Thoughts on: Sylvio 2

Original Sylvio was a game that came out of nowhere and charmed me with its very unique approach to horror-themed action adventuring. Being centered all around the EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomena) it went against the usual horror expectations – focusing almost entirely on terror, unease, tension and it was almost exclusively audio-based in how it evoked these feelings. Rare (and, to be fair, clunky) encounters with “enemies” weren’t horrifying and didn’t make you jump. Most things usually made you stop, slowly back away while trying to comprehend what you’re seeing and hearing. And while the action adventure elements with those rare action parts and physics-based puzzle solving, or the open map exploration weren’t always good and felt clunky, they added something very special to the game. The game wanted to be much more than it could, being a budget one man team product, but what it achieved was still good, unique and memorable.

Imagine my surprise at the fact that Sylvio 2 ditches everything but the basic audio analysis and exploration.

Sylvio 2 project is very different from the initial concept the developer was, sadly unsuccessfully, pitching at Kickstarter. Video analysis is still here, but it feels more like the audio analysis+visuals. Granted, original pitch didn’t promise it to be much different, but it also seemed to focus only on video, while the end result still keeps the audio analysis, now with spectrograms, the way it worked originally and, as such, video feels almost redundant and there to bring more conventional horror ideas in.

Which is my personal biggest disappointment, which might instead feel like a huge plus to some people. While game still avoids any conventional horror jump scares, there’s now much more focus on the visual side of horror of the kind that makes me want to look at the screen through the fingers (I’m easily impressed -_-). A lot of it is still creative and unique, but it’s no longer slow, tense and all up to your imagination in these moments. It’s much more in your face, even when it’s static and not jumping into the camera.

And I feel like this change of focus also bleeds into the story of the game which over-explains everything by the end. Where original was vague, weird, obscure about the things that happened and why they happened, this game ends on something that just made me go “…really?” All the little stories are still interesting, and piecing them together is interesting, but the overall feel of the game’s narration is just messy.

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Oh and while you still piece things together and analyse audio and visual recordings, the game just breadcrumbs you through everything with visual “go here” pointers to every single point of interest. Which feels… clumsy. Sure, it solves the strange issue original had where new messages could pop up in places you went to and you would just walk in circles without clear understanding on what else you can do, and it was bad. But just putting markers on the map, always visible through walls, feels just as bad if not worse and kills quite a bit of the mood.

Which is not to say that it’s not there. The mood is still top notch when you filter out all these huge issues mentioned above, and music is as fantastic as it was in the original game. Sitting in a dark corner, trying to figure out what you just heard mumbled in the static is an experience that no other games try to do, and I loved it as much as in the original game. Which is why I’m still glad I’ve played Sylvio 2. But… it feels like this is the first prototype, and the first game was the proper release, while, surprisingly, it’s the other way around. I can understand the possible reasons for why it happened, but they don’t change that I simply feel disappointed about Sylvio 2.

If you’ve never played the original game – give it a go and if you want more, definitely play Sylvio 2, just don’t expect it to be a worthy sequel. If you just want so ghost story spooky horror and can ignore ugly visuals, you might actually enjoy Sylvio 2 as well, so feel free to give it a go.

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