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

Part Six, or I Hope You All Love Asylums

  Welcome back to Traipsing Through Silent Hill, you nefarious spectacle-clad brigadeers! I remain Jonathan Charles Bruce, your loyal host through this walking tour of the horror capital of the United States of America. It occurred to me that I have been most inconsiderate when dealing with this tale, for I have left out the opening cinematic for all your visual needs. So while I’m also adding it to the first post, enjoy it here as well!

Note the rain just fucking stopping at 2:02. Details!

  When we last left our noble trucker hero, he just stepped into Cedar Grove Sanitarium in his quest to punch a most duplicitous doctor of ill-repute in his MD-possessing penis. Also, I guess we’re also going to be looking for Alessa or something. It’s… not quite clear what the hell is going on as of yet.

  So, the Sanitarium… I remember the Sanitarium as easily the worst cocking bullshit level in the Silent Hill series. Keep in mind that I actually kind of like Origins. But if I had to pick one element with which I would use to actually condemn Climax Studios for the game, this. Is. It. The reasons why it is just so… fucking… bad will become apparent as we progress through this garbage.

  But I still have something to complain about right away (as if you had any doubt): a sanitarium, as a setting, is just plain fucking lazy for your horror game. Sure, it can work, but I’ve only ever really seen it as shorthand for “spookiness” rather than an effective way to build tension. It’s the fucking spiders of level design, and as such, they are inevitably the least interesting architectural parts of the games they’re in.

  Oh, sure, sewers are far more tedious and boring, but no one, in the history of anything, looked at a sewer level and thought that would be a good idea—we should always have known that sewers are the worst. And since no one ever wanted sewers in the first place, we forget them right away. Asylums, on the other hand, are potentially interesting enough to be memorable. When they inevitably fail at everything, well, they’re also an interesting enough concept to remember just how unfulfilling the experience was.

  And, yeah, Mt. Massive Asylum in Outlast needed to be a medical facility in context of the story, but let me ask you something: what do you remember more, the fact that it was an asylum, or the creative batch of maniacs trying to kill you at every turn? Exactly.

  Long story short, developers, I will agree with you that Session 9 was a good, creepy movie. But stop. Just. Fucking. Stop.

  Okay, I think I’m alright now.

  The first thing I discover while poking around in a place I probably shouldn’t be is a note left under the door of the director’s office. An orderly (I’m assuming, anyway) is complaining about how two patients he’s nicknamed the “magpies” have… eaten, I guess… two very important keys. The madam has been taken to the hydrotherapy room and the sir to the TB room. It ends with the person charged with protecting patient well-being promising to get the magpies to spit up the keys.

  This… this does not paint a very good picture of the Cedar Grove team, I’ll tell you that much. I can’t imagine why there would need to be such a hurry to procure these keys, especially considering that they’ll come out naturally (if uncomfortably) in about a day. Is… is there just one set of keys for the entire Sanitarium? Who the hell thought that was a good idea? But more to the point, we have clear patient abuse going on, with a paper trail that implicates who I’m assuming to be the head of the Sanitarium. What is going on with the health professionals in this town!?

  The dipshit ends his note to his supervisor saying that “This job would be great if it weren’t for the patients!” See, no. No. Someone in retail gets to say their job would be great without the customers. You don’t get to whine about the fact that your job involves protecting some of the most vulnerable members of society after you’ve just told your supervisor that you’re going to partially drown one person and… tuberculosis cure?... the other into puking up keys. Fuck you dude.

  Oh, and the orderly’s name is Clem. Because of course it is.

  There is not a whole lot else going on in the waiting area. I can sort of hear muffled voices, but I don’t know where they’re coming from or why I should care. I pop over to the western door to the West Solarium. It is here that I discover, of all things, a pistol on a wheelchair next to a “creepy” doll. I realize this place is probably supposed to be abandoned, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Clem used the pistol to “scare” patients. Or kill them, in all honesty. This city is just the worst.

  I also find a filing cabinet which I liberate in the name of democracy and freedom, but also because I’m totally planning on bonking a monster over the skull with it. There is precisely nothing else of interest in this tiny room, so Travis exits to check out what the East Solarium has to offer his greedy pockets.

  Here’s another strike against the Sanitarium stage. The pistol—our first ranged weapon—is something that we chance upon. The west solarium doesn’t connect to anything else, it doesn’t lead anywhere, there’s no key item which necessitates our visiting it. As such, there is a pretty strong possibility of missing it completely. This is not good design, especially when we have to consider that this is our only reliable means of ranged fighting at this point. Sure, we have our one-shot weapons, but if we miss or are attacked or whatever, we’re out that item for good. It should have been placed directly in our way.

  Like on top of the map that’s in the East Solarium. It’s not a perfect setup, because you could feasibly go through the Solarium without seeing the huge fuckoff document spread on a table, but it’s unlikely. Also, I could not imagine the joy that would await anyone who misses the map to this place. Because it’s huge.

  There’s also a note in the East Solarium, detailing the examination of a particular lady patient who is quite violent, especially toward her husband when he visits. She seems particularly interested in getting her hands on her child, which is probably not in anyone’s best interest considering the quality of health care in this garbage town. I have a feeling we’ll be hearing more about this particular woman as we progress through this endless slog adventure.

  Also, the examining doctor’s name is Dr. Harris, who was mentioned in Clem’s note but I’m just now realizing is probably a direct reference to Thomas Harris, the guy who wrote Silence of the Lambs and related books. So neat, if that’s true.

  The other kind of important thing this note gives us is an approximate timeline for the game. The report is dated March 12, 1960. I’m assuming that this document was written at some point in the past, but I’m sure that we can build up a reasonable Nullrigins date from other story fluff we happen to pick up.

  Exiting the Solarium deposits Travis in the eastern half of the Sanitarium, which is the women’s wing. It also teleports him into a cutscene, where he encounters a woman talking to herself. This is Creepy Woman, all the way back from the first episode, a fact that Travis immediately points out.

  Before we go any further into this conversation, I’d like to point out how much I like the fact that Travis tends to start cutscenes that begin with entering a room by facing the door as though he shut it behind him. It’s a small but neat attention to detail, suggesting that someone on the team actually thought the door-traversing process through.

  It turns out that the burning house was hers, as was the burnt child. I would like to point out that she says this with all the emotionality associated with brushing your teeth. She then asks Travis if he was the one who saved her life. He says that yes, he was the one, and then lays into her for abandoning her child in an inferno. He also claims that no one came to help, which I have to call bullshit on, because I heard police and fire engine sirens when he passed out. Just because they were late doesn’t mean they didn’t show, buddy.

  Anyway, Travis says “You all left that girl to burn,” even pointing an accusing finger at the woman. She responds with a casual “So we did,” pretty much verbally shrugging off Travis’s concern. Then she just says “The world is stranger than you think,” suggesting that there is a missing line of dialogue here.

  Travis accuses her of being crazy, then asks what happened to Alessa, then says Lisa told him that the girl was dead. I particularly like how he just says Lisa’s name like this woman is supposed to just know who that is. “Oh, no shit, Lisa told you that? Well, then it must be true!” Anyway, the woman tells him that the girl is with those who care for her and that he shouldn’t “trust her”, for “she” doesn’t know what she’s doing. She also name drops Travis, letting him know that she clearly knows more than he does.

  (In my initial post, I forget to explain just why I found this “trust her” and “she” stuff so weird. Are we to assume that Alessa, that is to say, the Crispy Girl is not to be trusted? Or is she referring to some other “she”—like Creepy Girl—that is a danger to Travis? Vagueness is not helpful, nor is it anything other than being obtuse for obtuseness’s sake.)

  He asks how she knows his name, then dismisses pretty much everyone in the plot up to this point by announcing “They’re all crazy.”

  So, a couple of things about this exchange. I am serious when I say that I think there had to be some lines of dialogue cut—either before or after they recorded the scene—giving it this very awkward, disjointed nature. It kind of works, but also kind of doesn’t. For every bit of ethereal weirdness it adds, about six layers of “That’s not an appropriate response!” smothers it. Despite this, Travis’s voice actor gives a pretty good performance here, coming across as accusing without being enraged. It’s clear that Travis is a very soft-spoken man who is absolutely disgusted with who he sees before him. It’s very nice.

  The woman does a good job at being cryptic, but I think they’re leaning a bit too much on their Ominous Slider™ in this scene. But overall, this cutscene is really just kind of there, providing very little information that the player doesn’t already know. We know that Alessa is probably alive thanks to that note we found. Even if we hadn’t, the fact that Kaufmann said one thing and Lisa said another is enough to cast doubt on what’s going on. And if we just needed to meet a rambling grey haired weirdo, why didn’t we get her name?

  See, what needed to happen here with the comments about Alessa, but particularly the bid to get Travis to leave, is that they needed to be massively ramped up on both sides. Travis doesn’t press the woman for information as much as he should, and the woman doesn’t seem to really give a shit why Travis is here in the first place. Her whole “she’s with people who care for her” shtick implies that this is part of a bigger thing and…

  Wait, why is she here? Like, in the asylum. I can make an excuse for Dr. Kaufmann and Lisa before I realized this place was an abandoned dump full of tetanus and tuberculosis, but now? No. Just fucking no.

  I’m done with this shit for now. Next time on Traipsing Through Silent Hill: Re-Enacting Workplace Homicides for Fun and Profit.

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