Sylvio might look like “yet another Unity engine First Person horror adventure game”, but it’s not. It does things in a very unique and interesting way and it all boils down to the fact, that the game is all centered around the EVP – Electronic Voice Phenomena. If you were every interested in any paranormal things you might understand that no matter how unscientific and disproved this is, it can still be a thrilling theme to explore. Hence the popularity of the topic not only in classic horror movies, but in modern ones as well. Yet, surprisingly, not a single game (to my knowledge) before Sylvio has dedicated itself fully to it.
Your main tool in this game is your is a reel-to-reel tape recorder that can play recorded audio at different speeds forwards or backwards. Which is important, because the voices you will hear in the dark can be speaking not “normally”, but slowly and backwards, for example. It’s a simple enough puzzle gimmick and not hard to master, but it creates a genuine sense of mystery and thrill, when you’re recording some long died kid’s voice in the middle of nowhere and suddenly in the same recording you hear a different voice say backwards “he’s mine”. It’s such a simple yet effective way to tell a story – in short disjointed messages you record and decipher, – and to build an atmosphere that it doesn’t get old until the end of the game.
What does get a bit old is “hunting ghosts” – angry black clouds and human silhouettes, – with a weird rifle you find early in the game, that shoots blunt objects to solve simple physics puzzles and sharp objects to pacify the aforementioned ghosts. It starts surprising and creepy, but later becomes a simple routine as you can’t actually die or lose meaningful progress in the game and these black ghosts are very much finite per level, as each one leaves a message to decipher. The rifle ammo and pressure management becomes pretty annoying in later levels too, one funfair-themed one in particular long overstays its welcome and relies heavily on using the rifle in a very unfun way.
In addition, the game can be quite buggy. The hub-map you revisit between levels, for example, is traversed with a car and that car can behave abnormally or you can exit it and suddenly ploish through the floor, which sometimes spawns you above the level, but sometimes doesn’t and you have to restart the game (it does save all the things you’ve completed but you always start near the beginning of the level). It’s a pretty ugly looking game as well, despite the Remastered version upping the looks. And the menu is very lacking in settings, while the help & controls option is just a huge image file you need to scroll, with no rebindable keys to speak of.
All in all, the game could’ve used a bigger budget upgrade with few levels and puzzles rethought and a switch to a fully open interconnected world Vanishing of Ethan Carter-like. But, we don’t have that yet. What we have is a very exciting, atmospheric game with fantastic 80s horror synth soundtrack and unique mechanics. It’s unforgettable and fun, despite it’s shortcomings and honestly muddled ending, and I fully recommend people trying it out.
P.S. Is it a weird coincidence, that the game has a logo similar to Aphex Twin’s, who released a new LP called “Syro” in 2014? Great record, by the way.
P.P.S. Have you been to Honolulu?