Most horror games give you a heart-pounding experience filled with jump scares, terrifying encounters, and ambient music that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Sylvio breaks away from these standards and provides a much creepier experience that constantly makes you feel uneasy.
You play as a Juliette Waters, an audio recordist who specializes in EVP which is just a fancy way of saying she's a ghost recorder. Your goal is to unlock the mysteries of what happened to a family by recording audio from ghosts that uncover clues and items. Once you find what you need, you are able to progress to the next task, but this isn't always easy.
Sylvio has very little direction. When I first started, I didn't really know what to do and early frustration set in. Once I started figuring out what to do, I was having a lot of fun. For the most part, you are walking around an open world trying to piece together how certain items go together while occasionally fighting ghosts, which are large black clouds, with a potato gun. That's right. A potato gun. The fights aren't that difficult, but sometimes they can come out of nowhere. If you are touched by a ghost you are transported back to the beginning of the level, but you don't lose anything. It's a minor inconvenience that doesn't really matter. Once you defeat a ghost, you record the audio they left behind and a new destination will appear on your screen. When you arrive at the destination you'll find either an item or a puzzle of some sort that you have to complete. Before I move on to the puzzles I should mention that the potato gun does shoot more than potatoes. It shoots rocks, bolts, nails, and other miscellaneous items.
The puzzles are actually quite similar to something you would find in a point and click adventure game. You have to have the right item that connects to another item and then you have to interact with it to move forward. Many of Sylvio's puzzles require you to think past just the first step. You can't just connect a sign to a windmill and expect it to generate electricity - you have to find the proper way to interact with it. This layered approach shows that a lot of thought went into the design of the objectives, making the experience more rewarding when you accomplish your task. The issue that's here though is that sometimes certain puzzles don't make sense. There are times where you are walking around aimlessly with a newly discovered item trying everything you can to make it work only to find out that you need something else or that you haven't reached the point where you can actually use it.
One of the greatest parts of Sylvio is deciphering what the ghosts say. After you record the audio, you are brought to a reel to reel machine that has six settings; play forward, play backward, slow forward, slow backward, fast forward, fast backward. This aspect of the game is always creepy. There were times where I had to turn down the TV because it would make me uncomfortable listening to the voices. It's also a good thing that this never gets old because you do this a lot. If you're really hustling and making good progress, you'll feel that you're stopping every couple of minutes to try to figure out what these ghosts are saying.
Graphically Sylvio is nothing to write home about. The entire game has a red fog that basically hangs over everything and makes it hard to see in the distance. The other textures in the game definitely aren't up to next-gen standards and even though the developer Stroboskop is a small studio I would have liked to have seen a little more graphics quality. Graphics definitely don't make a game fun, but can we all agree that to an extent they do help?
One of the biggest downfalls of Sylvio is the last level of the game. I was so confused and frustrated with what I was doing that it actually crossed my mind to put the game down and just move on. Giving up isn't my style, so I stuck with it. A good example of this frustration came when I flipped a large switch and had no clue what it did. I had to walk around this large complex only to find a small space that had opened extremely far away from where I was at. I've probably gotten soft as a gamer with all the breadcrumbs and directions that we get these days, but this was absurd. I completed the game in about 8 hours, which is much longer than I thought it was going to take.
Overall, if you're a horror fan and you want to try something different, then Sylvio is a game that you may want to check out. If you're looking for the next big horror series or you're just starting out with horror games, then I would recommend going with a different title.
2.5 out of 5 stars
Thank you to Stroboskop for providing us with the code.