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

Part Ten, or Unsettling Implications of Item Naming

  When we last left Travis, he was still in Cedar Grove Sanitarium for reasons best understood as “bafflingly and surprisingly personal despite all appearances”. He also happens to be in possession of the key to Dr. Harris’s office, which took a very stupid amount of time. But we know that there’s yet another key in that office that we need to confront our inevitable boss monster. So, let’s do that, shall we?

  As I said, Climax Studios decided to be relatively merciful when it came to this leg of the journey, actually depositing us in the west wing of the Sanitarium’s normal side. This allows us to go through the previously locked door in the lobby, putting us right next to the doctor’s office.

  Inside, there’s the Jocasta Artifact, which looks exactly like the symbol on the door to the female seclusion wing in the mirror world. So our needlessly complex quest takes us to a needlessly complex key. Which, of all the crap that has been slung our way up until now, is hardly the stupidest thing Travis has encountered thus far.

  Under the Jocasta Artifact is a note that finally just flat out admits the woman that starred in the other notes is none other than Helen Grady. Oh, what’s that? That last name doesn’t ring a bell? Well, the star of our game is Travis Grady, meaning that, yes, Helen is his mother. The problem with the effectiveness of this revelation is:

  1) It’s been foreshadowed to the point of meaninglessness, just like I predicted earlier.
  2) Travis’s last name is never once mentioned in game, but only in the instruction manual and back of the box; if we don’t even trust players to read the manual to figure out how controls work so that we have to have unskippable tutorials in everything, why would we expect them to read it for plot information? Not saying that Nullrigins is guilty of tutorializing shit, but I still think it’s a fair point.
  3) We didn’t even know that Travis had a connection with this place because he didn’t act like it.

  The better way to handle the foreshadowing from a narrative standpoint would be to hint that Travis actually remembers this place. Slip it into dialogue or his flavor text. Have him talk to himself, asking how he would know where to go to find a key or something. Instead, you’re focusing on the absolute wrong part of the mystery. You could even have set up a fake out, where Travis begins thinking that he was a ward of the state in this institution until bam, it’s suddenly revealed that he was taken to see his mother.

  But that’s only if you absolutely demanded that the same narrative backbone remain in place. I’ll rant about that another time, though.

  Also, the Jocasta Artifact? Really? As in Jocasta, the mother-wife of Oedipus? What the hell is this supposed to mean, Climax? That Travis wants to bang his mom? That he murdered his dad because of a right-of-way dispute on a highway? Further, how does Travis even know that’s a symbol of Jocasta? Sure, Travis throws around the word “tetrahedron” like a pro, but there is no way in hell I would ever, ever associate the symbol ♀ with anything but either femininity or the planet Venus.

  It turns out that the word “Jocasta” is etched on the base of the object, but that’s stupid because you wouldn’t know that unless you examine the object and Travis tells you. Since we pick it up and it already has that name, we just assume that our trucker just knows what the hell it is. One of the few things that the original Resident Evil did right was examining an object would change how your character referred to it if it was something important like a key. Sure, it was an extra step, but A) it didn’t impede you using the item when appropriate anyway and B) it made it look like the characters didn’t have magical knowledge of what they were grabbing.

  Whatever.

  For all the wankery regarding Travis and the Oedipal Complex Medallion, I do really love what Climax did with this next part. After the “revelation” of Travis’s mom trying to get her murder on, the music becomes mournful and all the monsters have cleared out of the asylum. Seriously, listen to the track that plays!

That’s “Embalmed in Memory” by Akira Yamaoka. This plays as you make your way back through the now-empty Cedar Grove Sanitarium to get to the mirror world female seclusion wing. It’s a simple loop, to be sure, but it’s just so perfectly suited to Travis being forced to confront a reality that he had suppressed up to now.

  On our way back, there’s a child’s drawing of containing three figures labeled mom, dad, and Travis. You know how I said that the developers may have thought players were idiots when it came to that pill puzzle with the dolls? Yeah—the presence of this confirms it.

  “What if they don’t realize Travis and Helen are related?”

  “You mean after heavy-handed foreshadowing that implies that this is literally the only reason why this stage exists in the first place?”

  “Yeah.”

  “Fuck it. I’ll draw some stick figures, label them, and call it a day.”

  Joke’s on you, Climax Studios: if I was truly the colossal moron that you think I am, Travis’s name never appears next to Helen’s in context. I win again!

  After stumbling upon that last vaguely plot-critical note, we are left to build up the tension all by our lonesome by trekking through the asylum toward the women’s room mirror. Once we get there, all that effective tension is lost when the loud, and quite frankly obnoxious, mirror world Sanitarium music starts blaring. But whatevs, right? Number of trips through the mirror: Seven.

  That’ll also be our last transdimensioning for this level. I decided to keep track because it the Sanitarium just feels so much longer than it probably is. It’s only two trips through the mirror more than the hospital, but it just doesn’t actually feel in any way comparable. I thought it was going to be in the neighborhood of ten or twelve, based on my recollection of everything, but it turned out to be seven. This is surprisingly reasonable, if a bit too heavy on an entire gameplay mechanic based entirely on backtracking. Nevertheless, it just feels like it takes a lifetime to get anything done.

  Travis heads to the door of destiny and “uses” the Jocasta Artifact, somehow unlocking the door. In the main area of the seclusion wing, we stumble on Lisa! Who I guess really is here! For some reason! Where’s Dr. Kauffman in all this? I owe him a dick punch.

  Lisa barely seems to react to Travis’s presence. He asks her if she can see what he sees, literally intoning “Can you see all this stuff?” Yes, Travis—‘stuff’ is the perfect word to describe to the one person you’ve seen in this mirror world all the blood and pus covered shit you’ve encountered thus far. Good one.

  But worry not, player! He also asks “Is it all… dark for you, too?”

  Why? Why-why-why-fucking-why is ‘dark’ the only adjective you’re using here!? You know what the fuck a ‘Jocasta Artifact’ is, but you can’t remotely describe what the fuck is wrong with the mirror world to another human being!? Travis, seriously, you need to use your words like an adult. This shit is not helpful.

  Also, it sounds like he’s annoyed that he’s in a mirror reality full of monsters, which is kind of silly.

  Lisa ignores what he asks to instead decides to play the pronoun game and talk about how some nebulous “she” wants her boy so badly. Look, we know that the “she” Lisa is referring to is Mrs. Grady, so can we… wait… I guess that Helen is still alive? Uh, okay… sure, I guess I can accept that if not for the fact that the asylum is abandoned.

  Travis, a bit on the slow side, asks if she is actually referring to Alessa for some reason. Oh My God, Travis. You have precisely the same amount of information that I do at the moment. The woman in the chamber beyond is your mother. She is not referring to Alessa, who is like eight years old and would not be demanding to see “her boy” because that would be royally fucked up. THERE IS NO REASON TO BE CONFUSED.

  To be fair, though, I do like that fact that Travis gets all “Grr, must save Alessa!” in this situation. It’s charming in a papa bear kind of way. I imagine he gets attached to people and animals really quickly and he’s the kind of guy who’s just sweet and nice and wants everyone to get along and do the right thing.

  Sorry.

  Lisa gets all mad at Travis because he just knows exactly who is in there, and is also possibly a meanie head. Then she runs away. I… I don’t know how to take that. How does Lisa know that Travis knows that Helen is in there? Did she follow him through the hospital? Is she psychic? If she knows that Travis is Helen’s son, why didn’t she get all excited when he came in and say something along the lines of “She’s been waiting years to see you!”

  Did the script not go through a second draft? Is that it?

  With Lisa having fled the room, I’d like to examine a bigger question that hangs over this entire Sanitarium level: what is going on in this place? It looks abandoned, but there’s no actual note or evidence to suggest that’s the case outside of the environment. Alchemilla was also devoid of human life, but we knew that—despite construction—the place was running and accepting patients. So is this the same situation?

  It almost certainly has to be. Lisa doesn’t act like the Sanitarium is abandoned, and it’s assumed that she’s headed there to assist Dr. Skeeves with something patient-related. It’s not like he would have moved Alessa—badly charred and probably risking infection—to some run-down, tetanus-infused building. And since Lisa’s acting like the mirror world isn’t a big deal, we have to assume that—like the key in the fucking sewer drain—people can exist in multiple realities at once.

  Which further suggests that Helen Grady is actually alive! After all, the only confirmation of her expiration was Mr. Grady shouting that she “really is dead”, referring to the screaming woman no longer having the same personality of the woman he fell in love with and married. And since Travis (for whatever reason) didn’t decide to investigate why or even how his parents died, we can assume that she’s just been in Cedar Grove Sanitarium for over a decade under Clem’s dubious care. Travis suffered through the ambiguous death of his mother because, for his own protection, his father refused to let him see her and instead fed him a lie about how she died. And then papa Grady died. Probably from being a massive wanker.

  So there you have it: it’s completely reasonable to assume that Helen Grady is alive in the fully functional Cedar Grove facility in the real world. I’m sure we’ll fight some horrific version of her, but for all we know, people can just look like monsters in the mirror world while still remaining human in the real one.

  So, with Lisa out of the way and danger clearly waiting for us in the next room, Travis gives me back the reins instead of plunging head first into his mother’s slavering jaws. The room itself is covered in child-like drawings, probably made by Travis himself. He doesn’t say nice things about any of them, which just makes me want to give the big guy a hug and let him know that I believe in him.

  Also, when I draw near the door which contains Helen, there’s a horrible drone. It’s a nice touch.

  When I enter the boss chamber, I immediately enter the washed-out blue flashback mode and Travis is replaced with a tiny child, who I assume is also Travis. He is a kid looking for his mom. Suspiciously enough, she is in the room and is a freakishly horrible monster. It’s hard to describe her—she looks like she’s been wrapped up in bandages, strung up to the ceiling, and then a translucent bell that reaches to the floor was set on her head. It’s… honestly kind of stupid looking. I mean, I guess it’s supposed to provoke images of gibbets, but if that’s the case, it kind of fails miserably.

  I mean look at the goofy thing. How is this in any way indicative of Helen Grady’s life and/or crimes? Sure, she’s been locked away, but she wasn’t a fucking pirate or a witch. She was sick.

  Anyway, he is all “Daddy told me you were dead!” and she’s all “Nope! Just prevented from getting at you so I can’t murder love you! Come closer so I can fix your unmurdered face!” For once in his life, Travis freaks the fuck out at the horrific sight before him and attempts to escape—unfortunately, the door is locked. And with that, the fight begins in earnest.

  Helen Grady is… a bit of a joke. I entered the fight with 68 .22 caliber rounds, plus six in the gun, and 34 shotgun shells and both barrels full. I ended the fight with my entire compliment of .22 caliber rounds and 23+2 shotgun shells. All of her attacks are close range—she can poke you with a spike, spray a toxic gas at you, or try to smoosh you with her bell-thinger while also poking you with spikes. As such, the real strategy is to stay away from her, put two shells in her face, then run to the other side of the room to reload and repeat.

  I’m pretty sure I beat the Cyberdemon in Doom using a pistol with the same strategy. Took forever, but I wouldn’t call it particularly difficult.

  But with the successful defeat of our mother… um… she dies in the real world, too? Like are the Sanitarium workers going to find her full of buckshot in the isolation room? Or did Clem simultaneously torture her to death as Travis was killing her mirror-world self? Or will this actually cure her mental illness because Travis murdered her chemical imbalance or whatever?

  None of those questions will be answered or approached again! Instead, we get a shiny new paperweight, which is apparently the “past” paperweight. Travis doesn’t know why he needs them, he just knows that somehow, someday, there are going to be stacks of paper that some poor, overworked secretary needs to be weighed down. And when they look up to the heavens and cry out for a savior, Travis… Travis will be there.

  Somehow, Jocasta will be involved.

  Anyway, after picking up the plot-vital paperweight, Creepy Girl appears behind Travis. He expresses disbelief over whether bell-woman was indeed his mother before asking if Creepy Girl is responsible for… everything, I suppose. She starts to walk backward as air raid sirens begin to blare. He asks her not to go because he needs answers.

  Then Travis dies.

  Passes out.

  Same difference.

  Tune in next time for I Swear to God, If I Ever Have to Play Through a Bullshit Sanitarium Level With Only Tangential Relationship to the Plot Again, I’m Going to Start Screaming and Never Stop.

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