home bio blog armyofdarkness media projects contact

Newest Entries

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

Part Nine, or Analyzing Doll Puzzles

  Welcome back to the world of survival horror! Welcome back to Traipsing Through Silent Hill! I remain your lovable yet surprisingly profane host, Jonathan Charles Bruce. You remain you, my stalwart and strikingly beautiful partners in crime. When last we left our redoubtable everyman companion Travis, he was exploring an asylum of most dubious quality while possibly uncovering elements of his tragic childhood™. Shall he succeed in his quest to end the tomfoolery of the dastardly Dr. Kaufmann and his cronies? Or shall he fall in the mirror world, body and soul lost to the darkness?

  Well, we’ll need to be in the mirror world to directly answer that last part, so I guess it’s time to go and do that. So that means we drag ourselves back to the patient belongings room and do the mirror-touch-tango. Before committing myself to my journey, though, I stumble upon some interesting flavor text. Travis looks at a bunch of stuff on a shelf and says “Nothing for me here.” Travis, you have been stealing random shit since you got to town—literally nothing here is for you, and it hasn’t stopped you yet.

  D’aww, I can’t stay mad at you. Head on through the mirror, you little scamp.

  Number of trips through the mirror: Three.

  Leaving the mirror world’s patient belongings room, Travis runs across a double-barreled shotgun on the door. As in, it’s placed right in my path. Just like the pistol wasn’t. See, this is an example of good design—forcing the player to take a ranged weapon to go through a door may seem inorganic, but it guarantees that after that point, the player will have it. Sure, having it attached to a puzzle for a key item would have probably fit in more with the whole Silent Hill shtick, but whatever. The point is that the Ashley Williams Special is now in our inventory, and will be our desperate go-to weapon for a good while.

  Also, I’m kind of surprised this wasn’t found in the real world asylum, what with the fact that Clem is a horrible monster who probably keeps trophies of his victims.

  Anyway, the mirror world asylum eventually leads me to the first floor laundry room, which was inaccessible in the real world. Here, Travis stumbles on a police report detailing the continuing adventures of Mrs. ____, who attempted to kill herself and her child but failed. I’m assuming that this is what brought the mysterious madam into the asylum, but why the hell would the police report be here of all places? Also, if our general suspicion is correct and the woman in question is Travis’s mother, her demands to see him are definitely on the murder-y side.

  “General suspicion”. Psh. Is there anyone at this point who thinks that the mystery woman in these notes or the Helen we heard earlier isn’t Travis’s mom? This is clearly not referring to the muttering woman we met before, as she has her own charred daughter drama to deal with. So the only two options are that this woman is somehow related to Travis or is just some random person we happen to be Hardy Boy-ing for. This foreshadowing is clumsy to the point of uselessness—because it’s so heavy handed, when we inevitably get to the revelation that this is Travis’s mother (we assume, anyway), there will be no shock, no panicked thinking back to all the clues. Instead we’ll be left with “Oh. Neat, I guess.”

  Anyway, the big point about this entire trip is to finally get access to the key that I found back in episode seven. All of this so I could unlock one door. One door. And which door is it? The archives! So this bullshit that has gone on for what seems like eternity doesn’t even end with the main goal of breaking into Dr. Harris’s office, but rather just getting to the archives, where I will probably then find the key that I need, all to get a big fancy key that I need to get at the boss monster.

  This brings up another kind of major issue: at no point before this are we fed information that the things that exist in the real world have mirror world implications and vice versa. Both reality and nightmare have some commonalities, but they are almost always limited to floor plan. Item placement, monsters, and even notes will exist in one and not the other. This is the first instance where an item that we’ve seen and interacted with in one reality has a direct analog in the mirror world, and that’s bullshit. There needed to be something, somewhere, not key-item related, that showed a more intimate connection between the two worlds.

  This is especially important because at this very moment, which items actually exist in both worlds simultaneously seems arbitrary and stupid. And you don’t want the word “arbitrary” to be associated with anything in your game.

  But key! To the archives! This means a quick jaunt down the basement tunnels to get into a storeroom with a mirror in it. In a moment, I’m back in the “proper” asylum’s basement store room, which appears to only have two purposes: holding files and a mirror. So hurray for maximizing your workspace, people. Well done. Number of trips through the mirror: Four.

  On my way to the archives, I realize what the taffymen are supposed to be—people in straitjackets. I can see how they would fit in with the Sanitarium level, but why the hell was one the boss in Alchemilla? And why were they running around the streets of Silent Hill? That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. And the girdle ghosts are much more effective monsters, overall—they’re hard to see, take a metric fuckton of abuse before dying, and hit like a truck. Even the roadkills are hardy jerks, wrecking your day with body slams that do ridiculous amounts of damage.

  I guess, in short, fuck you, taffymen.

  Once in the archives, I’m given another not-quite-a-cutscene in amazing blue-filter, wherein I hear Dr. Harris talking to Helen. It turns out the mirror people told her to kill her son and—being that the order came from mirror people—she felt she should do so. She also says she can walk through the mirror at any time to escape this “day dream world”. I guess implication of this scene and one of the previous notes is that the ability to slip between dimensions is genetic. Either that, or maybe that joke about Travis having syphilis I made a while ago has stronger basis than I thought.

  There’s also shotgun ammo in here and a free television that apparently no one is going to be coming back for, unlike that super precious moldy doll Travis found earlier. Travis, you could have just said you didn’t want to touch it because it was gross or creepy. I would have been okay with that. You can be honest with me, buddy. I’m here for you.

  And guess what else is in this locked room? If you guessed “another cocking mirror”, you have figured out the developer’s entire design document when it came to the Sanitarium level! So we step through the mirror for fun and profit. Number of trips through the mirror: Five.

  Once we’re in the dark asylum, the very first thing I stumble on is a new weapon—a katana. lol whut? There’s also a toolbox, which is yet another throwable weapon. Newly procured armaments in hand, we’re free to actually push toward the male wing of the level that never ends. Unlike the female seclusion wing, the male version of the area is open without any kind of gender-symbol-key related whatsit.

  There are five isolation chambers that I can examine. The first leads to a tiny chamber with a bloody… um… bed… counter… place, with a razor on it. Travis comments that it looks like “someone had an accident here,” as apparently he has never heard of the concept of suicide. The second door is completely warped by heat. Door three has a dress maker’s mannequin with a poker I can steal for self-defense (I was going to make fun of the idea of a fireplace poker being in the asylum, but katana). Door four is heavily barred and inaccessible. Door five has piles of rotting food.

  I SMELL A PUZZLE. And decay. But the whiff of something to solve remains ever-present.

  Sure enough, there is a chair in the room with a note talking about which patient needs which conveniently colored-coded medication. Oddly enough, the pyromaniac needs the same medication as the anorexic. Hey, let me actually check something here…

  (checks the Google)

  No, none of the medications are real things. I was hoping that Climax Studios were going to rock my world with some reality-shattering revelation regarding patient care in whatever era this is supposed to be. Sadly, looks like the only learnin’ I’m getting from this experience is the iron lung. Oh, but to dream…

  What? Sorry. It’s still fucking weird that the same thing used to treat someone not eating is the same thing treating the guy who wants to set shit on fire.

  Down the hall from this room is the infirmary, where someone has… helpfully?... set up creepy dolls representing the patients in the seclusion wing. There’s a burned doll, a doll holding a razor, an emaciated doll, a doll wielding knives and… a doll in a yellow dress with a mustache.

  (exasperated sigh)

  Okay. I get it. The 1960’s/70’s were a different time, and cross-dressing was probably considered a mental disorder. My problem isn’t that it’s there (because ignoring/whitewashing the past is patently wrong), but how it’s presented: there’s just something really fucking upsetting about the doll in the dress. It’s probably the mustache, like the developers just thought that players wouldn’t get that dressmaker’s doll wouldn’t be enough to associate it with a doll in a dress. No, they needed to add the Snidely Whiplash mustache to really drive the point home as to why this guy was in the asylum.

  I can’t be the only one who thinks that this is just woefully out of place in this puzzle. I mean look at the fucking puzzle itself. The others are all unsettling or sympathetic—the cross-dressing doll is the only one that seems to try to provoke a laugh. And that’s more than a little disgusting, considering that the other patients are given respect while the one that transgresses against heteronormativity is the one called out for mockery. It’s either that, or they thought the players were stupid and couldn’t grasp that the doll in the dress representing a person from the male seclusion wing may possibly be a cross-dresser.

  I’m open to other rationales, but I don’t think they’ll work.

  As for the rest of the puzzle—Is it just me, or is the fact that there are two clearly non-violent patients being jammed into isolation along with three extremely dangerous patients also kind of suspect? I realize we don’t have all the information available to the horrible staff of this shithole, but when looking at general population here, the anorexic and cross-dresser are the ones elected to fill cells next to the serial killer, the arsonist, and the extreme suicide risk?

  Sorry. For real now. To complete the puzzle, we have to match up the doll to the colored pill that their real life counterpart took. Said pills are located conveniently underneath the dolls. Now, if you’re like me and you’ve been taking notes regarding your grand day through this vacation paradise, the answer is obvious. If you haven’t, though, the doors and the dolls are not put into the same order, requiring you to march your ass back to the isolation ward to figure out what’s what.

  All in all, it’s a better puzzle than everything else we’ve encountered thus far, actually requiring some reasoning to figure it out rather than blunt force. And no, I’m not counting that stupid “age before beauty” puzzle.

  Successfully appeasing the gods of inanity, I get a key to Dr. Harris’s office. Which means I’m going to have to get back there. While one may think that Climax would just tell you to kindly go fuck yourself back to the start, they give us a break and allow us to get to the basement, find a store room with a mirror in it, and emerge in the otherwise inaccessible West Wing of the regular Sanitarium.

  Number of trips through the mirror: Six.

  On the normal side, there is a fancy new note telling us that there was an “Amber Incident” in the Sanitarium. Somehow, a little boy got past everyone, including the crack commando unit of Clem and Gary, to see his mother in the isolation wing. This boy is probably Travis, so I’m not quite sure why the game is continuing to be coy. Unless… oh, god, was I the little boy’s mother the entire time!?

  In all seriousness, though, the report reveals that the boy got in because the staff wasn’t paying attention and the orderly left all the doors unlocked. The recommended action is going to be to remind the staff how important it is to lock doors, followed by employee reviews. That’s… that’s so fucking tame that I’m starting to wonder if this place was abandoned or subject to a police raid. For fuck’s sake, I doubt I’m the only one to question what good will actually come of such a review.

Seems legit. - Dr. Harris
"PS - Remind Clem to clean out his locker. The body parts he stashed there are beginning to smell."

  Also, on an actual serious note (I know, right?), the fact that the Sanitarium refers to unescorted children as an “Amber Incident” is either a total anachronism or magical coincidence. Why do I say that? Well, the Amber Alert system, from which I imagine Climax Studios garnered the name, was put into effect in the nineties after a young girl with the first name of Amber was kidnapped. You can read about it here.

  It’s a common misconception to think that the phrase is actually referring to the color amber, namely because we absolutely love to color code our lives for reasons. But the fact is that the Amber referred to by an Amber Alert is not a color, but a name, and if you’re going to insist on putting an arbitrary date in your game (Helen tried to kill herself and her son in 1959, was brought in to the asylum in 1960, and admits to the mirror people telling her what to do in 1961), I’m going to call out your wildly out of place references.

  How old is Travis, anyway?

  We’re going to end on that note (ha!) today. Join me for our next installment, Jocasta is a Stupid Name.

Purchase Project Northwoods at Amazon.com.   Purchase Washed Hands at Amazon.com   Purchase Improbables at Amazon.com.


AdviceFictionGamingGeneral MusingsReviews