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  Greetings, fellow traipsers! We return to the fourth installment of my descents into the surprisingly squishy horrors of Silent Hill! When last we left Harry in this town of low-visibility, he broke into someone’s house totally legally walked into someone’s house after stealing finding a spare key in a doghouse that may have not been a doghouse. Harry is always a touch hazy about these things.

This will not get old.
This will not get old. Original inspiration.

We had also wandered around town, invalidated the shittiest melee weapon within five minutes of acquiring it, and picked up keys inspired by the magical world of L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz.

  The house that we have broken into are clearly welcome in is laid out like utter shit. There’s a tiny entry cubby, a thin hallway with one door which probably leads to a bath- or bedroom (but it’s locked so good luck finding out), a combination dining/living room beyond that, and a kitchen. That’s not a house; that’s someone’s crummy first apartment. I don't want to sound overly critical here of anyone's housing situation, but if you're going to go into debt for a home, it would be nice if it came with more than two rooms and didn't make you a slave to the bank for the privilege.

Your parents would call it 'quaint' in that way that somehow rhymes with 'fucking atrocious'.
Your parents would call it 'quaint' in that way that somehow rhymes with 'fucking atrocious'.
Alternate joke: More than one chair? Right. This place would have a solitary beanbag soaked with tears.

I suppose that locked door could lead to a stairwell, but it doesn’t. How do I know? Well, that’s a question resolved in New Game+.

  Long story short, there really should be both a second floor and a basement, judging by the ridiculous steps up to the patio and the overall height of the house. Also, the fact that you can clearly see a second floor when you’re in the garden that Harry psychically knew about when he started picking up those theme-keys. But who needs stairs, anyway? Maybe the residents have spelunking and climbing gear to make every day an adventure. Either that, or no one thought this through and just believed a single door would be enough to explain away this place’s lack of a bathroom, bedroom, basement, and second floor.

  But we are not here to complain about the floor plan (as stupid as it is). No, we are here to cut through the house and get to the school, but not before plundering the house for its contents of bullets and healing items. There is also a map pinned to the wall by the back door. The back door itself has three massive locks on it that must be undone before we continue. If you examine the map, Harry finds that the words “Keys for Eclipse” are written on it, along with marks denoting the side street between Matheson and Finney, the eastern end of Finney, and where the street terminated on Ellroy.

  For those of you playing along, this tells you the location for the three keys that we already picked up. Why they are called the “Keys for Eclipse” will become obvious in a minute. The point of this little adventure is that the anticipated sequence of events is:

  1) Head to murder alley, find “to school” note.

  2) Attempt to get to school via Matheson, discover “Doghouse Levin Street” notes.

  3) Find house key in doghouse.

  4) Enter house, discover “Keys for Eclipse” pseudo-puzzle.

  5) Go to indicated spots on map to acquire keys.

  6) Return to house and open back door.

See, this is kind of a neat way to do things… if people do what you want them to do. Since people are free to roam, ultimately screwing up your plan, you may end up with a slightly disjointed variation on the listed events.

  Alternately, you can instead do this:

  1) Ignore murder alley and fuck about town, finding gear, doghouse note, and the keys through exploration.

  2) Steal house key from doghouse.

  3) Get into house with all the supplies you need to get through the backdoor.

  I’m not saying one is better than the other, but I do find it silly that the game forces you to find context to search the doghouse, but is totally alright with the voice in Harry’s head just telling him he needs to get to the other side of the street that, realistically, his daughter had no way of crossing on her own. Sure, you can argue that maybe the blood forms a kind of “arrow” pointing Harry to the other side, but A) no it doesn’t, and B) how would he know to end up at the school, smartass?

  But whatever! We’re here now, and we’ve got the “Keys for Eclipse”, and we’re going to unlock the back door’s three separate locks. Once we do so, we’re free to head through to the other side. Once we enter the garden, night crashes around us and we’re forced to rely on that really handy chest-mounted flashlight.

I fucking hate this house. There's no window in the kitchen, there's no access to the second floor which is visible outside and... hey! Get your hands off me! I have a blog to update!
I fucking hate this house. There's no window in the kitchen but if you go into the "garden" there should be so I guess it's just some stupid decal, there's no access to the clearly visible second floor and... hey! Get your hands off me! I have a blog to update!

Hey, how common are those things really? I can’t imagine that they’re as ubiquitous as these games make them out to be. But maybe I’m just in the wrong field of work or something.

  So, the dark Silent Hill is still snowing and relatively “normal”, but now there are approximately a billion fucking monsters populating the streets. The game does provide a solution for this: Harry can turn off his light and run to his heart’s content, just like Travis did in Nullrigins. Unlike truckers, who are notoriously light on their feet, Harry is a loud motherfucker and gets the attention of any beastie that about ten feet or so away despite dousing his torch. Also unlike Travis, who ate carrots like they were candy, Harry is unable to see the map or pickup items in the dark. He will not even acknowledge there are items to pick up if you try and will just whine should you dare tell him to look at the map. Further, your firearm accuracy plunges precipitously when you’re in pitch darkness, so that’s kind of a chore.

The darkness is your new god. It's just not a very interesting-to-look-at god.
The darkness is your new god. It's just not a very interesting-to-look-at god.

  The solution for the streets, then, is to turn off your light and run toward the goal, in this case Midwich Elementary. Or you can run to where you suspect there to be goods, like say the northernmost part of Midwich Street, turn on the light and look around, then turn off the light and run away. Since there’s no penalty for running into things unless those things have teeth and have sufficient time to go from passive to aggressive, get into position, and lazily attack you, there’s no real threat to this part. Sure, you can leave the light on, but all it does is force you to bob and weave slightly more than my “strategy”.

  Alternatively, you can decide to get into street fights with every monster in your path, but this makes an already preposterously long and quite frankly boring trip even longer and surprisingly just as boring.

  Any who, if you’re like me and end up zoning out from all the goddamn running in the dark, you’ll probably overshoot the school and end up by one of the best designed moments of the game—the school bus. It’s really nothing too special on its surface, but I absolutely love the story it tells without saying a word. Look how trashed the front is—you can almost imagine a busload of kids pulling up to the school when this ominous wall of fog envelops their world. A moment or two passes, and the driver looks over his shoulder and bids the kids to get ready to leave when something begins smashing at the windshield, trying to get in.

Jimmy suggested they open the windows to ask what the creatures wanted. Jimmy was always a bit on the dim side.
Jimmy suggested they open the windows to ask what the creatures wanted. Jimmy was always a bit on the dim side.

  It works on a variety of levels, too. The school bus is supposed to be a safe place—maybe not 100%, what with children fully capable of being bullies and all, but both the bus and the school are representative of benevolent authority—the kind that wants to take in everyone and turn them into promising young citizens. Anything that can do the kind of damage to a bus that we see here is not only tremendously powerful, but subtly speaks to a rage against what the bus and those inside represent. It’s such a low key, downplayed moment and it’s beautiful.

  And if that doesn’t do it for you, there is a health drink you can take, which totally suggests that Harry is stealing the remnants of some poor dead kid’s lunch, which never ceases to make a small part of me laugh. You know, the part of me that hates children.

  If you wish, there is also a notepad in the back if you think that the twenty yards to the front doors of the school are just too much for Harry and he may swoon from the scandal of being unescorted through the town at night. Once we’re ready, we leave the bus and head on into Midwich Elementary. In the vestibule is a map to the school, which… makes the place seem kind of small to be honest. Like, unnaturally small for a place where people supposedly live, work, and raise families.

Of course, 90% of the school is locked. Why do you ask?
Of course 90% of the school is locked. Why would you even ask?

So, let me get this straight: there are only six classrooms, two teacher’s rooms (whatever those are), no art studio, and no gymnasium… but there is a locker room. On the second floor. So… I guess kids attend gym in the courtyard? Or on the roof? And are forced to trudge up and down stairs to change?

  It’s not as bad as the Artaud, but good lord this is an atrociously laid out school. And seriously, why the hell is there a chemistry lab in a K-6 school? I didn’t learn chemistry until I was a sophomore in high school, but these chucklefuck students get their own chem lab? And who the fuck thought it would be a good idea to have the chemical store room be completely separate from the chem lab and only accessible by the hallway? Look at that shit! You have to walk out of the lab, abandoning the students while you enter the hall, enter the store room, find what you need, re-enter the hall, and re-enter the chem lab.

  Whatever.

  We wander into the reception area and find a list of teachers that Harry doesn’t seem to interested in at the moment. I do, however, know it will be important later, because it gets its own close up screen. Beyond that, there are three other notes of importance that are written in either pasta sauce or blood.

  Ha! Who am I kidding? Even if Harry wasn’t some kind of forensic wizard who can (and indeed does and in no uncertain terms) identify blood on sight, this is Silent Hill, where blood is the most common ink, with brain matter a distant second and actual ink-type ink third. Why? Because someone once decided that blood is the most ominous thing in the fucking world, and now every 12 year old thinks it is goddamn spookiest set dressing out there.

  You know what? Spider webs. These notes would be fucking creepy as fuck if they were written in spider webs, and don’t you try to convince me otherwise.

  Anyway, super spooky note one says:

Quote

            10:00
            “Alchemy Laboratory”
            Gold in an old man’s palm.
            The future hidden in his fist.
            Exchange for sage’s water.

End Quote

  … buh?

  Note boo (Get it? Because it sounds like two) (boom):

Quote

            5:00
            “Darkness that brings the choking heat”
            Flames render the silence,
            awakening the hungry beast.
            Open time’s door to beckon prey.

End Quote

  O… kay?

  And terror note the third goes something like this:

Quote

            12:00
            “A place with songs and sound”
            A silver guidepost is
            untapped in lost tongues.
            Awakening at the ordained order.

End Quote

  Right.

  So, it should be fairly obvious that this is demanding we run around to different areas. Alchemy Laboratory is clearly referring to the chemistry lab, although alchemy is not a real science (but I would prefer that to phrenology, so we’ll let it slide just this once). Alchemy was traditionally dedicated to trying to discover ways to transmute base elements into gold, which is not only preposterous but also blatantly ruinous for any economy that ran on valuing gold as currency. There’s also some wankery regarding eternal youth or some such rot, but it’s mostly known for the gold thing.

  Oh, hey, gold in an old man’s palm… neat, it incorporated two elements of alchemy (age/gold). Apparently I’m supposed to get the future by exchanging it with sage’s water, which is a new concept to me but I’m sure I’ll figure it out.

  The second note is probably supposed to go last, judging by the time stamp, so we’ll skip it and go to the one demarcated as 12:00. “A place with songs and sound” is clearly the music room. I don’t really know what the rest is supposed to be, so I’m guessing it’s not really important and was designed so that all clues had the same number of lines.

  The 5:00 note starts with “Darkness that brings the choking heat”, which is obviously referencing bad poetry in the English department causing no end of embarrassment for naïve students.

  …

  Or the boiler room, if you don’t want to be fun about this.

  To be honest, I’m… kind of uncomfortable with a school’s boiler room being referred to as a place of “darkness that brings choking heat”… shouldn’t the only person in there be the janitor? Are they using it as a place to store unruly children? In this town, any horrible thing is possible.

  So, if we double-check the map, we find our three destinations and also that there is a clock tower in the courtyard. Since all of the notes began with a timestamp (and all verses have some vague reference to time/the future/whatever), I am forced to assume that whatever trinkets we get from the coming puzzles have to be plugged in there.

  Well, puzzles partially and pre-emptively solved, I wander behind the reception area to… umm… the principal’s office, I guess? I mean, what else could it possibly be? The room holds a couple of couches that face each other over a coffee table. Maybe this is supposed to be a really relaxed principal, the kind who wants to be a friend to the students and their parents. That would explain the lack of a desk… and… um… the lack of… filing cabinets…

Seriously, what is this room for? It can't be a lounge--the teacher's have two already (maybe). WHAT THE HELL IS THIS PLACE!?
Seriously, what is this room for? It can't be a lounge--the teacher's have two already (maybe). WHAT THE HELL IS THIS PLACE!?

  Oh, yeah, there’s also a terrifying painting on the wall.

Gah!
Gah!

  That’s… an interesting choice. Let’s see what Harry has to say.

What? It's a totally normal depiction of a crime against humanity. Jeez, Harry, you're such a dork.
What? It's a totally normal depiction of a crime against humanity. Jeez, Harry, you're such a dork.

  So, wait a minute, Harry… the picture of the door is in bad taste? Not the, say, two corpses strung up flanking said door? Come on, man, you’re supposed to be a writer. Words mean things.

  Sorry. I am being just a wee bit harsh on the Harr-ster, but I think this skirts what I feel is more than a fair point. He identifies that this picture is out of place, but that it is just “in bad taste”. Not “out of place” or “creepy” or “reminiscent of my nightmare” or even, say, “groping around his skull”. It’s just in bad taste, like he just attended a third-grade rendition of The Scarlet Letter or a Vladimir Nabokov themed bake sale.

  It would just be nice for him to have a little bit of shock. I’m not saying I want him to devolve into screaming fits at the sight of blood or have a mental breakdown at every monster or something, but come on. This is clearly an image of the nightmare reality creeping on into ours. Good god, it’s not “in bad taste”, it’s wildly incongruous with the world around you and intensely disturbing.

  This… this will come up again before we’ve even left the school.

  Our last big task of the day is to check out the infirmary on the other side of the reception area. Inside is a medical kit that Harry steals, because fuck any poor mauled child that may come here seeking aid—CHERYL IS MISSING AND HARRY NEEDS FIND HER RARG. There is also a notepad here, which complements the notepad found not forty yards away in the smashed up school bus (obviously, I’m compensating now for the extra distance between bus and infirmary notepad). Hooray!

  This is as good a place to stop as any, so that’s what we’re going to do. I apologize for the lack of action today, but at least we ran through the dark like a spaz and got to read someone’s shitty poetry masquerading as a puzzle! That’s something, right? Join me next time for the next thrilling episode, Revenge is a Dish Best Served With About Three Vertical Smashes.

  SUPER BACKTRACKING BONUS FUN: After you cause the eclipse or whatever, you can run around the northeastern quadrant if you so choose. The enemies in this area don’t spawn in greater frequency or anything, it’s just quite a bit darker than you’re used to seeing the area. There is something really cool though:

Oh... nifty.

If you head back to the diner, the place takes on an unsettling coloration that is very reminiscent of the nightmare reality, especially once we get to the later stages of the game. This may not be intentional, but I love it to pieces. If it was deliberate, it’s a little nugget of “there’s something wrong with where you started” for those who care to look. If it’s inadvertent (like they just reused assets that look very different under one kind of lighting versus another), well, then it just looks fucking cool.

  Good on you, Team Silent.

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

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