When a VR game for Quest 2 says it’s going to add hand tracking to its control scheme there’s a nice novelty factor to the experience. But I tend to still revert to the traditional controller setup as it tends to be a smoother experience. When a videogame like Silhouette comes along, I take a breath of apprehension. Fully hand-tracked experiences tend to have a great concept, however, the execution never quite delivers.
Silhouette is a delightful puzzler based entirely on shadows. The premise is simple, there are these little shadow peeps – called The Shaodwies – who need help getting to where they need to go. So, using your hands you need to create shadow bridges, move environmental obstacles, and even create finger guns to blast your way through objects and get them to safety.
Like when you were a kid making shadow birds or trying to create complicated shadow bunnies, Silhouette’s gameplay has all the hallmarks of a puzzler that knows exactly what it wants to achieve. And, in some ways, it certainly does that. When everything works as it should the concept works, a very pleasant, tranquil experience. Unfortunately, I found its hand tracking way too inconsistent to truly relax, almost perpetually fighting my way through.
Firstly, let’s talk about locomotion. Most hand-tracked videogames tend to use teleportation and that’s what you get here. Opening your hand to reveal your palm activates a blue teleport icon, enabling movement between fixed locations. Yet the amount of repetition it took, opening and closing my hand trying to get the damn thing to activate was infuriating. Once that happened, I wanted to skip through the levels as quickly as possible before it seemingly deactivated. If I could have pointed and pinched my way through, I’d have been a lot happier.
Whereas the puzzles were a mixture of pleasure and pain. Seeing the little shadow dude walk across my hands or lifting them up onto a platform sparked a little bit of joy every time. Then there were the dark times. Continually making a finger gun action only for it to switch between my hand and the gun 20 times in a row started to take the shine off the experience. Or the numerous times my hands disappeared during one of the intricate puzzles. I would have thrown a controller across the room if I had been holding one.
At these points, I start to check my real environment. Is there enough light or is it too bright? Have my hands been drifting out of sensor range inadvertently? Are the cameras clean? Yes, I checked all that. It didn’t matter whether I played during the day or at night with plenty of lights on, the results were still the same. Which honestly annoyed me, as I couldn’t hate what the gameplay was trying to achieve.
After about three hours of forced enjoyment, I was done with Silhouette. For the price, it’s an okay little hand-tracked puzzler. I love the concept, the simple low-poly art style, and the serene atmosphere. The puzzles were imaginative, and varied, even when wrestling with them. Alas, finishing the 28 puzzles was more of a relief than anything. A big part of that is purely down to the twitchy hand tracking. Where even with decent lighting and ensuring my hands were clearly visible, that moment when one disappears, and I had to restart really does grate.