous rooms that are always, always black, white, and stuffy. And grainy.
Bob Dylan music is not mathematical; but Virtual Silence is a very mathematical game-- in the sense that everything is perfectly calculated, the design is perfectly laid out, to an almost nauseating extent.

You go here, then here, then here. And it's all predeterminded by the designer, of course. In most games you don't really notice it- you're too busy jumping or punching or uh, making your people go to the toilet. You're too distracted to notice that your path is basically set out, by some greater god. Here the wall between the designer and I is so thin that he could be in the next room. At times the veil's almost lifted, but not all the way. The wall between the designer and I is paper thin, but it's still there.

At times this annoyed me. I guess as a player I expect to be distracted with clever little devices and bells and whistles. Actually, it scares me. Everything about the game is revealed to me.

I don't mean that it's almost nauseating in a bad way- we "game critics" are always looking for "the perfect gameplay" whatever the hell "gameplay" means; we're always looking for the perfectly laid-out game.
Pikmin is perfectly laid out. "The Velvet Underground and Nico" is also perfectly laid out. "Blonde on Blonde" is a freakin' masterpiece. And whilst Virtual Silence is perfectly laid out, the mechanics perfectly extrapolated and exploited, it is not a Freakin' Masterpiece. It does not want to be. If it was it wouldn't be Virtual Silence. It's like if you made Tom Waits voice- very Coffee and Cigs and Vodka- into that of the voice of a "beautiful" choirboy.
I mean, if you look at it from a very pure "game" sense- that is, Metal Gear Solid without the cut-scenes, well, it becomes too repetitive. To actually describe the mechanics would possibly ruin the game- it's one of those things where half the genius is to discover it yourself.

I mean, the whole game sort of feels like a white painkilling pill- something that has the slightest taste and comes out of a sealed bit of foil and plastic. There's-- no feeling in the game. It's a virtuoso pianist who can play all the notes- every single one- at a breakneck speed. But what I get is not an absence of feeling, as such. It's more a black hole in the fabric of Video Games and Culture as a Whole.
I can see that something's there, but I'm not sure how it makes me feel. It's a curious mixture of interest and white corridors. Very local anaesthetic.

But here's a storyline, and here's presentation. And that's why I kept playing.
The whole thing is so perversely clinical. (Look at how the story is presented. How the text comes onto screen. How the characters speak)The storyline so detached. There's no emotional swindling involved. It's here that Virtual Silence becomes so apathetic at times that it becomes more (post?) punk than the grunge that I ascertained it was back in the first paragraph. I can hear The Sex Pistols yelling out in the background "No Future", "No Future" from the depths of their very lips. A cigarette hangs by , and of course there's booze laying on the floor. Yet some ounce of Hope exists, throughout this whole game- whatever. But is it care for the character or the sheer perversity of us, the player, which drives us on.

The main question is: Who is this character we're playing, and why is he here? (and in the back of our minds: "glad I'm not this situation!)

It's not a comfortable game. It's missing something. There's tension throughout, and this is it's strength, probably. If it wasn't "missing" something we'd be comfortable, and then it'd just be Another Game to play and forget. It's Andy Warhol to the Pollock-like La La Land series. Both deal with reality- a twisted but believable reality, but in Virtual Silence most traces of the hand of the creator have been removed.

Anyway, go listen to "Heroin" by the Velvet Underground, and "God Save the Queen" by The Sex Pistols. Ideally in a white coat, as we at GMG do as we expertly review each and every game that we play with our shiny little silver gloves. And then play Virtual Silence and reflect at it's perfect robo-made (imported all the way from Germany!), and wonder where the missing piece is. 'Cause there is a missing piece- is it the music? It's a beautiful shebang, in any case.

(text originally published at actionbutton dot net)
---
What the creator said:
A young boy named Jason goes through series of experimental tests in a virtual world.

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Opinions about Virtual Silence
engaging
100%
artistic
100%
original
100%
strange
100%
challenging
100%
polished
100%
compelling
100%

Overall: recommended

Recommendations: The 6 people who like Virtual Silence also like the following games.
Comments (Add your own):
2010.04.23 Feryl
Rating: 8

One of my favorite Game Maker games of all time. The review doesn't do it justice. The review hardly reviewed the game as a review should.
2008.10.22 GrimzReaper
Rating: 8

This game is incredibly very well done.
Its one of the few games I've actually enjoyed playing after downloading thats been made in Game Maker. This game definitively shines in all aspects.

One of the most important things about a game, I believe, is how the story and the game play mesh together to create something awesome. I generally like a storyline which has abit of depth and mistory tied into it.

This is why I especially enjoyed this game simply because of its mysterious story behind the game. What I also liked and found extremely cleaver about this game is the changing color of the screen to solve puzzles.

If your looking for a game with an interesting storyline, clever game play and slightly freaky and sad ending, this games for you.
2008.10.05 Fishy Boy
Rating: --

Yes, there are solutions.

I'll give solution to the first puzzle. Change the color to red, and wait.
2008.10.03 moran
Rating: 7

my initial reaction to this game was that is was just a stylized atari-style game. after a few minutes and completing it, it felt definite and worthwhile. a lot of neat ideas and it definitely gets the heart going trying to escape at the end.

well done. it was a little clunky at times but it somehow made sense with the whole 'struggling to learn' concept.
2008.10.02 AkiraTT
Rating: 8

really depressing, but I liked the autism idea very much!
2008.10.02 Fishy Boy
Rating: 8

This is a pretty interesting game. In the ending sequence with the countdown, I got pretty into it. That was probably my favorite part.

I'd like to say to all the people who call it depressing, there's a solution to all of the puzzles. Look them up, if you want.

Also, the official review here was insanely obnoxious.
2008.10.02 Ouchy1
Rating: --

There is a solution to the end puzzle? I thought the game was supposed to end like that...
2008.10.01 AFROMAN
Rating: 1

It sucked... I didn't enjoy it at all.
2008.10.01 pizza stock
Rating: 1

hate it sorry, i just hate it, it SUCKED i didnt have an ounce of fun while playing.....
2008.09.30 Ouchy1
Rating: 10

I love it, but man is it so sad. Cruel, really :'( I love the game though!
2008.08.11 masterfulcat
Rating: 9

Brilliant. Great idea with the colours for a concept, and the as for the story you represented the constraints of someone with autism very well (for a game) and in an artistic way. Fully deserved to win!
2008.06.26 D-z
Rating: 8

Classic and well made puzzle game. Additive blending is a great idea ! The movement was just a little bugging.
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