Silent Hill

Ah, the original and truth be told, the only one I’ve played other than Shattered Memories which is a reimagining of the first game. I did try 3 and 4 but lost patience pretty quickly. Scuttlebutt has it that the second game is perhaps the best in the franchise and if I ever make time to play it I may revise my opinion but until then…it’s the original all the way.

Silent Hill is another survival horror game but it’s hard to say whether it lends more to the survival part or to the horror part of that genre. As engrossing as Resident Evil but with perhaps more emphasis on puzzle solving and imagery, Silent Hill tells the story of Harry Mason and his daughter Cheryl who are vacationing in the resort of Silent Hill when their car spins off the road and crashes. Cheryl goes missing and it’s up to Harry to find her whilst slipping in and out of the dark side of Silent Hill.

I think for me what stands out about this game is that it was the first game to ever make me jump whilst playing it; albeit with the lights off and the curtains drawn. It relies on suspense and the warped and twisted minds of its designers to really convey a sense of foreboding and of evil. Whilst there is blood n guts, hack n slash, there is a deep psychological sentiment attached to the game which really confounds the player.

When the game is switched on, the iconic music starts up; its as if an old record has been switched on with the hissing and popping of scratched vinyl and a lone mandolin strums up. The FMV opening sequence shows what’s happening with Harry, Cheryl and the other residents of Silent Hill as the darkness begins to engulf the town and one couldn’t really ask for a better introduction than that.

The other thing about the game is that Harry really is the “everyman”; he has no special powers, he has no significant abilities and cannot pull a miracle out of the air when need be, he’s an every day Joe who is caught up in a nightmare and he acts how any concerned father would – to find his daughter and get the hell out of spooksville. Oddly enough, this is one of the earliest renditions of an everyman character rather than the archtype hero.

Silent Hill is a fairly linear game although five endings are possible depending on what happens within the context at key points which can get you playing time and time again to see each of the endings in turn (nowadays you just turn on YouTube but there we go). However, despite being linear, there’s a fair amount to see and explore. There are also a number of tongue-in-cheek references to other horror references such as all the street names being derived from horror writers.

So why does the game stand out as one of the best 10 ever? It’s just so innovative and is easy to pick up but impossible to put down. The blend of atmospherics and mood together with original thinking and design both highlight this as a premier title which acted as a trend-setter for clones as well as being a very successful title which maintained the continuation of the original Playstation console at a time when it was starved of decent content.