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  Welcome back, you intrepid explorers of the vast, dark wasteland that is Silent Hill! It is I, Jonathan Charles Bruce, rogue adventurer with a +3 bonus to lowlight vision, here to guide you through the horror. When last we left Harry, he was about to walk through a door located in a clock tower in an elementary school. Said door was accessed by dumping acid on a statue, playing a little bit of piano, and turning on a boiler IN THAT PRECISE ORDER. It makes perfect sense. Don’t be daft. So let’s wander through that door and into destiny!

Getting a lot of mileage out of this.
Getting a lot of mileage out of this.

  Destiny happens to look a lot like the regular school’s courtyard. Harry is naturally and expectedly confused about what just happened, asking “Where am I?” as soon as he emerges into the dark and raining night. As he technically should have popped up somewhere in the northeast classroom or the stairwell, I’m going to ignore the fact that our protagonist routinely has less awareness than a lava lamp and give him the benefit of the doubt that maybe, just maybe, he’s growing.

  Harry, of course, squanders this charity almost immediately by asking “Have I been here before?” before tromping over to the middle of the courtyard and gazing at a freshly imprinted Flauros mark on the ground and loudly announcing to the zero people listening that he doesn’t remember seeing it before.


You know what we call that situation, Harry? BEING IN A DIFFERENT FUCKING LOCATION.

You see, we know it’s the symbol of the Flauros because we went through Origins. Harry doesn’t know what’s going on, but that’s not what bothers me because he doesn’t have the same info we do. So that’s totally fine. What bothers me about this scene is that spatially speaking, Harry should realize that he is not in the school. But his announcement of “I DON’T REMEMBER THIS BEING HERE!” implies that he thinks he’s in the same place, which he’s clearly not.

  Look, I get that this is supposed to be a spooky, mysterious thing, but the fact is that our protagonist’s heroic level of stupidity is really cloying. If he had gone down the ladder in the clock tower and encountered a locked door, gone back up and exited only to then discover that the world had shifted, this cut scene would be more effective—just drop the questions before he notices something amiss.

  Instead, we basically have Harry walk through a wormhole, so we know that there’s something off, but Harry’s reaction upon exiting is to somehow think he’s still in Midwich proper. Sure, the courtyard is probably the least visually changed of what’s to come, but for fuck’s sake Harry…

  Anyway, we are in the nightmare/alternate version of Midwich, which means that the level has the same layout, but everything is all fucked up and the rooms have all arbitrarily decided to lock/unlock/block themselves off for their own fetid amusement. Unlike the normal world, which has snow, this world is constantly raining if you’re outside, which I think is really cool, implying that this reality is warm-to-hot.

  All things considered, I’m actually really upset that the snow/rain dynamic was never kept for the rest of the series. Sure, the draw-distance-concealing fog is omnipresent, but the weather effects only really make a return for Downpour, and that’s for its own thing. I guess I really like rain and I wish the nightmare reality had more of it. The music also officially takes on its more industrial twanging, which is also pretty damn awesome.

  That being said, though, the courtyard is actually kind of dull, what with its lack of a makeover. So let’s check out what’s going down inside… specifically, the west wing because that’s the only one I have access to the moment. The western hall reveals what is going to be a major theme of the nightmare world—chainlink floors floating above the void and crappy, dirty walls. It’s a pretty groovy aesthetic, and naturally something that Harry apparently finds less weird than the stamp of Flauros in the middle of a courtyard he rightly shouldn’t think he is in in the first place.

  The storage room has a… um… pink rubber ball in it. Harry stuffs it into his pocket without a word and that’s it. He naturally ignores the corpse and doll hanging from the wall because, psh, wouldn’t you?

What? Looks like my editor's office. No big.
What? Looks like my editor's office. No big.

The other side room contains some supplies, as well as Silent Hill’s biggest fan.

Ba-dum tish.
Ba-dum tish.

The only other accessible room is the “Hall”, which is a really stupid room to have in a school. Like, we have halls, architects. Do you mean “study hall”? Because we would normally just use a classroom for that. Or is this the mystical gymnasium that I’ve been under the impression just doesn’t exist?

  Long story short, the layout of this school is stupid and I hope you hate it as much as I do.

  The “Hall”, for its part, is huge and empty, containing a couple of big-ass cockroaches which take two bullets to subdue. Sure, one knocks them over, but the little bastards also seem to recover from being on their backs a lot faster than anything else, so it’s better to just ice them when you hear their obnoxious squeak. If you get distracted by other, more threatening monsters, they will almost always close the distance between you and bite your foot, staggering Harry and allowing any other cockroach access to your (apparently delicious) sole.

  They don’t do much damage, but you will almost always have to kill them if you want to face a minimum of complications… especially when they start turning up with demon kids. Two demon kids and a single cockroach can ruin Harry’s day in short order. As such, it is a really, really good idea to switch to the pistol in the nightmare school—roaches will always win in a game of rock, paper, pipe.

  You may be expecting to find a picture of our new foe. Despite being quick, toe-nipping bastards, they aren’t all that interesting. Just imagine a bug. Now imagine that it’s bigger. Mind-bending, I know.

  The northern hallway has a newly erected fence, forcing Harry into the two nightmare classrooms. The western one contains a “Picture Card”, which apparently has a picture of a key on it.

Like... just... what the hell is it? A projector slide? A lame tarot card?
Like... just... what the hell is it? A projector slide? A deservedly lesser-known tarot card?

Harry feels compelled to take it, because it is slightly more vibrant than the world around it, thus making it as an item of great importance. The eastern classroom is populated by faceless demon babies, so we just kind of leave them to their own devices and skedaddle.

  On the other side of the hall’s fence, we now see that a gate has been erected in front of the north eastern stairwell. There is a door there, but it says that it is locked. I guess that means… uh… my goal is to get to the other side of that door, head into the basement, and punch the boiler? Or something?

  The east hallway is populated by demon children, but I decide to stymie their attempts at dick knifing by ducking into the infirmary and stealing the nightmare world’s first-aid kit and health drinks. Harry may be a thieving bastard from our underfunded public schools, but he is going to apply that mentality across all dimensions, goddamn it! There is a save point here, but once the place has been stripped for parts that’s about it.

  Once more dodging flashing knives in the dark, Harry pops into the lobby, which is now a room with a gigantic hole surrounded by a thin perimeter of flooring. It contains two horrible monsters, but it also contains an ampoule, which is the game universe’s most powerful healing item. In Nullrigins, it was basically a first-aid kit and energy drink all in one, but Silent Hill doesn’t give Harry stamina that drains when running about. Instead, according to legend, an ampoule will heal you to full health and prevent you from taking damage for a short while.

  I say “according to legend” because I have never had Harry enjoy any measure of invulnerability on any level of difficulty anywhere—either this was an intended feature that was cut, or everyone has a functioning game and I have a copy where Harry gets to magically reload instead of being able to use healing items properly.

  This is also the sight of the stupidest fucking moment of the game. Take a look at this fancy screenshot. Your job will be to tell me what Harry decides to comment on in abject shock.

Play this if you must.
Play this if you must.

  Is it:

  A) The grossly decomposed corpse, hanging in a torture device in a space no one would rightly have access to?

  B) The chainlink floors that have litter on them, implying that perhaps people live in this festering hellhole?

  C) The abyss, the blackness of which seemingly extends into eternity, threatening to devour not only the body of those unlucky enough to fall in, but their very souls?

  Ready?

'Wha? Everyone knows children in wheelchairs are educated in barns to keep them away from the domesticated children!'-- Harry Mason
"Everyone knows children in wheelchairs are educated in barns to keep them away from the domesticated children!"-- Harry Mason

  Ah ha ha ha, what the fucking what, Harry? The wheelchair is the issue? Like, I realize that the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 was passed after the events of this game, but why is this such a fucking noodle scratcher, buddy?

  For the record, according to Harry, the biggest mysteries thus far are:

  1) Where Cheryl is.

  2) Why the courtyard has a new tattoo.

  3) Why people in wheelchairs are allowed in a public school.

Our hero, ladies and gents!

  Also, you still think that you’re in Midwich? Jesus Christ, pal, it may have the same layout of the place, but it is most definitely not a fucking elementary school. Even if you refer to it as such (which you can for convenience, I suppose), to express shock at the presence of a fucking wheelchair in one is just so… goddamn… dumb.

  Ducking back into the eastern hall, Harry quickly unlocks the door to the courtyard in the name of freedom and democracy before discovering that the door to the southern hall is locked. However, we have free access to the room behind the reception area, which I still say is probably the principal’s office. Regardless of whatever the hell this random room is, that’s where we end up!

Oh, that's definitely a principal's office.
Oh, that's definitely a principal's office.

  Oh, hey there door from the picture. So… was that picture taken in the nightmare world and then hung up in the real world? Was it a hallucination? Was it just that the principal decided to take a disturbed student’s art project and hang it on the wall of his office? Who knows! The important thing is that, even though Harry was able to identify the thing as a door when it was a painting, he’s not totally convinced of it when he sees it for realsies.

'Well... it could be an installation. You ever think of that, smart guy?'
"Well... it could be an installation piece. You ever think of that, smart guy?"

As you can see, he notices that there is a slot ripe for inserting something (how naughty). And, hey, that goofy-ass picture card kind of looks like the door… so let’s try that! Doing my bidding, Harry slides the card into place, which causes the door to unlock.

  O… kay. I guess… that’s perfectly reasonable.

  I’ve had enough door-based chicanery for today, fellow traipsers. Join me next time for our next episode, The Saddest Video Game Shotgun.

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

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