Posts Tagged ‘silent hill


Going out on a high note

Silent Hills

Silent Hills is no more.  Or, depending on who you ask, it never was.  But we had P.T. (playable teaser) and it captured a great deal of attention and imagination in trying to solve the game’s puzzles.  Learning that was part of something bigger was exciting.  Who knows if it could have delivered on the promise of P.T. though.  I like to believe that the Kojima, del Toro, and Reedus team could have pulled off something great.  Though its difficult to imagine how even Kojima could have pulled Silent Hill back on its feet and revive the series.

Konami has now assured us that the project is off and the team has been cast adrift.  It’s the latest in a series of console gaming setbacks for the company.  They’ve promised more Silent Hill, but at this point I say it’s time to let the series go out on a high note.  Konami has been a rudderless vessel for the series which has experienced some prominent miss-steps in recent years.  Most of them during the “Month of Madness” in 2012.  One could only conclude that these were games that were being neglected and mishandled.  It’s truly baffling.

I can only speculate at how P.T. came together to produce such a confident experience and offer such a promising return for Silent Hill.  Kojima has expressed interest in working on Silent Hill in the past, and del Toro is well known to have an affinity for games, and desire to participate in their production.  But Kojima is on the way out the door from Konami in a situation where neither party has volunteered to explain what exactly is happening.  Regardless of this, P.T. succeeded in reminding folks what it meant to be sincerely made afraid by a video game.  It offered a glimpse of what a new generation of survival horror games might be, and showed us just how affective the gaming medium could be.

I hope P.T. can be the end for the Silent Hill series, rather than dragging it on for no benefit other than something for Konami to cash in on.  Leave that world in a moment pointing forward, instead of fumbling around in the dark trying to figure out where everything went wrong.




Happy holidays! Hopefully you’ve had a pleasant Christmas.  Seeing nice people, eating good food, and relaxing.  What have I been up to? Mainly, I’ve been playing an upsetting combination of Alien: Isolation, LISA, and PT.  It’s nice to have a current generation console again, but even just waiting a year after their release, I have a tidy backlog of games to play through.  PT almost fell off my radar entirely, being so limited in scope.  Since it’s release, it’s been revealed to be a teaser for a possible entry in the Silent Hill franchise, being headlined by Hideo Kojima, Guillermo del Toro, and Norman Reedus.  It’s an exciting line-up of talent, but it’s still worth lingering on what PT accomplished as a self-contained piece of work.

I’ve yet to complete the game myself.  I’ve reached the final “puzzle,” which appears to be open to debate in how it is solved.  PT is not a game that can be completed on one’s own.  There are too many hidden details that the player would have to spend an inordinate amount of time to solve. It’s not impossible, but I have a hard time picturing the person who would solve on their own.  And while you will need to collaborate with other players, this only ends up reinforcing how alone you are when you play it yourself.  There are still problems that have not been entirely solved – you cannot rest easy knowing that you can just look up a guide when things get to be too intense.  It’s quite a wonderful accomplishment for a game of this scope and scale.

PT succeeds in creating tension between anticipation and confrontation.  Here, it is polished to a mirror sheen.  In much of survival horror, you have plenty of confrontation, which is amplified through use of spectacle (see Resident Evil 6.)  Anticipation is built in knowing something is coming, but not know what it is and when it will happen.  Your mind will be sent into overdrive in trying to prepare for the possibilities.  But when it’s left ambiguous enough, your mind will race ceaselessly, leaving you as a human pile of anxiety waiting to spill over into panic.  A game like Resident Evil 6 conditions you to always expect the confrontation, and leaves little room for your mind to race.  Instead, it tries to make the confrontations bigger, in the hopes that maybe doubling down on what might have once been a frightening idea will somehow make it more overwhelming.  But if you understand the trick that’s being used, then it doesn’t matter how big you make the confrontation.

PT offers you a drip feed of awful things to contemplate and leaves your origin and motivation entirely open-ended.  You will spin your mind trying to figure out exactly what it is and what you’re doing.  When PT does decide to pull the trigger on confrontation, it is incredibly effective.  And being such a small-scale game, it did not have to justify its existence with a great deal of marketing, signaling what you should expect so that you know what you’re buying (PT is free after all.)  It’s difficult to speculate as to whether or not PT translates to a full-fledged game – which will require a great deal of marketing and signaling.  But PT does tell us that those at the creative helm of the game have an aptitude for creating frightening experiences, and may have what it takes to put the Silent Hill series back on the same level as its earlier entries.


#BoRT: There’s only one way out of here…

I love frightening movies and games.  For as long as I can remember, I’ve sought out entertainment that would provide me with years of nightmares fuel.  I’m really not sure why I do that to myself (or why anyone deliberately subjects themselves to frightening entertainment.)  I’ve written previously that maybe frightening games are a way to ask ourselves “what if…?”

If I had to guess why we enjoy being scared, I would say that it is because it’s a pretty good way to elicit a candid reaction.  You can spend your entire life getting to know yourself, and it’s a task which we aren’t always thinking about.  The difficulty in this lies with reconciling the person you are, and the person you want to be.  When you’re scared, there’s no room to think about who you want to be.  It can be a liberating experience to have the living daylights scared out of you.

One of my earlier experiences deliberately trying to frighten myself was to watch the movie Alien.  I was a grade-school age kid who had stupid action figures based on the movies from the series, but I knew from commercials like that one there was something far worse that I hadn’t yet encountered.

The video clip shown above shows Tom Skerritt’s character, Dallas, who must enter the ship’s air shaft system to attempt to flush an alien creature out of his space ship with a flame-thrower.  The scene captures so much of what makes a movie frightening for the audience and is one of my favorite from the movie.  He is completely vulnerable in the pitch black compartments with no easy escape route.  The only way he can know where the creature is located is based on what his crewmates can describe to him over a radio while looking onto a motion sensor with a display that’s smaller than your phone’s screen.  It becomes abundantly clear that the creature has the advantage, and when Dallas decides to leave – well, just watch the clip.  It is revealed afterward that in searching the air shafts for Dallas, they found a flame-thrower, but no body.

Alien is a fantastic movie and it scared me like nothing else up to that point.  But when things got dicey (and boy, do they get dicey) I could turn away or shield my eyes.  Eventually, I would find that I could have similar experiences with games, and that first one was Silent Hill.  I would also find that, unlike with movies, I couldn’t turn away from a game when things went bad.

I’ve written about my experience playing Silent Hill for the first time before.  It left an impression with me that’s hard to forget, and I feel safe saying it’s the scariest piece of entertainment I’ve yet consumed.  I couldn’t tell you how many times I was sitting in front of the TV, trying to psyche myself up to open a new door and find out what lay behind it.  And there were many times that I just couldn’t bring myself to do it and wound up just turning off my Playstation.  Silent Hill, and frightening games in general, excel where entertainment tightly controlled by its author falls short.  Ridley Scott couldn’t tape my eyes open for Alien’s infamous chestburster scene, but Team Silent was counting on the fact that I knew that unless I was giving the game my full attention, the protagonist would surely die and his daughter would be lost.

Games like Silent Hill create an intensity like no other kind of entertainment because because they create such a strong sense of cognitive dissonance in the player’s mind.    I remember each and every location in Silent Hill because of how much I didn’t want to be there.  Each and every new location was like being Dallas and climbing into that air shaft to find a creature that most certainly would kill me.  But I memorized them in order to solve the game’s arcane puzzles and to try and find out what was happening there.  If you let yourself get caught up in Harry’s plight, then you’ll feel just as trapped as he does when you consider that the only way he gets out is with your help.  There’s no covering your eyes and waiting for the credits to roll.  When you turn off the game, you are abandoning Harry and Cheryl in that town.  It’s such a simple premise – find Harry’s daughter and get right the hell out of there.  But try telling yourself that when you’re randomly phasing in and out of consciousness between two worlds which can be accurately described as bad and worse.  There’s only one way out of Silent Hill (and all other good survival horror games) and that’s to force yourself to face some disturbing scenarios while still managing to effectively play the game.

Silent Hill made the survival horror genre my favorite.  I can’t say for certain what it is that makes games like this so compelling, but I know I’m not the only one who feels this way.  For those who haven’t played it before, it probably looks and sounds like a very silly game.  But I eagerly anticipate when I will have the chance to play through scenes like the one above from Alien (in Colonial Marines, perhaps?) and am looking forward to nightmares yet to come.  If you’re looking to have a good Halloween this year, go track down a copy of Amnesia, Dead SpaceSlender, or even pick up Silent Hill on PSN.

Note: #BoRT stands for Blogs of the Round Table.  The preceding post was an entry to the October 2012 theme: Fear and Loathing in Game Spaces.


Impressions: Silent Hill: Downpour

After 7 previous entries in a series that made its mark by keeping the player completely in the dark, Silent Hill has settled into a comfortable rhythm where Konami banks on the player knowing exactly what to expect.  The current games industry climate isn’t exactly the most conducive to the survival horror genre.  AAA games are expensive to produce, expensive to consume, and publishers are increasingly wary of risk and there’s nothing but risk when the goal of a genre is to upset your audiences.  Resident Evil fans have lamented the transition of their series from a slowly paced zombie survival game to a fast paced, biceps-and-bazookas vs. monster formula that’s more comfortable with Gears of War.  And fans of even more recent series such as Dead Space are now afraid that the series is moving away from its frightening formula in favor of cooperative play and “broad” appeal.  So now Silent Hill finds itself in a position where Downpour is ostensibly the same type of game that it’s always been but Konami wants to make sure you know that out front.

So here you are, playing as Murphy Pendleton, a man with a Dark Secret™ (you start off the game in a flashback where Murphy gruesomely murders someone in a prison shower) that’s going to be drawn into Silent Hill – a town sized bug zapper for bad people of the world.  I might be selling the game short.  I’ve spent a few hours with it but quickly finding myself losing my patience with the puzzles and combat.  There’s not a whole lot to the game’s story so far outside of generic murder-mystery/thriller elements, and the supernatural elements of the game are lackluster.  Playing Downpour is like watching a puppet show where part of the point of the show is to see the strings so that there’s no doubt in your mind that you’re watching a puppet show (because otherwise how would you know you’re getting the real puppet experience?)  I might have been able to put up with nonsensical puzzles in earlier Silent Hill games but that was in anticipation of finding out What’s Going On Here?™ rather than “let’s listen to Korn (see above trailer) and think about how we’re all slowly dying.”  The game can be clunky and uninspired but I don’t really hold the developer Vatra as being responsible for it.  I feel pretty comfortable just blaming Konami at this point.  Who knows, maybe Konami made certain that the Silent Hill HD collection was a broken, incomplete mess so that when you put it side by side with Downpour you might not think it’s so bad.

I’ll keep playing for now, but please tell me something that I can start looking forward to because I’m running out of energy for stuff like this.

If you want to see me go on and on about what I liked about the first and second games in the series, then check out these posts:
destructoid cblog: aaamaazing: the otherworld
happy halloween: silent hill 2′s deception

You can also check out Lone Survivor, my go-to game for a dose of “What’s Going On Here?”

And finally, here are my earlier thoughts about Downpour.


Impressions: Lone Survivor

Purchased for me as a gift by @Raisins, I got started on Lone Survivor last week.  I’ve got to say, I’m really impressed with just how well Jasper Byrne captures the spirit of the survival horror genre using so little.  Right from the beginning I was reminded just how much I missed survival horror as it was presented during the PSOne’s time.  I’m certainly not the first to draw the comparison between Silent Hill and Lone Survivor, and most likely not the first to wonder how an independently developed game can be more like Silent Hill than Silent Hill is anymore.  It’s not a difficult formula, (not to detract from Byrne’s work) just add equal parts creepy sound design and “what’s going on here?” and you’ve got a recipe for soiled pants (or is that just me?)

I’m extremely happy to know that there are people out there like Byrne who have the creative range to take pixel art and avoid the aesthetic cliches of pixel art design.  Fewer pixels doesn’t mean what’s being depicted needs to be cute or simple.  It doesn’t have to be Mario.  Fewer pixels mean fewer opportunities to express an idea, but Lone Survivor nails all of them.  It succeeds in ways that games like Aliens: Infestation failed.  A large part of the reason that Lone Survivor is so creepy is because of how its combat elements are balanced on the edge of a razor.  You have the option to avoid battle, though sometimes it is the better option if for no other reason than because your flashlight will run out of juice before you have the chance to sneak by.  Where as in Infestation, combat is the only option and you are given infinite ammo for that end.  Since you can’t hardly avoid enemy attacks in that game, the only option ever is to unload clips and take blows.  Tension in survival horror comes constantly having to make difficult decisions and balancing options.  This is doubly essential in a 2D pixel art game in order to create an atmosphere where you fear for a sprite’s safety.

If you’ve ever been a fan of the earlier Silent Hill games, then you owe it to yourself to go give Jasper Byrne all your money and play Lone Survivor.

Have you seen a little girl?


Gaming Links Roundup for March 2nd

Grossly Incandescent.

Why I’m Not Okay With Sony Ditching PSP Discs
For a device that’s supposed to do so much, the Vita not being able to play UMD based games seems like a pretty big caveat when you’re marketing it toward core PSP gamers.

Square Enix announces remix album dedicated to beer
Haha.  Wait, what?

XSEED Will Do What Nintenwon’t, Agrees to Localize ‘The Last Story’ for North America
I’m thrilled to hear that we’ll get a chance to play this.

Tim Schafer Says Publishers Aren’t Worried About Kickstarter
It’s not surprising that publishers wouldn’t be impressed by $2 million.  But if they feel an existential threat posed by used games and $0.99 mobile games then I’m sure that the Double Fine Adventure Kickstarter is causing them some degree of distress.  Publishers only survive with developers on their side, and there are more and more ways for developers to escape that relationship every day.

Are 100-Hour Games Just A Waste Of Our Time?
People who spend 100 hours playing games would disagree (as I am one.)  Articulating why it’s worth the time and pointing to it is challenging though I’m sure if we tallied up the amount of time that people spend on other activities then this wouldn’t sound as dramatic as it does.  See also: Hell Yes, 100-Hour Video Games Are Worthwhile and Sunbro.

Jet Grind Radio HD Re-release Confirmed
I used to think HD re-releases were shameless cash-ins, but then I tried playing SD games on an HD TV.

Silent Hell: the rage-fueled tale of Book of Memories
I don’t know what happened with Silent Hill but whatever enthusiasm I had for the series has evaporated.  I’ll still pick up the Silent Hill Collection later this month though (even if it’s not much of a collection.)


Weekly Links for January 15th



What I’ve Been Playing

Bonus Video

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