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Traipsing Through Silent Hill
Artwork Graciously Provided by the Incredibe Steven Luna

Part One, or Zerorigins

  Welcome to the first installment of Traipsing Through Silent Hill! We begin with Silent Hill: Origins, although technically speaking, the box art says that it’s Silent Hill: Ørigins. So I guess it’s supposed to be Silent Hill: Zerorigins or Nullrigins. In any case, the game was released in 2007 for the Playstation Portable, or the PSP for those who wish to be “hip” and “with it” when referring to an obsolete gaming platform. At least I think it’s obsolete. Unlike the other games in the series up to that point, Nullrigins was developed by a Western company, specifically Climax Studios. I’m sure that such a revelation led to much consternation among the fan base for reasons I’m just not even going to bother getting into.

  Since there’s no attract trailer for the game, we’re just going to hop right into the action! And by that I mean we’re hopping right into an opening cutscene.

The rain effects budget ran out at about 2:02.

  We are privy to a radio call betwixt two truckers, and the only important one is Travis. The other is someone I’m going to call Budget Pat Buttram, because he sounds like he’s trying (and failing) to imitate the beloved character actor. Anyway, Travis reveals that he’s going to cut through Silent Hill to save some time, apparently unaware that this is a Silent Hill game and such actions are most likely a bad idea. It’s like when a Resident Evil character says “This evil looks almost… resident!” before the camera dramatically zooms in with a spooky sound effect. Pfft. Horror tropes, amiright?

  Budget Buttram tells him he needs to hook up with a hooker to help him sleep through his ominous nightmares, and then clumsily lets slip that Travis usually ends up crying about his tragic childhood™—specifically the loss of his parents. Sadly he does not go into further detail, as some plot-convenient radio static prevents the audience from knowing what the fuck. To be fair, the radio static also tried to muffle that his parents died, but it doesn’t do a very good job.

  Already we know two major things about Travis—first, he is a bit of an over-sharer; second, whatever happened in his past is something he appears to be at least marginally aware of. Sure, he may have some unresolved emotional issues, but he actually seems a bit on the okay side to me.

  Budget Buttram tragically disappears from plot from this point, but we actually get to see Travis, who is a generic, brunet white guy in a trucker hat and brown vest. He also has facial scruff, because the developers were going for the “white male protagonist” hat trick. He is driving through the rain and is getting flashes of his tragic childhood™ (in a graveyard, no less, for extra trageliciousness) and almost ends up slamming into an adult person in what appears to be a rain coat running across the road. Luckily, he has cat-like reflexes and brings his most definitely not cat-like rig to a stop several seconds after hitting the brake. He gets out to investigate, only to discover that the person has vanished.

  What goes unnoticed/unaddressed is the fact that the downpour just moments ago stopped. Mysterious happenings, or development oversight? Who knows!

  Travis is about to leave when he sees a creepy girl approaching him from behind thanks to his handy side mirror. When he looks for real, there is nothing there except a wall of fog closing in on him. There’s still a creepy floating girl in the mirror, though, so he rightly freaks the fuck out about it. Once the fog overtakes him, I am pushed out of the cinematic and into gameplay.

  Ha! Just kidding. Now it’s just an in-game cutscene. Travis looks around all confused for a moment and then sees a the same Creepy Girl in the fog. She’s not floating now, though. And she’s also totally not the same figure that Travis nearly plowed into earlier, as she’s not wearing a cloak/rain slicker. She’s wearing a blue sweater and a skirt. She’s also like, three feet tall compared to the six foot shadow-from-the-side-of-the-road. Totally not who just darted into the road, Travis me old boy. Regardless, she darts off up the road and Travis decides to give chase.

  Now that I actually have control of Travis, I decided that leaving a semi parked across two lanes of traffic at night on a wet country road was a bad idea and I should move it off to the side. Only if I try to do anything other than walk or run forward, my hero whines about how he wants to make sure he didn’t hit the Creepy Girl. Travis, I understand that. But you also left your lights on and that’s… you know what? Fuck it. I pilot our intrepid trucker down the foggy road.

  Travis wanders through some credits while a song plays. It’s actually kind of a neat, moody jog. Although it also appears like I transition from pine forest to mountain at one point. But, hey, what do I know about Silent Hill’s geography?

  There are also a couple of signs on the road, including a “Welcome to Silent Hill” sign. As Travis runs past, we get a quick glimpse at the back of the sign. Where it should say is “Now Leaving Silent Hill”, it only says “Silent Hill”. How ominous.

  Okay, I’m being unnecessarily dry there. I actually think that’s a cool touch. If it had lingered on the sign’s missing phrase, it would have ruined it. But the way the entire thing is set up is really smart. Your eyes are going to probably be drawn to the welcome sign on the right side of the screen. The transition to the new camera angle positions the sign on the left side of the screen super-fast, and you hit a loading screen not two seconds later. You’ll probably see the words “Silent Hill” and immediately associate it with a welcome sign, even if you didn’t see it in game. It’s only subconsciously (or if you are in no hurry to chase after Creepy Girl) that you realize the sign is missing its “now leaving”.

  Shut up, I think it’s neat.

  Anyway, there’s a transition to a cinematic where Travis stumbles upon a fucking house on fire. He also realizes that he hasn’t been walking through fog, but smoke. So, here’s a spiffy new tally about what we know about our hero:

  1) Over-sharer.
  2) His tragic childhood™ is something he knows about.
  3) His sense of smell is fucked.

  I need you to realize that a burning building is going to smell like a goddamn burning building. This house is made of wood and looks like it has been deliberately torched. You are going to fucking smell that. You know how in bad horror movies when a heroine is approaching the camera and is suddenly taken by surprise by the serial killer than comes from the direction she’s looking in? That’s the mistake of off-camera invisibility, or the idea that the camera is the only thing “seeing” in the shot.

  Why do I bring that up? Well, to put it another way: I know I can’t fucking smell the smoke in the game world, Climax Studios, but I refuse to believe that at any point he couldn’t have said “What’s that smell? Burning wood?” instead of making him see the fire and be all “Ohhhh, fire. Fire make smoke. Smoke like… THIS NOT FOG AT ALL!” Jesus.

  And you know what?

  4) His nerve endings are shot.

  I don’t care who you are, it is weird to not know that difference between smoke and fog. One is cold and wet, the other burns your eyes.

  Anyway, Travis sees a Creepy Woman (possibly of relation to the Creepy Girl) dart into the night, but before he can chase after her (Travis’s first impulse when he sees people is to chase them down), there’s a scream from inside the house. Travis does what any of us would do: he returns to his rig and calls the fire department while hoping that everyone made it out alright.

  Ha ha, no, he runs into that shit.

  5) Travis is an alright guy.
  6) Travis is kind of dumb.

  So, now that Travis had gotten into life-threatening trouble, it’s up to me to steer him. On reflection, this is actually a pretty accurate metaphor for my friendships, so Climax Studios get a point. But burning building! Figuring that if heat rises, it must push fire downward, I run upstairs to a shockingly equally burning part of the house. But it’s also the only part that has a door I can enter, so I go there. After maneuvering around the fires, I find the screamer: a very Crispy Girl who tells me to let her burn. But, because Travis is an alright guy, he picks up her charred body (and probably gives her multiple infections from his trucker arms) and trudges to safety!

  What’s this? The fire has caused the structure integrity of this house to falter, sending our dude right through the burning floor. Luckily, Travis has shins of steel and gets right back up without dropping Crispy Girl. He makes his way through the fires, with the help of a magical seal that pops into existence to put out some of the flames in his path. No, he doesn’t comment on it. Another weird thing: as far as I can tell, he doesn’t cough once during this whole flaming nightmare. Hold on, I have to make an adjustment…

  3) His sense of smell is fucked.
  4) His nerve endings are shot.
  3) Travis smokes like a champ.

  There we go.

  Travis, with Crispy Girl in tow, escapes the house and sets her in the dirt outside, probably giving her diphtheria in addition to whatever horrible other diseases she has from contacting Travis’s sweat-covered and tremendously meaty arms. He tells her she’s safe (the fact that she looks like overdone beef jerky is something he believes she will shrug off) and starts yelling for help. There are some police/fire engine sirens off in the distance which are swallowed up by what sounds like air raid sirens. Then he promptly dies.

  Or passes out. One of the two.

  And part one is done. Join me next time for our next episode: Travis Asks the Wrong Questions.

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