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  Greetings one and all, and welcome back to the dirty depths of depravity in these hallowed halls of the damned! It is I, your host through all things Silent Hill-ish. Or at least some of the time. God knows that this is just a drop in the bucket on the amount of time and effort put into dissecting these games. In any case, the last time we left Harry “The Americans with Disabilities Act Was a Mistake” Mason, he killed some cockroaches, encountered an enormous pun, questioned whether wheelchairs should be in schools, and unlocked a very scary looking but otherwise pretty standard door.

  Oh, yeah, we’re also in a hellish variation of Midwich Elementary, which basically means that it’s raining outside and most of the floor has been replaced with chain-link fencing floating above a bottomless abyss. So… you know… the usual.

Reference
Reference.

  We emerge from the… you know, I still don’t know what that room is supposed to be, so I guess we’re just going to say “fuck it” and declare that it is the principal’s office. Anyway, we emerge from there into the southern hallway of the first floor. The doors in front of us are to the restrooms. Harry’s first stop is the ladies’ room, which Harry will assure the police that arrest him later is just for supplies and not that he’s a massive creep.

  Upon entering, the CD takes extra-long to load the room. When I check the map again, it turns out that Harry is now on the second floor. Somehow. How Harry knows this or how it happens will never be explained and, no, it doesn’t really happen again for the rest of the game. Anyway, this part of the school is blocked off when we step out of the restroom, but we do have access to the men’s room which has some ammunition, including a box of shotgun shells. Such things foretell of delightful items.

  We use the girl’s bathroom teleporter to go back down to the first floor hallway, and it is at this moment that I discover a particularly chunky streak of blood leading to the first floor boy’s room.

That's... not how blood works, guys.
That's... not how blood works, guys. It looks more like fallen leaves. That can't just be me.

What the blood lacks in shock value or ominous tension it more than makes up for in telegraphing the location of something, at least. Anyway, we enter the bathroom to discover that there is only one bigass stall in the back of the room.

Oh, man. The second crucified body is TOTALLY ramping up the scary factor.
Oh, man. The second crucified body is TOTALLY ramping up the scary factor.

  Huh. Gross. That’s never a good sign.

  So, the decayed body is also hooked up to an IV, which Harry naturally doesn’t comment on, because this is the kind of thing he expects to see in an elementary school. In fact, his only comment is “A hanging body… Why would somebody…” This is the most we’re going to get out of him.

  However, since the player doesn’t have the IQ of an earthworm, we can reasonably begin to see a theme—the wheelchair in the school and murder alley, the gurney in said alley, and the IV all begin pointing toward a hospital setting… oh, say, like Alchemilla.

  Unlike the cat scare, which did precisely nothing, this little event provides us with two things. The first is the shotgun. The second is a cryptic message scrawled on the wall: “Leonard Rhine The Monster Lurks”.

  Are you ready?

  The shotgun is arguably the aesthetically worst shotgun in video game history, sounding like a dog sneezing whenever you fire. There’s no recoil to speak of, so while it may do more damage than the pistol, it feels exactly the same. It also fires relatively quickly, going through its compliment of six shells and reloading back to full in about seven and a half seconds, while the pistol burns through its rounds in about eleven and a half. This means that it’s… well… it’s a little too effective in terms of raw stats.

Shotgun CyclePistol Cycle
To be fair, the shotgun is a bit bigger which Harry compensates for by... um... holding it like... the pistol. ::cough::

  After all, the thing about shotguns in most games is that you have to end up compensating for something when it comes to the increase in firepower. In Doom (or DOOM, if you’re feeling all shouty), the second lag time between shots can have serious consequences. In Silent Hill: Origins, you have two shots and limited range—you better hope the creature drops unless you want Travis’s insides decorating the street. And if you have more than one monster? Prepare to get fucked up, friends. Hell, in Silent Hill’s most direct competitor, the Resident Evil series, even the stupidly overpowered shotguns had fatal consequences if you didn’t compensate for the pumping time or deliberately go for a kill shot.

  So, I guess without those drawbacks, the shotgun must be an overpowered monster, right?

  Well, kind of.

  Despite limited ammo and being the stronger weapon, the increased damage is functionally negligible at best. You can kill a demon kid with the pistol in about two and a quarter seconds, give or take. The shotgun? One and a half. In a game where dodging enemies is the less slog-tastic solution to your problems, the difference of about three-quarters of a second is hardly the time saver you need… especially considering that such slim margins of time calls for twitch gameplay, like Bayonetta or DmC and most certainly not Silent Hill.

  You also only get six shells a box versus fifteen—if you’re conserving ammo by stomping monsters, that’s five kills per box versus three for the shotgun. So no matter what, the raw numbers (at least in this regard) favor the pistol for about 95% of the situations you’ll find yourself in (that is to say, non-boss situations). And don’t play the long-versus-short range defense for the shotgun; this is Silent Hill—if you want any gun to be effective, you better be willing to check the monster’s teeth for plaque before you fire.

  Also, the shotgun is in an optional room. So I guess I have to take back at least one criticism of Origins’s out-of-the-way-you-miss-it-you’re-fucked weapon placement because this game did it first.

  Also, the thing is clearly a double barreled shotgun, yet it holds six rounds.

It's also a sawed-off shotgun, which would fuck your accuracy for the cost of making your firearm illegal. Hurray!
It's also a sawed-off shotgun, which would fuck your accuracy for the cost of making your firearm illegal. Hurray!

So that’s stupid.

  The message written on the wall about Leonard Rhine is a reference to the book/movie Phantoms by Dean Koontz which, once upon a time, I really liked. It’s still one of his better books and is an enjoyable read, if a little too reliant on his love of random proselytizing and generic-sociopathic villains. I’m actually not too hard on this little moment.

  … well, except for the fact that this is one of the game’s narrative failures. Harry is supposed to be an author, remember? In case you forgot (which is understandable because the game never fucking tells us) Harry writes for a living. What he writes is never established, never discussed, and never acknowledged.

  What could have happened (should have, really) is Harry should have recognized the name and perhaps struggled to remember what the book was about if the inevitable reveal was so precious to the developers. Or he could have just told the player. Bam—Harry would have demonstrated knowledge that he would reasonably have and appeared less profoundly stupid than he behaves 90% of the time.

  But whatever.

  Snazzy new weapon in our pocket (where is Harry keeping all this shit?), we journey back into the southern hall. As is the theme of this level, the floor is bisected by a fence, so we have to duck into a demon-infested classroom and cut into the south-western one. This room is actually mostly empty, save for a box of bullets and a table with a bunch of disconnected phones on it.

  When we go to leave, one of the phones rings (!). Harry, never one to be impolite regarding phone etiquette, picks it up. Cheryl is on the other end (!). Harry screams her name before she asks him where he is. And with that, she is cut off, replaced by a disconnected signal (I just realized there are people who will never know what that sounds like). Mr. Mason just knows that was Cheryl’s voice (the fact that she referred to him as “daddy” wasn’t a big enough clue, however). He puts the phone back on the cradle and… that’s that. Examining the phone again just makes Harry say “Can’t use the phone.” So… to the south hallway stairwell (after unlocking the door to the western hall)!

  We can actually go all the way up to the roof in the nightmare world, which is kind of keen. There’s not a whole lot going on up there, outside of a fancy gutter system and the questionable décor.

... Fellas.
... Fellas.

Examining the far end of it, though, reveals that there is a key caught in a pipe, which immediately gives me flashbacks to Origins’s similar key-in-a-pipe puzzle. Naturally, the key is out of reach of hand, pipe, or knife, so we’ll have to flush it out.

Silent Hill: Proudly Inconveniencing Dull-Witted Protagonists Since 1999
Silent Hill: Proudly Inconveniencing Dull-Witted Protagonists Since 1999

Maybe people in Silent Hill have a debilitating disease which prevents them from being able to think of things in non-ridiculous terms. Like maybe they have to make cereal in a convoluted way for their brain to actually process that it’s ready for human consumption.

  Hm? Oh, sorry. Got lost in thought.

  So, there is a spout to turn on the water along the perimeter of the roof. I know, I was surprised it wasn’t blood, too. Now, why would Harry care? Well, this will naturally produce enough water with enough force to flush the key down the drain. Duh. However, should you turn it on first, the liquid runs down a separate spout before it reaches the target.

  The solution, then, is to stuff the pink ball down the hole and then turn on the spigot. This will send water down the gutter. Yes, it is stupid. Yes, it is outlandish that you would find the one fucking item that you would need to plug up a spigot when, say, Harry’s jacket or a demon baby’s head would also do. Yes, Harry will do it without knowing there’s even a key to get in the first place. It’s not a suspected doghouse, you see.

  You know, game, you could have at least slapped a grate over the hole at the end to justify why Harry couldn’t OH, GOD, I’M DEFENDING PART OF THE ORIGINS KEY PUZZLE WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?

  Anyway, flushing the key down the gutter causes it to pop out in the courtyard, which means hopping down the stairs and heading to the least fucked up area of the nightmare school. Picking up the key reveals that it is labeled 2NW, which means that I now have access to the classrooms that were locked… that I didn’t actually know were locked. So… um… hurray?

  Wait a second… the gutter system drains into the courtyard? I was about to give the game shit for having the spigot and gutter system in the first place, until I thought of the custodial staff that may use it for getting detritus off the roof. Then I realized it deposits shit directly into the enclosed courtyard. How is this in any way useful? Shouldn’t it drain out into the school’s backyard rather than a spot that will require the custodians to collect the gunk and cart it through the school to dispose of?

  WHO EVEN DID THIS TO THE KEY IN THE FIRST PLACE!?

  Returning to the second floor, I decide to clear out the southern wing just to make sure that I don’t leave any valuable merch behind. Much like the lower floor, the west wing is divided into two separate sections, forcing Harry to move through the classrooms. All told, I get some ammo and a health drink for my trouble, but Harry’s penis is savagely knifed and his feet chewed, throwing him into critical status. This requires my first use of the first aid kit of the game. Now I have still have six afterwards, but I’m assured the things are valuable, so screw those demon children and their pet roaches.

  While I’m in the south eastern hall, I decide to check out the merely-eastern hall. There are a bunch of baddies in it and the door to the music room is now jammed shut. However, the locker room is still open and stepping inside reveals a familiar rattling emanating from a locker that is seeping blood onto the floor.

  Gasp! Did Mr. Mittens survive being eaten? I mean… kind of, considering that’s a lot of blood to lose.

  Silent Hill! A game of subtle horror and atmosphere that uses blood as “scary” shorthand and has two jump scares in the same room within about twenty minutes of each other. Man, that psychological tension is just killer.

  Okay, I will admit I’m being sardonic just because I can’t stand the people who think Silent Hill as a series begins and ends with the second entry. Even though I knew it was coming, I still jumped. And the best part is that it works with or without the player having seen the first scare—the startle is an effective adrenaline boost.

  But it’s still a generic, run-of-the-mill jump scare, just like you see in your generic, run-of-the-mill horror movies.

  Anyway, the corpse with the outrageously good timing had possession of a key to the library reserve, which I guess is something we needed. So good for us for exploring in the random directions necessary to ease our travels! Well, relatively speaking—the siren song of the key item drop triggers a spawn of demon children in the south-eastern classroom, and it’s always so much fun to deal with the dick-knifing little shits.

  The rest of the journey to the library reserves is uneventful, so we will use that lull in the action as pretense for taking a break. Join me for our next thrilling episode, Murdering Godzillas: A Primer.

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

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