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  Hello everyone, and thank you for joining me for today’s thrilling episode of Traipsing Through Silent Hill, the blog series designed to deflate all the joy and mirth you felt in the world one nostalgia lens at a time. Last time, I whined about architectural stupidity before running through the dark and whining about architectural stupidity in a slightly different place. So with that in mind, we begin the first dungeon properly—Midwich Elementary!

  So, as a bit of trivia, Midwich is named that way in reference to the book The Midwich Cuckoos, the novel that inspired the sci-fi demon-child romp The Village of the Damned. Aliens impregnate all fertile women in a sleepy English town during a day when everyone loses consciousness, and they eventually give birth to human-alien hybrids who are creepy and slightly murderous.


Ah, the grand old days of a movie trailer just telling you what's happening because they thought everyone was amazingly stupid.

  What does this have to do with Silent Hill? Not much of anything, save the “creepy demon child” thing. It’s just a reference for reference’s sake. Just like The Wizard of Oz keys have nothing to do with the game, save a parallel dimension that makes reality all wibbly-wobbly.

Map!
For reference.

  So, before we head on out to do some really quality puzzle solving, I’m going to take a quick inventory of that most vital of supplies—bullets. In this case, I wandered into the first major area of the game with 150 handgun rounds. That’s… quite a lot of materiel, to be honest. Origins at least had the decency to withhold the first handgun until the second dungeon and I don’t think I ever had that much ammo for it. And even if I did, it would have only been enough to maybe slightly hassle a roadkill on its way to head-butting Travis’s pelvis into a thousand pieces.

  Anyway, in order to artificially induce some tension here, I’m switching to the steel pipe. At three feet of primed murder, it will prove to be a most useful tool as we plumb the depths of this elementary school.

  The only accessible area is the courtyard, where I am immediately set upon by two of the primary enemies in this area: the demon child. Yes, the faceless grey bastards are our most threatening encounter here. Unlike suicide alley, though, I am armed. It takes about three heavy swings (hold down X!) to knock them to the floor, and about… three or four flailing swings (tap X!) to do the same. The flailing is faster but has shorter (and genuinely more awkward) reach, while the slower vertical swing can keep the fuckers at a safe distance. Honestly, the only advantage to silly swingin’ is the fact that the kids go hilariously flying away when they are KO’d.

  Of course, you can whip out the pistol to deal with them, which is absolutely silly. The gun will stun a monster about 100% of the time, so it arrests forward momentum, does a steel-pipe-whack worth of damage, and will guaranteed drop them in three shots. Both the pipe and handgun will need a coup de grace to make sure the things don’t respawn once you’ve made the bastards horizontal, but that goes without saying.

  What this translates to is 50 demon children can be taken down before they get within striking distance—and that’s before you even start picking up supplies in Midwich.

Harry stares, glassy eyed, at the horror he's committed moments before slamming a health drink and skipping away like nothing happened.
Harry stares, glassy eyed, at the massacre he's committed moments before slamming a health drink and skipping away.

  The demon children still do a lunge-and-lock-in-place attack as well as their stab-you-in-the-dick move. If you’re unpinned, they will almost always try that first (I’ve never seen one go for a quick penis knifing if you’re moving about). Being grabbed doesn’t really do too much damage, and you can further reduce the damage by spazzing out on the analog sticks. Where the little fuckers can take you down quickly is their junk-stabbing. Luckily, the AI is utterly incompetent and all the demon children seem to lose interest in stabbing you the moment you break out of a hold.

  Anyway, that’s just a lot of fancy talk for just stand in place and hold down X with the steel pipe equipped. The lunge attack has a longer reach than you’ll think, but so does the pipe, leading to a situation where Harry will stand there swinging the pipe up and down while the demon kids get their brains turned into mulch for their trouble. You can also just run around them, since they’re slow—just make sure to give them a wide-ish clearance.

  The courtyard also has the clock tower, so we investigate that once we’ve lowered Silent Hill’s festering abomination population by two. We’re given two little plaques with circular indentations—one demands a golden sun, while the other demands a silver moon. If you are so inclined, you can investigate the locked door in the clock tower, which will show you this:

'Cheryl should be in bed by now. That young lady is grounded!' - Harry 'Huh?' Mason
"Cheryl should be in bed by now. That young lady is grounded!" - Harry "Huh?" Mason

I did not do this on my first run through. This would turn out to be a minor issue.

  Entering the first floor’s western hallway, there are more demon children. I take the opportunity to duck into the west… um… vestibule? Entrance? What is that place? Whatever. There’s a new beastie here, a little portly ghost thinger that sets your radio off and squeaks incessantly. You can cannot harm it and it cannot harm you—although if you’re feeling particularly malevolent, you can run through them and cause them to fall over. The only threat they truly pose is their unearthly cuteness, a threat that is fortunately resolved because once “agitated” by being run through, they will eventually disappear, you monster.

::clears throat:: D'aawww...
::clears throat:: D'aawww...

  Anyway, there isn’t a whole lot going on otherwise, so we head to the southern hallway. To my delight and surprise, there also isn’t much going on here—the teacher’s rooms have jammed doors, so we won’t be able to figure out what the hell they’re supposed to be. A demon child is playing hooky in the boy’s restroom, and Harry quickly makes it so that the creature will be given a tardy slip… permanently. The girl’s room is empty, so there’s that. Before going any further, we take the opportunity to unlock the door back to the east wing.

  From here, we take a quick jaunt up the stairs. If we continue to the roof, we’ll find that it’s locked, so I’m certainly glad they decided to include it instead of… I don’t know… a collapsed stairwell or something. The second floor west wing is spectacularly boring—the two classrooms are classrooms, and the girl’s lavatory has two demon children skulking about and protecting a box of bullets with their squishy faces. The boy’s restroom has the sound of a crying child, which is kind of creepy. But once again, Harry doesn’t acknowledge it, so what is the point? Sure, atmosphere, I suppose, but Harry’s so fucking dense that any atmosphere you build up is immediately defeated by his stupid thick head.

  While we’re here, Harry slips into the second floor east wing—after all, this is the most direct route to the chem lab where I have to do… something. Before I commit to that, though, I duck into the store room, as it is to Harry’s immediate left. I discover a bottle of concentrated hydrochloric acid which… um… Harry takes. Why… is this here? Like, in an elementary school in an unlocked room? I don’t think anyone wants that near their second grader. But, judging by Dahlia “I’ma Burn My Daughter Alive for Reasons!” Gillespie, Silent Hill’s parenting population probably doesn’t give a shit and actively lobbies for the teaching staff to murder their kids on the daily.

  Wait… why are there bullets in Midwich?

  Moving on, we break into the chem lab to discover… um… this:

Ah. The hand statue. Classic.
Ah. The hand statue. Classic.

  So, the bad poetry suggested that the future was hidden in an old man’s hand, and that we had to exchange it for something called sage’s water. The only liquids I am presently carrying are my supply of hallucinogenic health drinks and the hydrochloric acid. I mean, unless we have to do some Harry Potter-esque shit and cut our hand open to appease the gateway to the Horcrux or something. That, however, is a preposterous idea, as that would make the kitchen knife a useful item, and that is simply too stupid to be taken seriously. So… um… I guess we’re just going to dump that highly caustic chemical on a random hand statue.

  Doing so causes the hand to melt and release the gold medallion—naturally, Harry just scoops that right up without any hesitation because, as we all know, acid evaporates once it’s used and is in no way a threat once it melts through precisely one (1) object. If we examine the statue again, Harry assures us that it's "Just the melted remains of a statue of a hand. Nothing to worry about." Not so fast: I'd be concerned the rest of the golem would want revenge for this little stunt, young man.

  Now, you may be thinking I’m going to complain about how the acid should eat through the gold as well. Sadly, friends, that isn’t true. While concentrated hydrochloric acid is indeed a powerful substance, it will not eat through gold on its own. It needs to be mixed with nitric acid to do such a task—a combination known as aqua regia, or king’s water. Which is kind of like sage’s water when you think about it if you completely ignore the fact that it totally isn’t like that name at all and that, if we actually used king’s water in this puzzle, Harry would be right fucked.

  As a side note, sage’s water just isn’t a thing, unless you’re talking about some hippie-dippie New Age water stuff. Bad show, Konami. We trusted you.

  Stepping out into the western hall again signals the sudden appearance of a demon kid—there had been two in the hallway initially, but in my hubris I forgot about the siren that only monsters can hear sounding because of my successful puzzle completion. I panicked and ended up getting lightly savaged by the beasties—but not enough to get knocked out of green health when all was said and done. So Harry’s testicles have grown more durable if nothing else.

  The door to the library reserve is locked, so you have to actually cut through the library itself to get there. The library is only accessible through the north hallway, so we cut through there. The library has two items of great importance: a first aid kit and the cutest damn ghost child party.

If you don't run into them, they run into each other and fall down comically. Poor little ghosties.
If you don't run into them, they run into each other and fall down comically. Poor little ghosties.

  So, you’d think that the library reserve would hold a plot-progression item, wouldn’t you? What with being locked from one side and all. And you’d be wrong for thinking that. The only thing waiting for Harry in here is a demon child hitting the books so it can better itself. When the demon goes to ask our hero for help with a difficult word, he unthinkingly bludgeons it to death with a pipe, because Harry is the true monster.

  I really have to ask: what the hell is up with this fucking room? Despite needing to be unlocked it’s not a short cut, it’s not plot-pertinent, there’s no real scare in here because the radio signals a monster is nearby… so what is it for? One first aid kit in a completely different room on the way to said room is not an excuse!

  Anyway, the rest of the northern hall is pretty boring—the classrooms exist but don’t offer much in the way of anything pertinent or interesting. Entering the eastern hall gives us access to the locker room. Something is rattling around in one of the lockers. Harry gets to it and blunders into a cutscene where he reaches toward the locker in question and… a fucking cat pops out.

  A fucking cat.

  Pops out of a locker that’s been rattling.

  On the second floor of the school.

  A fucking cat.

  Who proceeds to OPEN THE DOOR TO THE LOCKER ROOM AND SHUT IT before it is presumably eaten by horrors off screen.

  Don’t believe me? Well, I wouldn’t either. But here’s video evidence:


"Behowd, da twue face of tewwar!" - Mr. Mittens, moments before being eaten by horrors.

  I cannot begin to tell you how fucking stupid I find this entire scare. It’s so utterly out of nowhere. Like, is this supposed to be a joke, referencing how overused this trope is? Because there’s no fucking knowing look to the camera or acknowledgement that it is a joke. Is it a legitimate scare? Okay, fine, but then it’s a jump scare that doesn’t make any fucking sense. How did the cat get into the school, through the multitudes of locked doors, and onto the second floor? How did it get in the locker? Why didn’t it get peeled apart like the dogs? How did it grow thumbs and unlatch a heavy door? How did it know it was polite to close the door behind it? Why was it necessary to immediately murder it?

  It’s just so… well, I don’t want to say predictable… but it’s not clever. It’s broken down to the same beats of a standard cat scare—build up tension, “Oh it’s a cat”, then the “real” scare (in this case, a squishy murder noise) happens.

  SIDE NOTE: I think the funniest thing about this entire moment is that when I hear people talk about Silent Hill in their hushed, reverent tones, they always describe how powerfully psychological it all is, focusing on atmosphere over such plebian and overused concepts of jump scares. And the game literally has one of the most basic, overused, and parodied kinds of jump scares without a hint of irony.


Why, yes, there is a YouTube mix celebrating this trope. Why do you ask?

END SIDE NOTE.

  So, we leave the way that we came (because outside of a flaccid scare, the room was entirely useless) and find the demon child that presumably ate the cat waiting for us. I’m glad that it died well fed—it must be a real pain to meet your maker with an empty stomach. Also, the battle cry of “Meet your maker!” has gone unused quite a bit in the last several years. I’m not sure how I feel about that.

  I also discover that this school apparently felt the need to include precisely one (1) area where the second floor overlooks the first floor. And while you may think that it would overlook the courtyard with its magnificent clock tower, because you are not an idiot, the architect of Midwich Elementary thought, You know what kids would really love? To be able to look at the lobby between classes.

'I like to make sure children know they'll never escape the banality of existence.'
"I like to make sure children know they'll never escape the banality of existence."

This is in the eastern hall, and the eastern hall has an overlook, and it is for the lobby. It is the only one of its kind in the school, and I hate it so fucking much.

  But there is the sexy call of a puzzle nearby, so let’s do that, shall we? When I enter the music room, there is a piano waiting for me. There’s some poetry on the wall that suggests that we need access to the piano in order to get the silver medallion that I see above the blackboard. So… um… okay. How do I… get at this thing? I mean, I have to be able get at the keyboard in order to solve the puzzle on the blackboard and…

  Wait.

  Waaaaait.

  All three poems in the reception area had time stamps…

  The first one talked about the old man holding the future in his fist…

  Oh, fuck you, Konami!

  To progress successfully, you have to go back to the clock tower with the gold medallion and set it in place. This moves the hands of the clock to 12:00, unlocking the next puzzle—that is to say, unlocking the piano keys. Were those ninety seconds of additional gameplay worth this little moment? Were they? ANSWER ME.

  I suppose it would be entirely possible that I would have put two and two together if I had taken a moment to look at the door to the clock tower itself on my first play through. But here’s the thing—I knew the door would be locked, so I didn’t bother checking it. It just didn’t seem like it would be pertinent. One way or the other, this aspect of the puzzle—forcing the player to go to a hub to drop off a solitary item for the sake of getting access to another item in an area we already have access to—is just busywork. Sure, I guess there will be more monsters that pop up now, but so what? I will have completely unlocked the school by then. It’s petty and pointless and I am just so goddamn done for the day.

  Join me next time for Accidentally Solving a Puzzle From Memory on My First Try.

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

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