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Chronique des Silencieux Review

Chronique des Silencieux Review

Chronique des Silencieux, the debut title from Pierre Feuille Studios, is a point-and-click mystery game with a bit of a twist: while the protagonist, Eugène, is a detective, rather than solving crimes, the majority of the mysteries he delves into directly centre around uncovering people’s hidden pasts. Many such titles certainly delve into this territory, but I find it rather refreshing to see these intricate backstories not get overshadowed by a pulpy murder, as fun as that can be.

Taking place primarily in Bordeaux, Chronique des Silencieux is firmly set in France, much like Pierre Feuille Studios itself, and that can be felt throughout the entire experience. On the one hand, this means that the game was originally written in French and the English translation can be quite lacklustre at times, but never to the point of incomprehensibility. This can be a tad annoying since the game is incredibly text-heavy, but that also means that it’s impressive that the translation works as well as it does. On the other hand, the plot, taking place in the 1970s, is firmly rooted in the history of southern France in a very satisfyingly detailed fashion. Plus, the hand-drawn animation, character designs, and backgrounds all have a distinctly European feel, somewhat like you’re walking around in a The Adventures of Tintin comic.

Honestly, as much as I typically gush about plot and character writing — and as much as I love those elements in Chronique des Silencieux — the visuals are the real standout. The simply beautiful backdrops (by artist Mathias Loughlin) and the charming, unique, yet simple character designs (from character designer Manar Lamrani) are quite clear and pleasant to look at. Yet you might not expect the characters to be able to express themselves much, as they are rather small compared to the scope of the environments.

However, time and again, I was surprised at how expressive and emotive every person on the screen could be, particularly with their facial animations. To give only two examples, characters will raise their eyebrows and stare pointedly ahead when surprised and visibly laugh in a plethora of ways, from hearty chortling to subtle chuckling. Whenever I saw the characters emoting like this, it really put a smile on my face. I know “the characters do things” probably doesn’t sound like a lot, but it drew me into the experience and made me fall in love with the charming art style, especially with how the characters could express so much while being so relatively small without ever bumping into overacting territory; the majority of the dialogue isn’t even voiced, outside of several fantastic animated cutscenes (that are in French, with English subtitles). I truly have to hand it to the animators, Lilou Dubreuil and Fabiano Caputo, for such a beautiful title and characters that can easily express themselves without a word said.

The music is, likewise, quite captivating, thanks to composer Florent Allibert. It’s often quite jazzy and does a great job at keeping me grooving with the mysteries, even when I find myself getting frustrated with finding the solutions. Another very fun aspect of the music is that Eugène starts Chronique des Silencieux with a tape recorder. This is, in part, meant to explain how he can keep track of conversations, but it also allows him to record any diegetic music playing in the space around him! From there, the player can go into a menu and replay those songs, again and again, any time they wish (within the same chapter in which they were recorded, at least), either for their own enjoyment or for the sake of making other characters hear a given song in-game. Personally, I might’ve preferred being able to keep my recorded tunes between chapters, but I love that this is a feature at all. Going around and trying to find music in Bordeaux is a very fun activity, even if it’s used sparingly; actually walking around is another story, however.

As a point-and-click adventure game, Chronique des Silencieux sees Eugène moving wherever you click on the screen (with an alternative option to use the arrow keys or WASD to walk and to hold Shift while doing so to run). However, his walking and running speeds are fairly inconsistent and that can often leave getting around feeling rather slow if you haven’t lucked into one of Eugène’s top speed moments. Thankfully, the slowest possible walking speed is reserved for these otherwise incredibly engaging flashback scenes where you briefly play as a character finally breaking their silence and revealing their past. Sure, this relative sluggishness, combined with the black-and-white colouring, gives these scenes a very distinct “in the past” feel to them, but walking is slow enough in these moments that I occasionally found myself feeling more frustrated than anything else.

Additionally, talking to other characters also sees the player clicking anywhere on the screen to progress the dialogue. For some reason, the very last click to finish off a given interaction also causes Eugène to move wherever the mouse was at the end of that discussion. This can be very frustrating if you’re not expecting it because it often means that Eugène will run off in a random direction or even into a wall when a conversation ends. This isn’t even the only annoying relationship between walking and talking: with the thankful exception of the most important interviews in Chronique des Silencieux, which can be entered through a button above the given characters’ heads, any interaction or conversation must be initiated through a button directly in front of them. The issue is that this button disappears if Eugène occupies the same position. Many times (particularly when I was using the directional buttons over the mouse), I found that I kept getting too close to people or objects and having to back up. It’s especially annoying when you have to interact with a given thing more than once because Eugène is already taking up the space where the button should be.

That takes us to another issue with the gameplay behind Chronique des Silencieux, which is frustratingly mixed together with another of its strengths. As Eugène walks around, he occasionally will find objects to interact with, like drawers, vents, cupboards, and so on. This moves the camera into a first-person close-up of the thing in question, allowing the player to move the object. It’s genuinely quite fun to go through the motions of opening a drawer and shuffling through various random pieces of paper to find the one you need at the bottom. Then, there are times when the game takes these close-ups a step further, offering creative puzzles that remain simple and easy to understand. One of my favourites comes in early, where you have to knock on different parts of a wooden surface and actually hear for a difference in the sound made. However, whenever I clicked on a given interactable and dragged it around, once I released my mouse, my cursor invariably zipped over to the bottom right of the screen. This just so happens to be where the button you click to exit the close-up is set. This means that whenever I found myself getting frustrated by a puzzle, my cursor kept acting up, and I kept accidentally exiting the close-up and having to back up and start it again from the beginning.

Now, there aren’t very many complicated objects to inspect throughout Chronique des Silencieux, as the game is primarily focused on conversations. In each chapter, Eugène can speak to several characters with special knowledge on a variety of topics, with more topics and characters becoming available as he explores and speaks to people. These conversations are recorded and can be referenced at any time. In addition, Eugène can find various documents, either actually physically available in the world or that are transcribed conversations with more minor characters. Then, once Eugène has both, the player can compare specific lines and make connections to find contradictions between what’s written and what’s been said. These connections and contradictions then give Eugène and the player new information and ideas as to where to look next.

The best and worst part of this system is that the game itself offers very little help in finding these contradictions. On the one hand, this means that there’s very little handholding, and every solution or discrepancy you find is a puzzle that you — the player — have actually solved. On the other hand, there are many opportunities where a player might have figured something out about one of the many mysteries, only for them to be unable to find the few exact combinations that prove what they already know. Heck, with some documents, it can even be confusing as to what exactly you should be pointing out, as you are often directly comparing lines of dialogue and paragraphs rather than entire objects themselves. There’s one section of the first chapter where I knew I’d found a very important object with very obvious implications, but rather than being able to just reference the entire thing; I could only discuss the various bits of text that existed on it. From there, I had no idea whether my connections were turning up nothing because I was just using the wrong part of the item or if I was actually barking up the wrong tree.

On the other hand, as I said, this is actually a really cool aspect of Chronique des Silencieux. Whenever I figure something out and can actually point to what I’ve learned, I feel really accomplished! Plus, being able to look through all of the information I’d amassed and try to piece things together was a fantastic way to truly feel like a detective. It can certainly be slow going at times and wouldn’t be all that fun for someone without a lot of patience, but this style of gameplay can be truly satisfying. In addition, every connection you’ve tried before will automatically be stricken through so you don’t ever try something that you already know to be false.

Well, in actuality, the real best part of Chronique des Silencieux’s note-taking and contradiction system is that the process of making those connections involves connecting the two bits of text with a red string that can be freely moved around in real-time with loads of weight behind it. Seriously, it’s so fun to just start making a connection and wiggle that bit of string around and see how it flops this way and that! Who knew a game about such depressing moments in history could be so fun?

Speaking of those depressing moments, another great aspect of the game is its story. I don’t want to delve too much into spoilery territory, but Chronique des Silencieux doesn’t seem to shy away from many terrible events and tragedies in southern France’s history, and it generally represents them with a great amount of empathy and care. It certainly has its darker moments, but everything is rooted in reality and nothing is ever used purely for shock value.

The main thrust of the story follows Eugène attempting to uncover the past of one Victor Dousvalon, a history professor in Bordeaux with a past in the French resistance of World War II that he is incredibly tight-lipped about. Alongside Eugène is Victor’s daughter, Catherine, who just wants to know the truth about her father. These characters and all the others Eugène meets over the course of this story are extensively fleshed out with their own personalities and histories that make sense for them. One of the other best parts of Chronique des Silencieux is that many of the answers you get in Eugène’s interviews only give you background details on these characters that isn’t inherently connected to the “main” plot but still add so much texture to the cast and the world around them.

Which is kind of a frustrating thing for Chronique des Silencieux. This debut game does so much incredible work and features so many aspects, from its writing to its art to its facial animations to its dedication to making the player feel like a real detective, and it nails so many of these aspects, truly delivering a special experience for anyone with a love for point-and-click adventure games. However, to actually get through the title, a player is going to have to deal with several major issues that make Chronique des Silencieux kind of a pain to play. I genuinely loved my time with this gem and I dearly wish I could just point to some of my favourite characters and the beautiful art style and beg everyone to give it a shot, but in its current state, some people just aren’t going to have the patience for it.

7.00/10 7

Chronique des Silencieux (Reviewed on Windows)

This game is good, with a few negatives.

Chronique des Silencieux is a feast for the eyes and a fantastic test for your detective skills, but the controls and difficulty go a little too far beyond clunky to truly call it a masterpiece.

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review
Erin McAllister

Erin McAllister

Staff Writer

Erin is a massive fan of mustard, writes articles that are too long, and is a little bit sorry about the second thing.

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