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Video Game / The Silent Age

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"…And now you're here. The harbinger of doom at my doorstep. Wearing a boilersuit."
Dr. Lambert

"The Silent Age" is a point-and-click indie puzzle game created by a Danish game studio House On Fire. There are two episodes to it, released in 2012 and 2014, respectively.

The story takes place in 1972 as the plot focuses around a guy named Joe, who works as a janitor at some grand corporation and is, quite literally, "your average Joe". The storyline is set into motion upon Joe's investigation of ominous blood splatters in the new areas he's been assigned to take care of, and his meeting with an elderly time traveller. The shot man insists that The End of the World as We Know It is about to happen, foists a mysterious device upon clueless Joe and entrusts him with a mission to find his younger self and warn about this unfortunate wound.

The thrilling captivating story, complete with spooky ambient soundtrack sets the player on a quest to discover the truth behind the extinction of mankind by means of Time Travel. However serious the storyline is, the game is not devoid of witty humor and the protagonist's sarcastic remarks on wrong moves. The clever puzzles, engaging mechanic and deep story fetched this game the 2013 Casual Connect Indie Prize.

Comprising 10 chapters, The Silent Age is available on the App Store, Google Play, Steam, Windows Store and Kindle Fire.

The Silent Age contains examples of:

  • Accent Relapse: After Frank has revealed his true identity as Yuri Baryshev, a Deep Cover Agent for the Soviet Union, a slight trace of a Russian accent creeps into his voice.
  • Accidental Misnaming: Joe's boss keeps calling him Jasper and whatnot.
  • Adventure Game: Midway between this and Puzzle Game.
  • After the End: That's when half the game takes place.
  • Apocalypse How: Class 3B: The Plague destroys humanity.
  • Bad Future: Just a single glimpse is enough to tell the mankind went extinct in a blink.
  • The Bartender: Cedric is a Jive Turkey-talking version, who works at the obscure nightclub next to Joe's workplace. He can tell that something is troubling Joe, noting that he looks like a man who carries the weight of the world on his shoulder, Joe wryly comments that it is a pretty apt description. Hilariously, Cedric just thinks he is having lady trouble, and gives him advice on that instead.
  • Becoming the Mask: Frank, who was really a Russian spy, came to America to steal military secrets under the guise of a janitor. While he never lost sight of the mission, he did come to like Joe, seeing their friendship as the only real thing in his life.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: Joe finds the skeleton of Cedric, the bartender, with a revolver in his hands. Upon closer inspection, Joe notices that the revolver is lacking one bullet and the skull of the corpse has a prominent hole in its temple. Joe doesn't the implications of what Cedric was facing, seeing how he came to the conclusion that punching his own ticket was the better alternative.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Joe freezes himself to stop the plague and manages to go forward enough that he can be cured and even manages to adjust to the new time... but he also ends up exactly where he started, working menial jobs, and no one will ever believe that he saved the world.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Or the prominent lack, bar the silhouette, of a literal one over the mantlepiece in Lambert's house.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Remember Frank who left the job?
  • Coolest Club Ever: Inverted. The club is always empty, even though the barkeep insists it's super popular and you-just-wait.
  • Corpse Land: The future after the pandemic breakout is full of skeletons and not a single living soul. The zone of quarantine is even marked on the map.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Time travelling gets more and more uncertain and imprecise the farther you travel. In the hundreds-of-years-distant future where (rather when) Joe arrives once, there's a corpse of a poor guy, that ended up transported INTO a wall.
  • Cryonics Failure: A milder variation thereof occurs to the two frozen time travellers. They are alive and physically unharmed but due to the dearth between cryonics technologies of the past and the future became seriously mentally damaged.
  • Deep Cover Agent: Frank is a Russian spy having been sent to the US in his early twenties.
  • Developer's Foresight: Even the nuttiest ideas get their snide remarks. Fill a fire-extinguisher with flammable oil? Check. Kill a man with a screwdriver? Check. Try to dispose of a few valuable items by drowning? Check.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: Is about to happen in a day, or less. Most graphic consequences are seen throughout the game.
  • The Everyman: The protagonist is your average Joe (quite literally, being a lowly janitor named Joe). The game even takes its time to fill us on his previous occupation, which is an unfortunate string of the most boring jobs imaginable.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: A crocodiles warning sign? No way, this isn't Florida. And yet another one? Sure thing Dr. Lambert appreciates his privacy, but that's a bit over the top, a dog warning would do! …Oh crap.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: Subverted. The game only takes a day and a few more in-universe hours, but between the time Joe enters a cryonic capsule and leaves it? It's been forty years.
  • Fish out of Temporal Water: Joe after being recovered in 2012. He especially marvels at LED displays but is, apparently, offered a social adaptation program and eventually gets used to the future life.
  • First-Person Smartass: The protagonist, quite often.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • If you check the bulletin board in the police station multiple times, Joe will go through several different names. At the very end, he reads out "Patient Zero" ... who apparently is Joe himself. At the time, he doesn't make the connection, but if a player keeps this in mind, the revelation that Joe is the one who brings the disease back might come very very early.
    • When Joe is first in the elevator, looking at the open vent on the ceiling gives us a voiced "hmm...", but not much else. When players see this vent again after breaking into the company, it can be one of the major hints to the fact that Joe is in a timeloop.
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: The virus brought from the future, its breakout and eventual extinction of the mankind.
  • Guilt-Based Gaming: At one point you have to collect a few coins to make it a dollar. Among other things there's a blind vet in the subway playing a guitar begging for money. You cannot really take money from him like that but Joe berates you (Oh, of course. His brain!) for trying. As if that wasn't bad enough, when you travel into the future, you find the blind musician's skeleton laying in the same place, and now that he's long dead, you can take the quarter.
  • Hand Wave: From one of the scientific reports you find out that time travel somehow affects the virus caught by the pilots which renders it so lethal.
  • High-Voltage Death: The fish in the pond.
  • Human Popsicle: Is how Joe survives and eventually gets to 2012.
  • I Can't Believe It's Not Heroin!: A sip of the fanciest cocktail in the club is described in a variety of intriguing ways, each one close to rainbow-puking.
    Joe: Sweet mercy... It's like riding sidecar with a unicorn down a mountain of cashmere sweaters.
  • Idiot Hero: Downplayed. Joe is not exactly stupid, but he isn't quite the brightest bulb in the box either. He takes a long time to grasp the full implications of time travel, and Dr. Lambert is openly annoyed with how slow he is on the uptake, referring to him as an "imbecile" in his notes.
  • Improvised Weapon: Never actually happens, but if you try using the wrong items at certain points, you get ideas about killing a man from behind with a screwdriver or fighting a crocodile with a pair of garden scissors.
  • Incurable Cough of Death: During a game sequence in the distant future Joe stumbles a few times and gives a cough. Nothing of this kind happened before and even though Joe eventually survives, this still qualifies as the disease is incurable at that point in time, so Joe is as good as dead after he catches the virus.
  • Indie Game: Developed by a Danish indie game studio.
  • Informing the Fourth Wall: Played with, since Joe not only makes coherent comments about different incorrect actions, but also mostly addresses his thoughts to himself or his brain.
  • Inkblot Test: In 2012, Joe can examine one of these lying on the table. He says that apparently someone spilled ink but the blot strangely reminds him of his mother.
  • I Will Only Slow You Down: Frank says he's too ill and weak and asks Joe to leave him and escape back to their present.
  • Just Before the End: Humanity is destroyed in a day, as evidenced among other things by the positions of the skeletons when you switch between the present and the future.
  • Last of His Kind: You ought to think Dr. Lambert is this at a certain point in time, given he lives in his shelter forty years into the future, when everyone is dead.
  • The Last Of These Is Not Like The Others: The notes on the wall in the clinic.
    Joe: It's full of medical mumbo jumbo and words like "Hematology", "Growth rate", "Pandemic" and a note that says "I took your stapler. Now we're even, asshole! - Doctor Phelps".
  • Law of Alien Names: Discussed by Joe. Not that Lambert is an alien, but a time-traveller should qualify.
    Joe: For a guy from the future he has a disappointing name. I would have imagined "Zorg" or maybe "Spax".
  • Layman's Terms: Lambert uses those speaking to Joe:
  • Look on My Works, Ye Mighty, and Despair: The absolute decline and grievous remains of the creations of the human race are seen all around in the future locations and are made all the more mournful as you can quickly jump between their flourishing and dilapidated instances.
  • Magic A Is Magic A: This Time Machine doesn't allow to travel to the point before which it was invented, which sounds pleasantly plausible and totally believable for all the common scientific drivel about the principles of causality that we've been treated to before.
  • The Mentally Disturbed: The other two time-travellers from cryogenic capsules after they are recovered in 2012.
  • Mind Screw: A fair share thereof first when you find out just how exactly Lambert was shot the second time and finally who ended up being the cause of the virus breakout.
  • Never the Selves Shall Meet: Played straight, apparently the main reason being not tampering with causality and events that took place up to this point in time.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: The player will likely get a sinking feeling when Joe stops a ventilator fan by shooting out the control panel... hitting a bearded man with the ricochet. He just fatally wounded Dr. Lambert. This is also Foreshadowing that Joe is the one who brings The Plague back from the future, dooming humanity.
  • Noodle Incident: Joe mentions some "stupid prank the science department pulled on him last year" after which no one would believe him if he doesn't have any proof. The matter is never elaborated on.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Since humanity is wiped out, the future is a pretty quiet place (hence the game's title). So quiet that Joe remarks how unsettling it all is multiple times, and some of the company's earliest human time machine pilots went insane from the complete silence.
  • Ominous Message from the Future: Enter Dr. Lambert and his first cues.
  • Present Day: At the end of the game, Joe wakes up to find out it's 2012, the year the first part of the game was released, and the previously devastated future, he's been travelling to.
  • Puzzle Game: Collecting items, solving puzzles is how the gameplay is set.
  • Research, Inc.: The corporation Joe works in is engaged in unusual military developments, namely the time machine for one.
  • Run, Don't Walk: Joe walks by default, but tapping twice makes him run, complete with a special animation.
  • The Plague: The virus from the future that led to the extinction of mankind.
  • The Professor: Dr. Reginald Lambert.
  • Red Scare: The primary reason of all the scientific developments conducted in-game is military purposes and such. And there even is a Russian spy.
  • Reverse Psychology: The button in the club and the note next to it.
    Joe: "Please do not press the button." Oh come on. If they really didn't want people to press the button, why'd they put up the sign?
  • Scenery Gorn: The scenery 40 years into the future is designed to depict all sorts of decay and absolute abandonment by any living being, save for the flora. Buildings crumbling, windows broken, skeletons everywhere, rust, dust, dirt and electricity out. The final future destination over hundreds years into the future exhibits all the same signs of decline, only partly turning into eerie jungle.
  • Set Right What Once Went Wrong: Reginald's, and later Joe's, attempt to prevent the virus from devastating humanity.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: Subverted, actually. At first, it looks like Joe is about to "close the loop," bringing the plague back from the future and leading to the extinction of humanity... but he's actually able to prevent this from happening by freezing himself.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Special Person, Normal Name: "Reginald Lambert" is not exactly what you'd call plain but Joe is underwhelmed still.
  • Stable Time Loop: Joe sets out on a quest to alter the future spread of an unknown disease to eventually find out he is the one who brought it about BECAUSE he was time-travelling.
  • Taking You with Me: Joe prevents the virus from spreading by locking himself (as the only one infected) in a cryogenic capsule with no hope of being melted any time soon.
  • Temporal Mutability: It turns to be an interesting version of Enforced Immutability. Lambert explains that the laws of causality means that it is impossible to go any further back into the past that moment he and his team cracked the secret of time travel.
  • There Are No Therapists: Averted. In the end of the game Joe wakes up forty years later in a clinic and is promised a social adaptation program and such.
  • Time Machine: Even two drastically different variations thereof.
  • Time Travel: The basis of the plot, enabled via a handheld time-travelling device.
  • Time-Travelers Are Spies: Played with in a way that no kind of suspicion is ever brought and the circumstances are rather different from those when the trope is usually evoked, but, surprisingly, Frank IS a spy, and that's exactly why he stole the time machine.
  • To the Future, and Beyond:
    • The player quickly gets used to travel some 40 years into the future, but Joe's final destination is more impressive. It's vaguely described as "hundreds, maybe thousands of years in the future", and is apparently as far as the time machine would allow.
    • Worth mentioning, the trope isn't played straight and that's well justified: the farther you go, the more imprecise and unstable everything gets (like, the location of arrival and such). Travelling as far as Joe eventually does, even destroys his time machine.
  • Too Dumb to Live: You would think the company would know when to fold them when their first two schemes (using time travel to win previous wars, also use time travel to bring back weapons from the future) brings home an incurable plague they just barely contain. Instead, they start advertising the plague to their clients as a bio-weapon. If the Bad Future is any indication, it greatly backfired on them.
  • Updated Re-release: The Steam version of the game got character voiceovers, HD-graphics and unlockable achievements. The iOS update soon followed.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: It's later revealed that the virus in question is actually a form of avian flu, which really took many lives, only with its effects exaggerated (see Hand Wave above). The other thing that is vaguely true is the whole setting of arms race and technical developments during the era.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • A very minor one, not without some Fridge Logic. After dying, Frank helps Joe get back to the past, staying behind, the future where their interaction occurred stops to exist, as Joe prevents the plague from breaking out, thus creating a new future, where the mankind survives and the time machines are destroyed. So what happened to Frank, stuck in the branch of the future which is no more?
    • Also, Dr. Lambert. His future self died in the time machine chamber after living through the apocalypse. Which Joe prevented. There's all kinds of Time-Travel Tense Trouble here, but Joe probably should have looked him up in 2012, for the sake of closure.