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

Part Sixteen, or Caliban? More Like Caliban... 't

  Hello again, weary travelers! It appears that you have once more arrived upon my campsite. How do I manager to always get ahead of you, set up camp, and have a roaring fire going night after night? What a strange question to ask. Would you like to record your progress? Or perhaps enjoy a tale about a hearty man of noble heart, diverted from his iron steed into the haunted resort of Silent Hill? Splendid!

  Self-indulgent wankery aside, hello and welcome back to Traipsing Through Silent Hill: Origins, the only blog on the internet that casts aspersions at a vocal chunk of the fan base in a desperate attempt at relevance! Hold on… I meant to say “one of the millions” instead of “the only”. Whoops.

  When last we left Travis Grady, professional trucker, monster killer, and better human being than the player, he had fiddled with a bunch of knobs which led him to a very old but still kickass library. In said library, a bunch of papers told him that A) it’s smart to assume Creepy Girl is Alessa, B) Alessa is ridiculously powerful and can kill with a thought, and C) Alessa is piggybacking Travis as he goes through town because of his unresolved mental issues. Also, we picked up the key to the stage office from a tree made out of corpses.

  So let’s use that key, shall we? We make our way to the stage office, using a wrench to beat down some Ariels. During my scuffle with someone’s sex puppets, I come to the realization that my earlier praise for the IV stand, that it could hit multiple foes at once, was over-enthusiastic—the wrench can hit two enemies at once and lasts longer than three swings. So the IV stand goes back to being a pile of garbage and I unlock the stage office.

  I rifle through the contents of this garbage room, snagging a prop control lever and… that’s it, actually. Kind of a letdown, really. Disappointment aside, I just know enemies have respawned thanks to the clarion call of the key item pickup. As such, I whip out the katana, determined to show the baddies what’s what.

  The katana is… underwhelming. Travis insists on using it one handed and making an awkward stabbity motion with it. Because of this, it can be hard to actually gauge when you need to actually hit the attack button. A swipe (like what most people would do with a sword, ya jag off) would be far more useful, but apparently Travis thinks the sharp bit at the end is far more useful than, you know, the fucking three foot long razor it’s attached to.

  Long story short, Travis gets kicked in the dick twice for his troubles, I get bored and pull out the boomstick. I don’t feel I can ever do justice to glory that is the shotgun. It sounds like a thunderclap mating with an exhaustless bulldozer, knocks just about every non-boss enemy to the floor in one shot and will kill most with a follow up blast. Which is exactly how I handle the remaining Ariels as I got forth to settle things with Caliban.

  Putting the lever in place lowers… erm… Caliban’s costume from the overhead rigging. So… was the actor playing Caliban supposed to fly in addition to forcing the poor shmuck to crawl around on his hands and knees? Or is it just because no one realized how out of place this is? I can’t be the only one who thinks that, when Mr. Grady pulled the lever, the decomposing body of the actor should have fallen to the floor. It probably would have been an expected shock, to be honest, but c’mon, it’s not like the lazy scare is something you’re all the sudden above, Climax.

  Hell, think how creepy it would have been to have heard someone muttering during the lighting puzzle. Like, quiet, somewhat unintelligible, but saying stuff to make us question what it is that we’re hearing. Instead of the roar from the stage, we hear a human voice shriek and whimpering as we walk off the catwalk. Once again, loud enough to be heard but not enough for the player to really dwell on. And then when we’ve gotten to this point, we’ve forgotten about it and then we hit the lever and the actor who plays Caliban falls from the rigging, rope around his neck. He twitches once, twice, and then is still. Or hell, he could have been massively decomposed, implying that there is also temporal chicanery afoot as well as dimensional.

  That, my friends, would have made sense in universe and have been potentially jarring enough to remain with the player when they put the game down.

  But whatever. No one listens to my ideas anyway. Except Travis. You know why? He knows that there’s blood to be spilled for his new god, and I am the conduit from which Alessa makes her wishes known. And she demands Caliban die!

  So we equip our shiny new rifle and head on through the mirror, ready for a HOLY CHRIST WHAT IS THAT THING.

  Caliban is a goddamn nightmare, visually speaking. First, the thing is the size of four modern sedans fucking. Now, imagine a human being on all fours. Easy, right? Now grab that poor sucker’s ankles, plant your foot on their lower back, and yank those legs up and over their head. Don’t worry about the sound—that’s expected. Now cover your imaginary human with scabrous skin and mutilate their hands to look like hooves.

  You have made a Caliban, you terrible, terrible monster. What the fucking fuck is wrong with you?

  So… yeah, despite looking absolutely goddamn terrifying, Caliban is not too much of a problem. Which (if taffyman alpha, Mrs. Grady, and now this horrible mutant are any indication), is a theme that will run us through the remaining boss fights as well. Betcha can’t wait!

  Like all the other bosses up to this point, we’re in a square-ish room, only this time there’s some debris around three of the walls that make running about a bit more difficult than with Mrs. Grady. Caliban’s not a particularly speedy horror from beyond the pale of man (what with being bent in half, Jesus Christ), so the solution is to run away, plug it four times with the rifle, then run when he tries to attack you.

  Said attack is lifting his “front” legs and stomping down on you. This takes a fair amount of time. I’m sure it’s very damaging. I wouldn’t know, as I’m pretty sure you have to be trying to get hit by this thing for that attack to land.

  And as far as I’m aware, that’s all it does. I’m sure you could actually lock Caliban into an infinite loop of getting all stompy, backing away as he takes about a year to wind up and deliver his attack, and just popping it in the face with whatever’s handy. At least running around it will help Travis keep his heart rate up.

  Once again, the most challenging part of the fight boils down to making sure the camera wants to cooperate. This entails running to one side of the chamber, locking onto Caliban as I begin to shoot, then manually tell the camera to stop sucking so much. It’s still not as god awful as trying to leave the asylum, but whatever.

  Fifteen rifle shells later, Caliban dies. Unfortunately, his death animation doesn’t look like a death animation, so I shoot him again and waste a round teaching his twitching body not to fuck with Travis Grady. I still manage to end the fight with a full rifle (four shells), although the remaining compliment was emptied into Caliban’s scabby ass.

  For the record, I have 71 .22 caliber rounds, 24 shotgun shells, and 48 .45 caliber rounds as well. I’m… not hurting for ammunition. Or even melee weapons, for that matter. I guess the idea that weapons and ammo should be scarce was discarded along with the memo of making plot-relevant notes mandatory.

  When the sack of meat collapses it hacks up another paperweight, this one for “falsehood” apparently. And here I thought that we were going to go with a time theme. Silly me.

  Anyway, we’re deposited into a cutscene, where Travis is whipping the paperweight around and asking if Alessa needs the pieces. Alessa appears from behind him, wanders over to Caliban, and kicks its leg. It’s super adorable and I just love that little girl to pieces. I’m probably just over-reacting to any personality being displayed in this game that isn’t “unbalanced” or “kind of dumb”. I guess I also have a soft spot for insanely powerful psychic girls that learn to overcome their abusive homes through force of will and world-shattering mental abilities.

  Also, when the kick connects, there’s a hilarious “squish” noise. Oh, god, I love this scene.

  But that’s all we get. She glares at Travis and he falls over dead.

  I’d end on that note, but I just want to reiterate that I actually really, really love the amount of attention that went into this level. Although some of the decisions are murky at best (puppets as enemies?), the level design itself makes backtracking feel minimized and actually streamlines exploration by giving you access to shortcuts. Also, the developers finally found a use for being able to switch between worlds at will, finally getting around to using the idea of modifying reality to directly impact the mirror world. There are only three mirrors, and one of them is puzzle-specific. It feels tight and planned the whole way through, as opposed to a meandering mess of corridors with few rewards.

  Even the larger story (Alessa being terrified of Caliban, hating Prospero, and developing/unable to control her powers) is far more interesting than anything that we’ve seen before. We’ve been fed some really interesting information (even if the most important bits are given to the audience in the most easily missed way possible) which gives us more insight into just what’s going on with the actual hero of the story—Alessa.

  And then we get to the big, juicy question of symbolism. The Tempest is an eccentric choice for Climax, to be sure, but it makes complete sense as a story within a story. It deals with the power of illusion on reality, but that’s only skimming the surface. Prospero’s magic is always described as being positive and creative, while Caliban’s mother (who died before the play started) has destructive, evil magic. The gendered implication in The Tempest is obvious, in that women with power are dangerous while men with the same are somehow magnificent spectacles of our species.

  Zerorigins does partially embrace this narrative on the surface. Alessa kills Prospero with her psychic abilities and presumably creates Caliban/enslaves and mutates the actor playing him—with this act, she takes the place of the deformed man’s mother in the narrative of the game. But remember, Alessa is not fully in control of her power and we’ve only really seen the aftermath of it on monsters. Prospero doesn’t die because Alessa wanted him to—she accidentally nuked him. If she was this horrible destructive force, Dr. Kaufmann and Creepy Woman would also be dead by now.

  Don’t believe me? The girl is a walking time bomb who suffered at the hands of her mother (apparently), while Tony was a guy playing a part. He gets splattered. “Love” for Alessa’s mother would protect the matriarch only so much.

  Returning to The Tempest’s implications for the story, Caliban is working against Travis—therefore, it is working against Alessa. Caliban is a nightmare creature, given horrific unlife because of its relationship to the girl. And, depending on what the paperweights do, Alessa is acting in self-defense. If Caliban’s mother is destructive magic, Prospero’s supposedly creative, then Alessa’s is certainly a mix of both. After all, she created the nightmare world (or at least had a hand in its creation) but has no substantial control over it. And although she willfully destroys the creatures inhabiting it, it’s not for bloodthirsty reasons—she, like Travis, must do so to survive.

  And while it may be assumed that this is nevertheless condemnatory toward women with power (Alessa can’t control it! It’s too powerful! Blah, blah, blah), keep in mind that Alessa has been burned alive horribly for reasons that, as of yet, remain unexplained and Dr. Kaufmann is directly involved. While Alessa’s motives aren’t entirely clear to us yet, my basic human impulse is to side with her. If Travis’s main mission is to assemble the full paperweight to get Alessa enough power to fix things, so be it. If it involves immolating her mom and Dr. Skeeves, I’m all for it.

  That’s about it for now. Tune in next time for our next episode, The Boss-to-Regular-Enemy Conundrum.

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

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