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  Greetings, Traipsers! I hope your Halloween was average to above-average. Any more than that and we’re just fooling ourselves, aren’t we? Last time on Harry Mason—Poor Puzzle Solver, the player found out that the mysterious drugs that Cybil wouldn’t shut up about…

False Accusations!  Or Not!
Stuff relevant to the plot may or may not be happening!

… were being pushed by Dr. Skeeves. We discovered this by running around the resort area, uncovering his stash of drugs at a general store, and then finding a vial of red stuff in a motor cycle’s gas tank. Said red stuff was not the pile of powder-like drugs we saw in the general store, but rather the red liquid we stumbled across in the hospital.

Hospital  Motorcycle
Oh, yeah, sure. That'll happen.

Not that it mattered anyway, because good ol’ Dr. K burst in and yelled at us for touching his stuff. This ended with Harry summing up the Silent Hill experience pretty succinctly:

Yup.
Yup.

  Before we move on, one final note about this side quest. As I mentioned in the last update, it is actually very easy to miss out on this entire thing and, thusly, miss out on the good endings. In every area of the game, there has only been one optional building—the convenience store in our starting area, the police station in the commercial district—and of those two, only the convenience store was telegraphed to be searchable thanks to its front door being ajar. There is no reason to think that you can visit Annie’s Bar, the Indian Runner, or the motel.

  The thing is that the game appears to do everything in its power to make it so that you can’t initiate it, let alone solve it. The key panel (which I now think may actually be one of two whole instances in the game rather than one), the cabinet without scratches on the floor, the side-by-side note-and-photo that have to be triggered separately... and the fact that this is the only legitimate side quest in the game. At no other point is there an optional area with an optional sequence of events—everything else is super linear, so the inclusion of this moment is weird at best.

  To put it in perspective, I don’t think a side quest of this particular nature was done again in the series until Silent Hill: Downpour… or the seventh entry in the main series. Why is this fucking here? I do have to wonder how many people actually organically found and solved this on their first time through the game. The only reason I found out about it was because of a strategy guide. Otherwise, I probably would have just wandered south until I hit a hole in the road.

Map!
Map!

  With Kaufmann’s stash of protein shakes sufficiently raided and almost immediately stolen back from us, the only left to do in this part of town is to wander west on Sandford Street. On yet another broken staircase down to the… lakefront, I guess… a health drink and a box of rifle rounds make their home. So it’s pleasant that this side of town does have some loot in it, even if it’s a total of like four things on opposite ends of the map.

  For the first part of the journey, the sound of gentle waves and gulls fills the night. It’s… weirdly normal. And effectively unsettling. But because that was clearly the result of one designer not getting the memo about ambience, heading far enough along the lakefront triggers the end of days:


Oh, Harry, does anything ever get through that stupid haircut of yours?

  As you can see, Harry describes this moment as being different from before, in that instead of shifting from reality to a nightmare, it’s like reality becoming a nightmare. So… it’s different from before because it’s literally the same thing as before. Either that, or you suck at describing things, Mr. Writer Man.

  I mean, this is functionally no different from three out of the four nightmare world transitions that Harry has thus far experienced—Murder Alley, Midwich, and Alchemilla. The significance here is that it isn’t happening between loading screens. If you wanted the earlier transitions to be more dreamlike, you should have made them happen the same way you had them happen when Harry got stoned in the Green Lion and passed out.

  I mean, really think about it—would it not make infinitely more sense for Harry to not believe what he’s seeing if every nightmare world visit happened after losing consciousness? Instead, he just kind of bumbles through some arbitrary gateway and suddenly, nightmare. No break, no commentary, just he’s there solving dopey puzzles. Good lord, it would actually make this moment mean something instead of just another dungeon-esque area to be cleared. And seeing as how this is the last nightmare transition in the game, it needed to be a lot more effective at this than just telling us it was different—it needed to actually be different.

  And then there’s this wonderful little nugget of wisdom from Harry:

Well, the world's transitioned into an unending night, monsters are all around, and my daughter's missing. I've got a bad feeling about this.
"Well, the world's transitioned into an unending night, monsters are all around, and my daughter's missing. I've got a bad feeling about this."

Really, Harry? Really? Something bad is going to happen? Not, oh say, something bad has already happened, is continuing to happen, and will probably be happening for a while yet? No mention of about a thousand people who, to the best of your knowledge, are probably dead? Your daughter who happens to still be missing? The horrifically possessed doctors and nurses you slaughtered? No, just a sense of impending doom? Okay, dude. Right. Awesome.

  Also, is that it? That’s the transition to the nightmare world that people preferred over this?


Once again, I feel I must reiterate: SWEEEEEEEEEEEEET.

  Look, everyone, the Silent Hill movie did a lot of really, profoundly stupid things. But the visual aesthetic was pretty goddamn sweet. And, yeah, the PSOne didn’t have a lot of horsepower, so they did what they could, but this transition is just turning down the opacity of one layer while ramping up the other. I’m fine with ending up with the transition being the way it is, because it’s interesting and engaging. And you can’t tell me that if they could, the development team wouldn’t have had the effect be just as bombastic, considering the “horror” in this game is not in any way subtle.

Not Pictured: Subtlety
Not Pictured: Subtlety

  As previously mentioned, Silent Hill is now in full nightmare mode, which basically means that the stretch from the mall to Alchemilla is played out in a new area, only with the added bonus of no clear indication of where to go. If we try going back the way we came, we are greeted with the abyss. If we run toward the amusement park, we are greeted by the abyss. There are two things of note though: there are some pickups to the right of where Harry starts, and the entrance to the next sewer level is waiting for us by the western void.

Uuuurrrrrrrrgh...
I see you there, you piece of garbage. And I'm not talking about the dead demon thing. At least it had class.

  I am so goddamn excited about this, y’all.

  The only way to progress is southward, toward the docks. All the enemies are in their upgraded forms, which naturally means that if I’m being chased by lumpy-faced demon birds, I’m going to take a hit. Also, there are a metric ton of not only ultra-demon dogs to compliment the endless swarm of birds, but a swarm of simians also join the party. It’s really, really easy to be dogpiled, so the only way to not be horribly murdered is to just keep running to the west-southwest, to the end of the pier. Luckily, Harry isn’t a heavy smoker, so he is able to keep up the brisk jog necessary to not be disemboweled.

Ick. The water in this hellhole is disgusting.
Ick. The water in this hellhole is disgusting.

  The first part of the harrowing journey thing we have to do ends in a houseboat of sorts. I say “of sorts”, because it appears to be a boat consisting of a long-ass hallway and a wheelhouse. Something we can all agree on, though, is that the previous owners apparently had some… interesting… interior design ideas.

... Um... nice boat.
... Um... nice boat.

  Sadly, that is all we really have time for today, because we’re about to be hit with a cutscene that will eat up most of an update. And rather than have this post go on forever, we’re just going to call it a day on the progress of the game itself and instead focus on what most people would agree would be one of the least-enjoyed aspects of the series—the combat.

  Silent Hill is somewhat renowned for its terrible combat, so much so that ardent defenders of the series will often cite it as evidence of how it was utilized intentionally in order to add an atmosphere of tension. Hell, even I did it in the first update when talking about the controls. The idea being that, if something is difficult to control, it adds a layer of delicious clunkiness to the overall experience and, thusly, horror.

  Or something.

Pictured: Horror
Came out of this just fine.

  Look, the more I experience horror games, the less I think that this is true is any capacity. I think that, if you absolutely must have combat, it’s imperative that you make it deliberate and dangerous, like a chess game where your opponent has a ton of knights and queens and you have a mess of pawns. Every encounter that can’t be avoided needs to be handled with care lest you get your guts ripped out through your nose.

  Alternately, you make combat almost guaranteed fatal and that your only reliable means of self-defense is the environment. Or you make it so that combat only temporarily shoves a dangerous enemy off-balance long enough for you to get away. You make hiding from or trapping a foe the most effective means of survival, so that the few times you have to kill are moments that are both rare and powerfully effective.

  Combat in Silent Hill is competent enough to actually be your go-to in most situations if you want it to be. This is especially true in dungeons. You’re never not given enough ammo or reliable means to physically destroy all your enemies easily. Just because the aiming system isn’t the best doesn’t mean that you can’t utterly de-monster most areas. The only time where flight becomes the more important decision is either because of efficiency/lack of patience or you happen to be outside—and even then, it’s only when it’s the nightmare version of reality, so twice in the entire game.

Came out of this just fine, too.
Came out of this just fine, too.

  Just like Origins, Silent Hill doesn’t actually have a situation where Harry is powerless outside of murder alley. I mean, at the point in the game we’ve just entered, I’ve collected every melee weapon and firearm that isn’t unlockable, including a melee weapon so powerful that it one-shots just about every non-boss monster. If you’re a panicky player, I suppose you could find yourself, say, trapped in Midwich with just a knife and three bullets to your name, but I can’t see that being the common experience.

  I guess the long and short of this is that the controls and combat needn’t suck for a horror game to be effective—it needs to be not worth it unless you’re forced into it. Limited ammo is fine, but melee-weapons-only is better. Making it tough to kill a monster is all well and good, but making it a direct threat while you are only an annoyance to be eaten is better. Good horror games do seem to be slowly coming to grips with this, but I have a sad feeling that designers thinking gore and shitty controls are what horror is all about are going to be with us for a long time.

  Well, that’s all for today, Traipsers! Tomorrow, I’m going to be spending most of the day playing The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth, so if you hear screams of rage from the Midwest, that’s probably the reason why. Until then, gird your loins tightly for the magic of our next episode, I Think I Get the Plot, But I Don’t Get the Plot, But Let Me Mansplain it Anyway Because I’m a Worthless Cock.

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

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