Down the Rabbit Hole
For me, October means a number of things; parties, Resident Evil, dressing up, events
, and Silent Hill. One of my favorite traditions for the past 4 years, is my annual revival of Silent Hill 4: The Room. Unfortunately for some, Silent Hill 4 has yet to be experienced â€“ I'm hoping this year is different. At a measly (approximate) $12, why not give it a chance this year? Especially useful for those of us unable to drop a full $60 on the newest release of the Silent Hill franchise...
I personally found The Room to be the scariest visit to Silent Hill to date â€“ not including Silent Hill 5, which I haven't played much of yet. The potential that the haunts and monsters of Silent Hill might follow me home, specifically appearing in my bathroom, still gives me the chills.
You may say; "It doesn't even take place in
Silent Hill!" which is the most common complaint I've heard opposing this game...though, I promise, as soon as immersion sets in - the dark, eerie, monster-filled atmosphere is fully intact, minus the ashy visibility issues. Plus, many of the locations are adjacent to the cozy, haunted, resort town of Silent Hill anyway, so you'll hear the name often.
Why this couldn't be anything but Silent Hill
Someone recently said to me â€śa lot of people seem to think it would have stood on its own if they hadn't added 'Silent Hill' to the title.â€ť Which, alright â€“ in all fairness, this one strayed just to the left of Silent Hill. But, there are a few reasons â€śSilent Hillâ€ť was attached to the title â€śThe Roomâ€ť, they are as follows.
First and foremost, the Melee combat system that Silent Hill is notorious for, is still intact up to the finishing stomp required to fully silence any baddies. Being up-close-and-personal with a fiend that may very well eat your face, adds a bit of nail biting to all situations. Though minor changes were made to the combat, I only noticed the controls being slightly more fluid.
There are a few links between The Room, and Silent Hill 2: Restless Dreams - which seems to be the collective favorite of the series. In Silent Hill 2, while looking for clues to one of the many puzzles, you'll read the name â€śWalter Sullivanâ€ť in a newspaper article, reporting an inmate accused of murder has committed suicide with a spoon. In The Room, Walter Sullivan is the one-and-only antagonist, tormenting all of the stories characters, and the hero; Henry Townshend.
If I say Sunderland, you say (James)? The hero â€“ or anti-hero if you've played the entire game - in Silent Hill 2 is James Sunderland. The surname Sunderland is also present in this installment, as your superintendent who is suspicious of that strange odor â€“ or was it the fact that you've disappeared in your apartment for an extended period of time?
Silent Hill 3 had the creepy bunny, affectionately named Robbie;
Who has also returned for a few random appearances in The Room;
At some point, you'll visit an Orphanage in Silent Hill 4, called Wish House â€“ where Walter Sullivan learned everything he knows. Wish House Orphanage, and the cult associated with it, are a primary focus of Silent Hill 3 â€“ I don't think I can make that connection any clearer.
Of course, as with all Silent Hill titles, these games work well independently, making it simple to jump in and enjoy any number of them, in any order. In my opinion, exploring these out of numerical order makes them more interesting, since you're more likely to catch the small connections, like the ones mentioned.
In each consecutive visit, the storyline that brings you to Silent Hill or some semblance thereof, has deviated more as time goes on;
1. â€śAhh shit, my creepy child has run off to play with monsters again...â€ť
2. â€śSo, my wife died, then wrote me this letter...â€ť
3. â€śLike, one time, there was this cult in the mall...â€ť
4. â€śSome asshole locked me in my apartment, and tunneled in my bathroom...â€ť
In the fourth installment of the Silent Hill series, you are Henry Townshend of apartment 302, in the faux-urban town of South Ashfield. Everything in your life was fine and dandy, until one day some strange nightmare creeps into your head and locks all your doors and windows, leaving you trapped in your apartment for 5 days before a video game is born.
The game will begin with Henrys nightmare; walking around your apartment, in first-person view, you'll admire the decor in the infamous Silent Hill rusted walls, and broken electronic devices, with very few clues as to what is going on.
After the nightmare ends with the games opening creidts, you wake up in the same way your nightmare began â€“ only the apartment is a bit less rusted. Now, you'll pick up bits of information about the last five days. You can see the outside, but seem to have lost the ability to communicate with it â€“ shouting and hammering on doors and walls do no good...you're cut off.
Your first adventure into the Silent Hill realm happens when you hear noises in your bathroom, and notice a rather large hole in the wall. Crawl down the creepy hole? I'm so glad you asked, I'd love
to! Tap into your gaming claustrophobia for a moment, then emerge in an alternate world full of the strange and unusual.
Here, Henry meets the dazed and confused Cynthia, wandering around on her own. She's convinced this reality is her dream, and behaves as though her dreams are regularly dirty. She'll lead you around briefly, before getting violently ill, and disappearing into a bathroom.
You really don't see much of Cynthia after that â€“ but you follow her voice and helpful hints, to attempt to rescue her from whatever is stalking her beneath the streets. Solving puzzles, hitting baddies, opening creaky doors, and uncovering a murderous plot along the way...Some of my favorite things, in one beautiful package.
Cynthia's eventual demise is broadcast on the radio in Henry's apartment, confirming a parallel from the supernatural subway, to the real world. Down the rabbit hole indeed, as every incident in the world through the portals is reported in the real world under â€śsuspicious circumstancesâ€ť related to the late murderer, Walter Sullivan, from several years ago.
Each area you visit will have a few things in common; Walter Sullivan, a single victim, cult references, monsters, and riddles. Work your way through each area, attempting to rescue the victims, and stop the immortal Walter Sullivan from completing his cultish task...
A small chunk of time will be spent in your apartment, on the â€śrealityâ€ť side of the game, where you uncover clues to various puzzles, unfold the story as it's told through an ominous â€śred diaryâ€ť and watch as Silent Hill begins to follow you home like a sad, undead puppy.
Different enemies make this game look unlike any previous Silent Hill title, but not in a bad way if you think about it. Having a single, primary antagonist is a new approach, so why not give the goons a Walter Sullivan makeover?
According to the all-knowing Wikipedia
, most of the enemies in the game represent a piece of Walter. In Silent Hill 2, the newspaper article that you find on Walter Sullivan tells the brief story of his final murder(s) before being incarcerated; twins. Thus the two-headed monstrosity that chases you down in the Water Prison.
Ghosts; Well, I actually use the word â€śghostsâ€ť lightly â€“ I believe that's what they are, since they float, slip through walls, and make a moaning noise when they're around. Otherwise, this breed is not quite Casper-esque. They ooze through walls leaving an inky trail, and take minor physical damage when you swing a pipe at them. It is possible to knock them on the ground, but they'll be up quickly unless specific precautions are taken â€“ with a magical cult-sword.
Proximity is as much an issue for with these guys as being swiped at by one of the other enemies â€“ Ghosts will drain your health and slow you down drastically if you stay too close for too long. To me, this added something to the game to creep me out more than cannibal-hyena-dogs, who eventually stop coming for you if you hit them hard enough.
In every installment of the Silent Hill series, the Dark Nurses have changed ever-so-slightly. This time around, we get a full overhaul, where the enemies in the hospital are actually Patients. Creepy, oversize, patients with fluid-blob movements and armed with a sharp knife.
By having two completely separate worlds to visit, solving puzzles requires you to go back and forth to get all the pieces to fit. Revisiting your apartment, you'll be looking for clues, they may lie in the hallway, or out a window. I wasn't nearly as annoyed by this tactic of gameplay-extension as getting lost in the elementary school exactly forty-three times in the first game.
Color-changing blood; because red is just so
1990. My first play-through, my enemies bled green, which is oddly satisfying when you're supposed to be in an alternate reality. Every time I play through, I mix it up a bit by simply changing the color of enemy blood â€“ it's a hobby, shush you.
There is a tag-along you pick up from the Hospital - sufficiently injured and confused, you have the task of escorting her safely back home...somehow. Escort missions tend to be frustrating in any video game, and this goes double for injured escorts. It is possible to give mystery-escort a weapon, but with her slow movement, I laughed at that option.
Similar to Ashley in the fourth Resident Evil game, only you can't suggest to this escort that it might be a good idea to hide in a dumpster when things get dicey, or hungry. Though, as much as I may or may not have tried â€“ it seems impossible to actually let her die...which is nice, I suppose. Also, I realize I left a name omitted, as I'm a big fan of limiting spoilers.
One of the creepiest things from the original Playstation game was the radio static every time an enemy approached. Now, every time white noise interrupts my television, or cell phone, I'm on my feet and ready to bust some Silent Heads. This is lost in The Room, replaced by ghost moans, or a strange throbbing feedback noise â€“ which I can only imagine is something in Henry's head.
Degrading weapons are a growing epidemic in video games. While not all weapons in this game are effected â€“ good old pipe, nothing beats pipe â€“ having a powerful weapon break in the middle of a major scuffle was an issue that left me pretty dead on a few occasions.
Backward compatibility is excellent, in theory. In practice, I haven't seen anything but the Gameboy show anything decent in the world of backward compatibility. In other words, this game played on an Xbox360, is ugly.
Be prepared to take a nice brisk run down uncanny valley as you're interacting with characters, when their face cracks in three-to-five-pieces when they move their head, talk, or look around.
Load times seemed to increase, but that may be my memory serving me poorly â€“ I don't specifically remember if that was just Xbox load times, and I'm currently used to Xbox live Arcade load times, or if it really is slower on the 360.
Don't worry, though, the gameplay is still good! I didn't have any problem with things lining up properly, or loading accurately, outside of a few cutscenes. The face-splitting was actually mildly humorous, or creepy â€“ depending on your point of view.
(For the record, I haven't played or seen the PS2 version of this game...there may be changes, and the price may be different. As I understand, there is a PC version as well, so the possibilities are pseudo-endless!)
Is it okay to deviate from the city limits of Silent Hill?
In the past, Silent Hill has taken place in
the ash-covered Silent Hill. The city limits, marked by sheer cliffs where roads should be, aren't terribly extensive. In the past, we've visited most major buildings, a theme park, and even a few residential areas while completing our tasks.
Because of this, I personally didn't see a problem with extending Silent Hill into Ashfield. (See what they did there?) This also gives Silent Hill the ability to cross its own boarders, potentially into my apartment â€“ adding a new level of fear to the game. I still check to be sure there aren't any new holes in any of my rooms before getting on with my day...
Now, imagine me, only swinging a crowbar into unsuspecting lawn gnomes that may, or may not be dangerous.