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  Welcome back to Traipsing Through Silent Hill! When we last left Harry “Wonder What That’s About” Mason, he lost his daughter after a car accident, chased said daughter through the mist, and was knifed to death in a dark back alley by toddlers without faces. Really, that was about it. I can’t see what all the fuss was about all games…


Harry's face... oh, god, his face.

  Oh! Hey, it turns out there are things happening. Harry, despite having his groinal dissected by vicious netherworld brats, wakes up in a diner with a blonde cop. For those of you playing along, yes, this is the same motorcycle cop that passed us during the attract trailer only to come across her smashed up bike further up the road. Glad to see she’s okay.

  He asks “Was I dreaming?” aloud, which reinforces an unfortunate tendency for our protagonist to announce how he just can’t grasp the difference between fantasy and reality.

  Anyway, the police officer asks if he’s okay before following up with a one-two punch of interrogation: if he’s from around here and what the hell is going on. Now, whether that is regarding the town or Harry in particular is anyone’s guess.

  Harry’s responds with “Wait a second. I’m just a tourist,” which catapults him from “victim” to “potential suspect” considering that he seems awfully defensive. But that may be just due to the awkward voice acting. He explains to the cop/player that he’s here on vacation, and he’d like to find out himself. This is really weird, considering that, as far as he’s aware, he swerved off the road to avoid a child, woke up in his crashed car in the middle of an abandoned town with his daughter missing, and was murdered by faceless monsters. What part of that is something he’d like to find out?

Harry's... a bit of a jerk.
Harry's... a bit of a jerk.

  What I’m getting at is that he has no reason to suspect anything before this point (outside of almost hitting a child) is unusual. The police officer hasn’t provided any clues that there’s something wrong going down with the town. He can and should be writing off his getting killed in a nightmare world as a dream, and if he is, there’s nothing wrong with the town.

  And why haven’t you asked about the child you almost hit? Or your own child for that matter?

  The officer is having none of this, answering Harry’s “I NEEDS TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED, TOO,” with a very unenthusiastic “Uh huh.”

  Realizing that the cop isn’t buying what he’s selling, Harry then asks if she happened to have seen his daughter. He described her as having “Just turned seven last month,” with “short, black hair…” That’s… it. That is all the information Harry uses to describe his daughter. Not her height, weight, eye color, the clothes she had on when he saw her last, how long she’s been missing, or even her fucking name. And how does this prick not have a picture of his daughter in his wallet?

  What strikes me as odd about this is that the age is the biggest descriptor here, as though Cheryl was wandering around town screaming “I JUST TURNED SEVEN LAST MONTH!” at the top of her voice. I just think that maybe, say, her fucking name or any of the other actual physical descriptions may be slightly more important than her age, which people normally can’t ascertain from sight alone. Sure, I guess it’s useful for people with supernatural age-to-height guessing abilities, but outside of circus folk, it’s wholly unnecessary. Also, I guess I find it a little too doting in this situation. Like, why say “She just turned seven last month,” when it sounds like you’re going to follow it up with “Can you believe they grow up so fast?”

  Also, he clarifies to the officer that the girl is his daughter at the end of it. Just so she knows that he’s not some kind of creep or anything. A spaced out moron, yes, but hardly a creep.

  You know what? This entire scene is just wrong. At what point does Harry think that any event post-crash is real? Like, he clearly thinks that waking up in the car and wandering out into the street is real, because his first reaction upon waking up is “OH GOD I’M BEING STABBED” to “I must’ve been dreaming!” and not, say “WHERE’S MY FUCKING DAUGHTER!?”

  I’m writing a lot in caps, today. Sorry about that.

  I guess the point I’m making is that Harry wakes up in the shitty café already assuming that his daughter is still missing. He’s also still assuming that the town is empty. I guess the only thing he’s not readily convinced of is the presence of monsters. Because, for whatever reason, mass disappearances are much easier for this guy to swallow than dick stabbing monster children.

  Ugh. I’m getting bogged down in minutiae. Continue, Professor Dork and Lady Officer.

  The officer says that Harry’s the only soul she’s seen, and then he asks where everyone is. Because this is the same fucking cop we saw in the introduction, and we also saw her crashed motorbike, she’s really in no better shape than we are. That’s just a fancy way of saying that she also doesn’t know what the hell is going on.

  And, wait a minute, what the hell, Harry? Not even an iota of recognition here? Sure, it was night, but the two of you stared at each other for a good while before she sped past you. At the very least, she should have mentioned “Hey, you’re that motorist I passed on a double yellow.” I’m assuming she dragged Harry’s stupid ass from his car rather than some random back alley, so she should have at least recognized his vehicle.

  Goddamn it, please don’t make me hate you, Miss Cop. I mean, your leather pants can’t be comfortable in your (or any) line of work, but you seem to be an alright person. Please… just be smart.

  Anyway, Harry’s unhappy that she doesn’t know anything. At least, I think it’s unhappiness. All he does is go “Hmmm…” or something similar. She asks Harry his name in probably the most antagonistic way possible, then introduces herself as Cybil Bennett. Cybil explains that she’s from a place called Brahms and that the phone and radios are all dead. She reveals that she’s going to head on “back to call in some reinforcements.”

  Back to where, Cybil? Brahms? Do you have to get to Brahms to call in some reinforcements rather than, you know, just get them while you’re there? Or are you talking about heading back to your crashed bike to call for them? Harry woke up in his car, so I think it’s safe to say you woke up by your own wreck. Did you not try to call for help then? Because I think you would have if you were at all doing your job. At which point you’d realize…

  (breathes)

  Please, please don’t make me hate you Cybil.

  Harry then grunts and stands up. He’s all “I GOTTA FIND MAH BABY GURL!” and Cybil’s all “It’s dangerous to go alone!” Then our writer protagonist is all “THEN I GOTS TA HURRY AND FIND MAH BABY!” This is actually the first moment when Harry uses Cheryl’s name in front of Cybil, so here’s hoping super cop’s paying attention to that little tidbit of pertinent information Harry just so happens to have left out until this point.

  I would like to take the opportunity to point out that all the stuff that is happening may be weird, but, based on their conversation, they have no reason to suspect that this is an explicitly dangerous situation. Unless, of course, they’re not telling each other the full story. We know this is partially true, because Harry is suspiciously quiet about his episode in the back alley with stab-happy murder beasts, but remember he also has written some chunk of our little prologue off as a dream. In any case, Cybil must have had a similar experience for her to actually believe that the town is dangerous.

  See, the players know it’s dangerous, and the designers know it’s dangerous, but Cybil and Harry don’t really. Be cautious, but don’t do anything foolish. Like, say, giving an untrained dipshit a firearm.

  So what does Cybil do? Why, she provides Harry with a pistol, of course! Now, there is a caveat, which breaks down to “Take this gun and don’t shoot me by mistake, you colossal moron.” Harry’s all “Okay, thanks,” then proceeds to wave the gun around in Cybil’s face. Yes, Harry is just that stupid. She tells him to stay near the café and that she’ll be back soon with more people.

  This… strikes me as a tremendously bad idea. I do understand that Cybil can’t really force Harry to come along with her, and that she rightly wants a stronger police presence, but I guess I just don’t really buy Cybil abandoning Harry in this place. It would make more sense to strike a bargain—“We look for your daughter for an hour, but if she’s not back we need to get more people.” I get it from a gameplay standpoint, but from a storytelling standpoint I’m not really comfortable with it.

  Also, handing over her gun (or possibly just “a” gun of hers) is probably throwing gasoline onto a pretty healthy bonfire. Harry doesn’t look or act like the kind of shmuck who knows his way around a firearm—Cybil honestly should just go with him. He’s less likely to blow someone’s brains out in a panic. Or accidentally blow his balls off tucking the gun into his waist band.

  But whatever. I’m sure some horror from the darkest pits of Azathoth’s writhing nuclear chaos will justify having a gun soon enough. You know… for those who like their rationales ex post facto.

  So Cybil leaves and we get to explore the café. It’s… a diner. That’s pretty much it. There are some items scattered about. The first things we pick up are a health drink and flashlight. Underneath these things is a town map for what I believe is a residential district.

Town Map w/References
Never forget how much I love you.

According to the map I will probably be spending most of my time staring at, we are in the preposterously named “Café 5 to 2”, just north of the delicious “Queen Burger”, which… yeah, sorry. Burger King is a stupider name. Christ, I could go for a Queen Burger right now. Bet it has onion rings on it.

  After we fold it up and put it away, a pink… thing… flies by the window behind Harry. It’s impossible to get a good look at it, because the camera actually cuts away before it is even finished flying by, but I know that this kind of thing is never good.

  On the other end of the counter are a kitchen knife and a health drink. The kitchen knife is our first melee weapon, which will never, ever be used. I don’t think I’ve ever needed it or used it in absolutely any of the run-throughs I’ve ever done of Silent Hill. If I were a good guide, I’d test out the weapon to give you the rundown of all the different things you can do with the knife. Instead, I’m keeping my proud tradition of carrying a goddamn knife in Harry’s back pocket for the rest of the game and forgetting it’s even there.

  Finally, there’s a broken radio on the table that Harry’s just too good to pick up. I’m sure that in no way will become pertinent.

  Something that Origins did that Silent Hill doesn’t is directing player’s attention to important items. Travis always looked at the stuff you could interact with, making finding tiny things much easier. This game has a kind of washed-out palette (I think… I am bad with describing color), so there are some key and standard items that blend in with the background and Harry doesn’t look at him. Luckily, this is corrected by the time Silent Hill 2 graces us, but I’m sure there are a number of things people have missed in this game thanks to Harry stubbornly keeping his chin up and his eyes forward at all times.

  Another key difference between the games is how save points are presented—while Travis dealt with saving with a magical red pyramid thing, Harry writes notes. Throughout the game, you can find notepads for Harry to scribble down what’s going on in his life. He does this because, according to Harry, someday “someone may experience these bizarre events.” I think it’s kind of cool when games incorporate the save system into the world in some way. I like it a lot better than Travis’s version, that’s for damn sure.

  Anyway, adventure waits for no one, so I have Harry try to leave the café. When I click on the door to exit, the radio starts buzzing. We get one of the most iconic lines in video game history…

"The radio is emitting static like a radio or something. Wonder what that's about."
"The radio is emitting static like a radio or something. Wonder what that's about."

… before Harry walks over to examine the radio. And then…

A pink bird monster gets into the café as Harry picks himself up off the floor and I have him scoot to the relative safety on the other side of the diner. From here, it takes a handful of shots to down the beastie. You know, I’m pretty sure that the first window was, at one point, supposed to happen along with the ingress of a second monster, but I have no idea if that was true. It just seems so… anticlimactic to have a window shatter and nothing pounce through. But… oh, wait, there’s still stuff going on.

"This horrible monstrosity is far more real than the other horrible monstrosities that stabbed me in the thighs. Wonder what that's about."
"This monstrosity is far more real than the other monstrosities that recently stabbed me in the thighs. Wonder what that's about."

  So, now you’re justified into thinking this place is dangerous. You no longer have to be afraid of dream-children stabbing you and your loved ones to death, Harry. Progress! Unfortunately, this appropriate level of shock is probably going to manifest here and only here. It’s going to be a rough ride…

  Anyway, there’s not much to say about the demon birds. They are the unholy cross-pollination of birds and bats (what with the leathery wings and bird-like-heads), and squawk like angry sparrows drip-fed Red Bull and steroids. If it’s flying full speed, it will kick Harry in the back of the head, which is really one of the most frustrating attacks in the game because it is fairly easy to dodge until later in the game when it gets a power and speed boost. When this happens, if it says you get hit, then you get hit. Fun!

  Its second attack usually occurs if you happen to encounter it when it first takes off flying or it has to drastically slow to turn around and face you. In especially rare circumstances, like the diner, it’s just due to lack of space. What happens is that it begins slowly “hovering” its way toward you right before doing a diving bite which looks awkward, but probably hurts quite a bit more than its drive by.

  Despite being an irritating, and oftentimes bullshit, enemy, it only takes a handful of rounds to kill them, and even less to get them to realize that bullets hurt and that fucking off is a very good career decision. Yes, this enemy will try to escape a fight it’s not winning, which is kind of cool.

  But back to the here and now! Free of the avian menace, we are now free to pick up the radio. Like Origins, the radio produces noise when there are abominations nearby. Different varieties of monster produce different noises, but it really doesn’t factor into anything in any realistic way—you hear static, you are more cautious. You aren’t rewarded in any way by changing up your tactics, considering your tactics for most areas will be either “run run run run run” or “wait until they get close and shoot them in the face/knock the taste out of their mouth”.

  It’s still an interesting idea.

  Harry decides it is time to update his journal, so who am I to tell him no? Join me next time for It’s a Good Thing Harry Has No Preservation Instincts.

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

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