Games of the Year

Sylvio

Sylvio Screenshot 1
Sylvio Screenshot 2
Sylvio Screenshot 3
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Sylvio is a psychological horror game set in a tranquil, disturbing atmosphere. Ghost recorder Juliette Waters trespasses into an abandoned family park, shut down since a landslide in 1971. The voices of the deceased captured on her reel-to-reel recorder reveals a tale of an evil curse and a wicked family cult, currently living in the park. First-person horror with a multi-layered story. 10 - 15 hours gameplay. Open world exploration by foot or car. Conduct seances, search for voices in the static, and analyze your recordings with a unique audio gameplay mechanic.
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Game Discussion

Review by Anonymous
Review from Steam

I’ve pressed play to hear what the EVP caught in the wind. Among the static, a broken women’s voice can be heard. She speaks in slow and melancholic tone “I didn’t want to… Daddy… They put me to sleep… I’m not alo…” Her voice turns to short scream. I’ve stopped the recording and played it backwards, at half the playback speed. At first there was nothing except distortion but a faint sound can be heard. It’s a horrid imitation of human speech, with no discernable accent or phonetic pattern. Its words now etched into my mind: SHE IS HERE WITH ME.”
In the late seventies, something terrible has happened in the Saginaw Park. Since then, no living creature, except for the crows, can live there. You play as Juliette Waters, a professional Ghost Whisperer, as she travels into the park to put her skills to the ultimate test.
Sylvio is a first-person survival horror game inspired by Silent Hill games and Twin Peaks in the best possible way. Its unique story premise, creepy atmosphere, and bone-chilling ghost recording gameplay left me in awe and hooked till the end. Considering it’s made by one person, this amazing horror indie game is very rough in its execution.
You‘ll spend 70% of the time investigating and solving puzzles, and 30% shooting and defending yourself. There are 13 chapters/levels in the game and you’ll need between 8-12 hours to complete the game. You start each level by using the Electronic Voice Phenomenon recorder to capture the messages from ghost residues or trapped apparitions. Since ghosts exist in a realm where time flows differently, you’ll manipulate the playback speed and direction to uncover what they have to say.
Some of these ghosts will part with their secrets peacefully, while you’ll have to “reason” with others before communicating by using your compressor shotgun. As much as the investigation and sound manipulation segment of the game excels, the combat is quite floaty and imprecise, barely getting a passing grade.
The biggest problem with this game is sheer obscurity on what to do next. Puzzles in the first few levels are straightforward and logical. As I reached the second part of the game, I was often stumped on how to proceed, as puzzles can reach the infamous “moon logic” levels of difficulty. When you uncover how to proceed, you’ll scratch your head thinking how that puzzle made any sense.
Controls are also obscure, with too many keyboard input requirements for something simple. There is a guide in the main menu that I recommend you to read first. Even after this, I didn’t realize how to change and use objects in my inventory until near the end of the game. Your gun, for example, uses two types of ammo: solid, blunt objects to solve puzzles, and sharp and deadly ones to fight the ghosts.
On top of this, you’ll notice a small compressor meter on the gun that loses its power every time you shoot. You’ll have to pick up compressed pesticide canisters to refill your weapon’s range and power. And all of this could’ve been simplified or better explained in the game, but it’s not.
Regardless, the outstanding sound and music immersed me completely and sealed the deal for me. Talking to ghosts got me unnerved every time. Juliette sounds like a curious and fearless kid, and yet very fragile and afraid adult at the same time. The voice cast in general is superb.
The graphics are okay, but the art direction is amazing. Decrepit and mist-filled park locations felt eerie, packed with tension, unwelcoming and alien. Lastly, the unfolding story never disrespected my intelligence and chewed plot points for me. You’ll uncover some answers, but you’ll have to use your brain to get the full picture.
Among throngs of cheap jumpscare games out there, Sylvio has masterfully done the rising dread and uncertainty. If you can go past through rough design and no hand holding, this game will leave a lasting mark, just like a well told short horror story does.
The young man’s voice has changed to a rhythmic thumping sound as if it’s trying to tear the fabric of the universe apart, “…the blood of the mist inside my skin.” Only the screams of others could be heard in the background.

Review from Steam

ASMR Horror done right first time. Ticks all the boxes and although graphically a little "retro" this title still manages to invoke a great sense of spine chilled terror through use of exquisite audio used throughout the game aided by a top-notch voice actress.
The game is getting on a bit now but it's priced fairly and offers a lot of content as well.
8/10.

Review from Steam

Solid horror-exploration game with very good sound at times and unsettling atmosphere. Not very challenging, almost walking simulator level but still very enjoyable. Love the main character's voice too.

Review from Steam

Terror Meter 1/10
Narrative Intrigue 4/10
Visuals 2/10
Difficulty 3/10
Length <4hrs
Sylvio is a Puzzle Exploration Shooter game, with a creepy atmosphere which takes place over large maps. The player is exploring the remnants of an old theme park, and what brought the place to ruin. With the use of Audio Recording Equipment, listen to the ghosts and discover what actually happened.
On each map the player explores, they will be looking for ghostly apparitions which can either take the form of a general location, white orbs or black clouds. Locations are simply points the player will be guided towards to record a ghostly apparition. The white orbs are passive and the player will simply need to find the correct spot around them in order to record the ghost. While the black clouds can injure the player should they get close. In order to get rid of the black clouds the player needs to use the potato gun with a sharp object to injure them, the amount of shots needed to kill a black cloud increases through the game. Once the player destroys the cloud they are able to then record the ghost.
If the player destroys all of the black clouds in an area then a giant ghost will spawn, like with the black clouds the player will need to load their potato gun with sharp objects and shoot each enough times to deal with them, the amount of shots escalates per level the player is on. Should you get too close to the giant ghost the player will be injured and collapse, the ghosts will attack the player with a black fog from a distance which will also cause damage. The black cloud can be hard to see, and may kill the player before they realise what is happening. Once the giant ghost is dealt with the player will once more be able to record audio.
Once the player has recorded a ghost they will need to listen to what the ghost says by rewinding and listening to the tape. The player may need to go back and forwards through each recording at different speeds before they can find the ghost's message. I found the puzzles of working out what the ghost was saying to be one of the more enjoyable parts of the game, as each time you listened to the ghost stories you found out more of what actually happened in the park.
It is not easy to find the ghost apparitions, the player will need to explore old structures and attractions. In order to get through them the player will need to complete puzzles to open up the maps. This will be done with the use of the Potato gun and hard objects which can be used to knock over objects. The puzzles are not difficult, but can be hard to find some of the locations with there only being one approach.
The player will be traversing large maps in the game in order to find the ghosts' apparitions, the player will need to drive to get from point to point as locations can be minutes away from each other. Driving in Sylvio is very basic, though does suffer with some ragdoll moments which can send the car spinning should the player crash.
Sylvio’s story is interesting with lots of events leading up to the collapse of the park, and multiple stories coalescing from different perspectives. The story is told in such a disjointed way that it makes it really intriguing trying to learn more of what happened. Now saying that, by the time I was near the end of the game, I did get confused on what was happening anymore, to the point I would need to go through the game again to work out what goes on at the end.
Sylvio is not difficult, the problem comes that it is really easy to get confused on puzzles, parts can easily be missed, while others parts you may not realise you can interact with. This seems to be at worst in the Carnival, in which multiple attractions need to be interacted with in different ways to progress the game. At the same time puzzles that involve dropping platforms can be invisible in the red fog unless you are at the correct angle. It can come to such a problem that if you just do not notice a bullseye you can be wandering in circles for ages trying to find a way in.
When it comes to visuals, Sylvio is not a nice game to look at, maps can be bare, or so coated in mist that most locations are hard to make out. The theme park visuals of the early game are quickly lost to bare maps, in which the player will spend a lot of the game just driving from place to place. Buildings feel compact and tight, and having to explore them is both annoying and compact.
Do not come into Sylvio expecting a horror game, at times it can be creepy with the story behind the events and seeking ghosts. There are no scares, or real threats apart from dealing with the giant ghostly forms, shooting dark clouds at the player.
Still I really enjoyed Sylvio, and I am not really sure why. The puzzles were fun, and offered a fair challenge to work out where to go, some of the more enjoyable ones were tactically shooting potatoes to open doors. The story was interesting, though I did get a bit confused the further I went in. I guess I truly enjoyed the game because it is such a unique experience that I find it hard to compare it to other games.
If you want to see what the gameplay is like then check the video below, I would advise you just about twenty minutes in, to see more of the exploration parts:
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