While it is technically true that you could offer me a roll of toilet paper printed with James Sunderland's face and I would probably pee down my leg and then buy it, when I heard there was actually a Silent Hill game on the iPhone, I did attempt to preserve some sort of objectivity about it. What was I gonna do to attack nurses, tilt ferociously?
Dale North was equally interested in how this might work, so we both set out to give Silent Hill: The Escape a whirl and see how one of our favorite universes would hold up as a cell phone game. Hit the jump for more.
Silent Hill The Escape (iPhone)
So when you get ready to play Silent Hill on the iPhone, obviously you should come into it with lowered expectations in comparison to what you get out of the full games. After all, all you can do is tilt and tap, right? I was certainly interested to see if the game could still read as scary with such limited options, but I had a Pavlovian reaction upon seeing the nurse on the opening screen: I started to drool helplessly. I love me some Silent Hill.
You'll have the option to hit up a tutorial before you try out the levels, which you'll soon see is quite simple. Robbie the Rabbit will show up to explain the basic gameplay, which consists of a first person perspective experience that reminds me of old dungeon crawlers. You will explore a maze, using the mini-map on the top right hand part of the screen to guide you.
Movement is simple -- you slide your finger forward on the screen and hold it down to progress and slide it right or left to make turns. Soon enough you'll hear the familiar sound of the radio (by the way, play this game with headphones -- it'll definitely make a difference in the experience) and you may encounter an enemy.
At all times, you will see a crosshair in the middle of the screen as you move. By tilting the iPhone, you can line the crosshair up to where you want to hit an enemy. Firing is as simple as tapping once, and most things go down in a single shot if you know where to fire. (Hint -- headshots are gold every time.)
Your gun barrel will be visible in the lower right hand corner of the screen, and once you have used five bullets you will need to reload. This is accomplished by lining up the barrel with a new clip by tilting the iPhone until the two line up and tapping the screen once. Beware: if you do this and you have not lined the two up well, only half of the bullets will make it into the gun, giving you less ammo to deal with. Don't screw this up!
Now, you are ready to play. By keeping an eye on the danger icon at the top of the screen and listening to the radio, you should be able to tell when an enemy is nearby. Your goal is to search the map until you find a key, which you can use to open the door at the end of the level and proceed to the next. Along the way, you can find battery packs for your flashlight, which should come in handy if you don't want to wander around in total darkness.
I enjoyed the music and the general idea of a pared-down, playable-at-anytime version of the Silent Hill universe, but I had a few complaints. For one, there are only a few different enemies you run into (although that's forgivable, considering this is a cell phone game). The other bitch I have is that the game is never really challenging once you get he hang of it and does not offer difficulty settings, which could have made for far better replay value.
Like myself, I think that other fans of the Silent Hill series won't be able to resist -- just seeing Robbie's face as an icon on your iPhone is kind of exciting all in itself -- but the game is a very simple experience, and I'd say some people will feel it is not worth the $7.99 you pay for it. I personally am still enjoying it despite some limitations, but I hope that the feedback from this game will push Konami to make more Silent Hill titles for the iPhone in the future. I think with a little work, this could go from not bad to great.
If you boil Silent Hill: The Escape down, you'd have a first-person maze shooter with item collection. If you gave Pac-Man a gun and a flashlight and threw him into a 3D maze, it would be just like this game. This isn't a terrible thing, though. There's plenty of fun to be had in Silent Hill: The Escape -- we'd just ask you not to expect too much.
The first half of the game presents little to no difficulty. You blast monsters that come across your way while looking for the key to unlock the door to the next dungeon. A careful headshot, done by tilting the iPhone to align the crosshairs over the enemy and then tapping, will take most out. Later, there are flying, jumping, and roof-crawling enemies... oh, and a wannabe Pyramid Head-type guy. The latter has a lame floating shield. I still don't get what that was. These baddies will give you a little challenge, but nothing serious.
The only other challenge lies finding the exit before your flashlight battery runs out. These must not be Energizer, because they run out quick. There are batteries strewn about the levels, but they become a bit harder to find as the game goes on. The rest of the time, you'll find yourself trying to remember where you were in mazes of increasing complexity. That's it -- that's all there is here.
If anything, Silent Hill: The Escape is an outstanding tech showcase for this mobile platform. The sound, visuals, and overall presentation are top-notch. The music and sound effects are as good as they would be on a console title. The control is also fantastic, and serves as proof that iPhones can easily do first person shooters. In fact, I'd rate the control to be damned near perfect. Flicking your fingers to turn, and tapping the screen to shoot feels great. It's too bad that there isn't more game here to put the control and this game's great presentation to better use.
The appeal of a Silent Hill portable game to series fans is undeniable. Too bad it's a shooter and not something a bit deeper and scarier. Regardless, they'll see this and want it, and then make an impulse buy, as Apple makes that so easy to do. That's exactly what I did, and I'm glad to have it on my iPhone as a game to run around in during layovers or long line waits.
Silent Hill: The Escape isn't going to blow you away -- it's a maze game. If you're a Silent Hill fan, you may find that this is worth the $7.99 asking price. Others may enjoy quick bouts of nurse blasting, but I think they'll be left with the feeling that something is missing here. We'd say borrow someone else's copy and try it out. In the end, Silent Hill: The Escape is something you have to see, but not necessarily own.
Overall Score: 6 -- Alright (6s may be slightly above average or simply inoffensive. Fans of the genre should enjoy them a bit, but a fair few will be left unfulfilled.)