In The House Of Silence: A Labor Of Love-Craft
It was dark. The small halo of light surrounding me was not going to cut it this deep in the stygian blackness. I stopped at an upgrade station and removed my left eye and replaced it with an angler fish’s bio-luminescent lure. Satisfied with the increased range of the light, i continued my adventure. In The House Of Silence by Kai Ruma Games is a refreshing breath of Lovecraftian horror for rogue-lite fans.
You start in the titular house of silence,and the only realistic place to go is down, of course. When you enter the darkness below the house, you’ll notice It’s dark. Like mentioned above, there is a small halo of light around your character, and preference really determines whether you’re fine with the sparse light given. There are monsters. They remain unseen in the darkness until you run into them, at which point they start to viciously beat you to death. In old school rogue fashion, there is no attack animations beyond the monsters bumping into you. That’s really all you need to know: They bump you, a damage number pops up. Build up too many of those damage numbers and your run ends.
Most people are familiar with rogue-lites. The Binding of Isaac, Nuclear Throne, Enter The Gungeon, and all the rest. You move through increasingly difficult floors, gathering up upgrades to become more powerful. Some pick ups persist throughout playthroughs, or your character becomes more powerful on each subsequent playthrough; letting you change your playstyle appropriately based around your upgrades. As a Lovecraft-inspired rogue-lite, In The House Of Silence chooses an interesting and novel progression system, letting you remove and replace various body parts. That’s right, if you don’t think you hit hard enough, why not yank your arm off and replace it with a grabby tentacle? If you’re having trouble moving around the dungeon, well hell! Just lop off your leg at the thigh and put on a predator leg! You’ll move faster! Maybe replace your arm with a sword, or replace your abdomen with an ominously glowing core of pure blackness! It’s really up to you.
The monster design is the perfect blend of Lovecraft-inspired tentacle monstrosities and a bit of Saturday morning cartoon goofiness that I frankly find charming. There are no blast-processed hyper-realistic shambling horrors to be found; just goofy tentacle bros. As you pick up more mutation upgrades, your character will visually change to show off your new parts, which I really like. Your stamina (sanity) and health are both displayed clearly, with sanity running out with every step. This becomes an issue if you’re in a particularly spacious dungeon with too few sanity pickups. With levels and drops being randomly generated, the outcome sometimes isn’t great, though it comes pretty close more often than it misses. The developer has realized this, and in a subsequent patch scaled-down the size of dungeons.
Nothing hurts more in a rogue-lite then dying. You lose all that sweet progress and plop back down at the start of the dungeon, hopefully having learned something. Rogue-lite players know the feeling when things are going well. It’s called “The Run”. When everything lines up for a win and you know it, that’s “The Run”. In my time with In The House Of Silence, I realized that “The Run” comes way more often, and that’s probably because it only takes about 30 minutes to beat. “That’s too short!” you cry at me from your rogue-lite towers, festooned with hours upon hours of free time. Too bad, I say. In The House Of Silence is the perfect length. You jump in the dungeon, do your work, get out in time for a pint at the pub.
If you take the time and read the patch notes, you’ll see that the developer is actively working on the game, with each update bringing not just small adjustments, but huge changes to how the game plays. A recent update added loops, where after you finish the game, you’ll loop back to the beginning, retaining your items and abilities. This decision adds to the overall replayability of the game. Almost weekly a batch of new items, mutations, or enemy tweaks are being added. Recently, a full rework of the soundtrack was patched in, lending to the spooky atmosphere of the dungeons. Currently being in early access means that it’s still growing.
All in all, In The House Of Silence brings something new to the table that I can get behind. Interesting mechanics, fun visuals, a spooky soundtrack, and a short, pick up and play style that I dig. If you have any love of the craft, you’ll find something to enjoy here too.