When it comes to horror games, not many are able to create unique and dynamic scares that truly chill you down to the bone. Most often rely on simple jump scares and over the top monster madness that ends up being more camp that creepy. Sylvio is an interesting title as its works into the mechanics a method of paranormal commination known as Electronic voice phenomena and mixes in other elements to produce what could be one of the chilling games out in recent years.
You take on the role of Juliette, a paranormal investigator of sorts who spends her time communicating with the dead and going into places she really shouldn’t. One evening, she decides to venture into an abandoned park and soon discovers a strange world of government experiments, lost souls and creepy shadows who pose an engraving threat to her life.
The game‘s framework is simple, taking players into large areas where they must solve a variation of puzzles and challenges to progress deeper into the haunted park. Normally the player will have to speak with wondering spirits to gain a better understanding of the world around them and also obtain vital clues for their progression. Armed with a microphone and tape recorder, our plucky investigator tracks down hot spots of paranormal activity and listens to what the spirits have to say. Often picking up a simple word or phrase at first but with some fine tuning, you can grasp so much more.
What I really liked about Sylvio was the depth of investigating these paranormal events. By rewinding and changing the speed and pacing of recording, you can hear new words to form more detailed messages that provide more substance in gameplay. These messages unlock clues on how to progress further or allow you to obtain mysterious collectibles. It’s all about tuning the recordings and locating those key moments that will reveal more of the world around you. Not to mention, this is genuinely creepy to play. It’s very rare that a game’s audio can make me feel unnerved and rattled, but at the same time pushes me to explore further and listen to more.
Listening and editing the recording are both unsettling ways to build tension and a great concept for gameplay that’s original and interesting. I can’t also forget to mention that the soundtrack is just superb. I love the 80’s inspired themes that just send shivers down my spine, reminding me of films such as It Follows and TV series such as Stranger Things. The beats are hypnotically surreal while immersing you so well into the vibe of the game, creating a stronger sense of atmosphere and immersion.
Sylvio does a great job at capturing your attention but falls short in keeping you invested for the long haul. Though I know many enjoy this game and there’s good reason to do so. I personally just felt some of the issues that arose held it back greatly.
Combat is an element of gameplay that never felt needed and just adds nothing more than tacky, uninspired encounters with daft looking mists and giant shadows. Aside from one or two puzzles where the gun is needed, it feels forced into the game just to add a sense of fear and tension. But rather lessens the impact of the fear the game already generates with the Electronic voice phenomena elements. Otherwise, Sylvio is highly repetitive with simple and tedious platforming and puzzles that generally push players to go to various points in a level listen to recordings and engage in some minor inventory management all the while with a protagonist who sounds massively uninterested in her journey. I mean it, the voice acting is bad from our leading character to some of the ghostly recordings.
Sylvio could have focused on the Electronic voice phenomena in smaller areas that enclosed and gave you the sense of helplessness. But here, areas feel way too big and just become a chore to explore, especially when you running back and forth between various points completing repetitive mission objectives.
Sylvio is an interesting concept and holds some unique gameplay elements that make it stand above the rest in the horror genre. As an indie title, it goes beyond many others like it and offers a refreshingly chilling experience that’s rewarding. Yet the drawbacks of this title include a tedious amount of repetition outside to speaking with the dead. Platforming segments become long winded and dull while the tension disappears when the game demands you to fight off giant shadows and black clouds with a blunter bust that shoots spuds. Sylvio would be benefited with focusing the tension and gameplay elements in smaller areas and relieve us of the platforming, shooting and long winded objectives.
There’s something here that if expanded upon could make for a great sequel.