The Thin Silence is a puzzle platform adventure game from Two PM Studios and Nkidu Games which promotes mental health awareness through its themes.
The Thin Silence puts you in the shoes of Ezra Westmark, a man who has found himself lost deep in a cave after self-imposed exile due to his past mistakes. To escape, Ezra must find, combine, and utilize different items while traversing through the cave. Along the way, Ezra will have to confront some of the inner demons he has been struggling with, even if he doesn’t want to.
Most of the gameplay of The Thin Silence revolves around walking through the cave and picking up various items to combine them and solve puzzles. Due to Ezra’s injured leg, walking happens at a slow pace, becoming a difficult task for impatient players. I understand that the developers were trying their best to simulate depression and related mental health struggles through gameplay, but movement in general could have used a small speed boost for increased playability. Puzzles can also be reset when necessary, which is useful after making the wrong move, but again becomes tedious with the slow pacing. Even with its short average play time, it can be difficult to maintain the patience needed to finish.
The puzzles themselves work well enough, and have you combining nearby items you find to solve them. Although the puzzles are simple enough to figure out with some well thought out planning, the problem arises from not quite enough variation to keep most puzzle platformer fans satisfied, with too many puzzles using similar methods of solution. Additionally, the items you can combine to make new tools are limited, and as a result don’t always offer the most creative solutions, causing a missed opportunity for more imaginative puzzle solving.
From previous news, I already knew that The Thin Silence dealt with psychological themes, but what I didn’t expect was a warning when first starting it. As someone with experience studying and dealing with mental health issues, it’s true that despite other problems, The Thin Silence can get rather intense and strikingly relatable for those who suffer from negative mental health issues. While this can help players identify their mental health issues and encourage them to get help, it does add another reason why it can be difficult for players to progress — even if it is a better one–, and some may require breaks between sections.
The About page expands on getting the right help and even provides a link to the Checkpoint Organisation, a nonprofit organization which promotes mental health awareness through the use of video games and technology, which I think is a terrific addition. Although The Thin Silence deals with many heavy, negative themes revolving around mental health, it has been stated that the main theme is hope, how to endure the worst moments and obstacles of our lives, and gaining the strength to get through the next one we may face. Due to this, The Thin Silence turns from a negative and depressing experience, to an encouraging and hopeful one, which again can inspire players to get the help they need.
Although I think it’s admirable that the developers are trying to encourage others to seek psychological help through playing The Thin Silence, even with it’s accurate portrayal of mental health, the execution of it through gameplay suffers. I fear that because of its problems, it won’t gain the same amount of popularity as games that deal with similar struggles, such as Night in the Woods or Hellblade. It’s a shame because if The Thin Silence just slightly sped up movement and had more inventive puzzles, it could be one of the most essential mental health related games yet.
The Thin Silence is available on Steam. 10 cents from every purchase is donated to The Checkpoint Organisation.