Developer / Publisher – Team Panoptes
Price – US $9.99 / CA $12.99 / EU €9.99 / UK £7.99
Release Date – January 27th, 2023
Input – Hand Tracking
Play Area – Seated, Standing, Roomscale
Store Links – Meta
Reviewed on – Quest 2
This is Silhouette, A VR puzzler like no other where you must guide little shadow people through 28 puzzles using your actual hands to manipulate the shadows. I’ve had issues with games that have used hand tracking in the past, so let’s see how this pleasant puzzler fairs.
For those looking for a story, there isn’t really one here with the game opening up with a few text screens explaining that hand tracking is the only way to play and the ideal ways to set that up before you are treated to a simple cinematic that shows how the game works. Every puzzle has you standing ahead of a light source with the environment around you casting shadows against a backdrop. It’s on that backdrop where the Shadowies reside and in each puzzle, you must guide one of them from a starting point to the exit. You can tell the little being where to go by using a laser pointer coming out of your pinched fingers to guide it and can assist these little creatures by using the shadows of your hands to create bridges and carry them up or down. This is further built upon by letting you make a finger gun which lets you destroy broken chains and other damaged items and when it all works, it’s great fun.
Unfortunately, even in ideal conditions, I struggled with Meta’s hand tracking which quite often had my hands disappearing and reappearing thanks to the limited height the headset likes to track. Many puzzles required some slightly awkward hand positions and I noticed that when my hands were higher than my head but still in front of me, the headset would lose tracking causing a few issues. As the puzzles get more challenging, tracking issues did hinder my progress with my hands not changing to a gun or firing properly, disappearing causing shadowies to disappear and respawn at the start, held items to fall or blocked water to start pouring again, messing things up and oftentimes forcing me to start over. Don’t get me wrong, when it works, it works great but when it doesn’t, it’s nothing short of frustrating so do yourself a favor and make sure you read those opening windows and play in ideal conditions to minimize these problems.
Now, with that whining out of the way, when the tracking is on point, what’s here is a lot of fun with the opening few puzzles teaching you the basics before leaving you to wander these lands in search of the next obstacle. The world around you is broken up by waypoints with node-based teleportation being the only option as well as click-turning, the former of which is activated by aiming an open hand at the next node while the latter has you facing either hand toward your face and bringing in and out your thumb, turning in the direction of the hand you are using. I’m not a fan of this type of locomotion as I do feel it to be limiting, but in regard to the actual motions, I rarely had issue with navigating though the realm. Each puzzle you solve earns you a little black triangle which is displayed on a bracelet on your right hand, and to access the next area you’ll have to have completed enough puzzles in the previous sections to do so. With 28 puzzles to get through, that might not seem like a lot with some only taking mere seconds to conquer, but the puzzles in the latter half of the game do up the challenge thanks to environmental obstacles like glass, water & levers that manipulate the surface of the puzzle making for a game that’s great for casual gamers or those looking for a little more difficulty.
This reference may be a little dated, but Silhouette reminded me a lot of Land’s End, a launch title for the Gear VR headset that offered minimalist visuals that still managed to convey a beautiful world. You’ll visit a forested area, caverns, beach side and more locales with most objects, including your hands, comprised of geometric shapes stuck together to make a tree, bush, glass tube or the ground you walk on, which is typically flat. All of that makes this look like a VR game from yesteryear save for the lighting effects which do add significant depth to everything around you. Even though you are only teleporting from node to node, just noticing the lighting changes on your hands as you go from sunlight to shade to caverns is a great inclusion and while the stages are rather simple in design, they do the job in carrying you from puzzle to puzzle. It’s those puzzles that are the real star of the show here, as each one takes place at its own station in a circular light source provided by a nearby projector. It’s in those lit circles where almost all the fun takes place with the Shadowies’ start and end points being emblazoned on the play area while other items in between the spotlight and wall provide the shadows that make the puzzles. It’s all clever and minimalist but is honestly a great use for hand tracking as it’s just cool to see my hands mimicked in a sharp looking virtual world.
Accompanying that presentation is a melodic and tranquil soundtrack that fits wonderfully with the pacing and the environments you find yourself in. Outside of that are some light ambient effects with the focus being on the puzzles. It’s here where you’ll have to turn panels, stop and start water flow or even move the light source and all these actions sound on point, complimenting the look and feel of everything around you.
I like Silhouette for what it is, a cheap puzzler that uses VR in a way I have never experienced before. It won’t blow anyone’s mind and if you are good a this (and don’t run into too many tracking issues), you could probably breeze through all the puzzles in under 3 hours. Most of the puzzles offer up something different from the others and by the time I did finish the game, I was happy with my time spent in here as right when I started to think the puzzles were becoming a little redundant, it was over making for a well-paced and satisfying title for a fair price.
Team Panoptes provided The VR Grid with a press code for this title and, regardless of this review, we thank them for that!