home bio blog armyofdarkness media projects contact

Newest Entries
Archives


Part Title

  Welcome back, Traipsers! When last we left Harry, he had just endured a very silly conversation that was jam packed with delicious apocalyptic imagery!

To be fair, this is just her ice breaker.
To be fair, this is just her ice breaker.

It turns out that Alessa is going to be tagging the lighthouse and the amusement park for some reason. Maybe they’re really pertinent to the ghost of a little girl who spent her entire life abused, but it’s never really made clear why those two places are being used as… um… whatever it is Alessa is trying to do. Seal Silent Hill in darkness? Summon a demon? Get some street cred?

'Nice hammer you got there. Be a shame if someone set fire to it.'
"Nice hammer you got there. Be a shame if someone set fire to it."

  Erm… are you sure you don’t want to go through a second draft, Konami?

  I mean, I can clearly see Midwich Elementary, Alchemilla, and the Green Lion being relevant to Alessa. But the amusement park and light house? Why do I feel that the two final locations with real-world analogs were chosen because they afforded some potential nifty imagery rather than a logical extension of those locations up to now that Alessa held to be important/particularly scarring?

  Also, did Alessa know about the waterworks and where they led? It would be logical to assume she did, considering it’s right next to her school. If she did, why didn’t she just collapse it? Or rip out the ladders? I’m assuming she’s trying to stop anyone from coming between her and her nebulous goal, so it seems she’d want to put a pin in that.

  Oh, shit. Sorry. I’m still in recap mode, aren’t I? As the owner of the game’s single brain cell, Cybil decided that she had enough of the plot’s claptrap and ran off to the amusement park, leaving Harry to tackle the lighthouse. Said lighthouse is relatively close, but is only accessible through the game’s shittiest “dungeon” segment. So after Harry takes one last survey of the houseboat…

Harry, once more taking the time to pontificate on precisely the wrong thing.
Harry, once more taking the time to pontificate on precisely the wrong thing. And don't tell me what to do, asshole.

… we head out into the waiting night!

  So, first thing’s first—Dahlia left this way, and it’s clear that she just fucking vanished. There is literally only one path to take that isn’t, you know, in the water or over barbed wire that will take more than an ardent faith in god to circumvent…

Barbed wire is surprisingly effective for mercilessly keeping out people you hate.
Barbed wire is surprisingly effective for mercilessly keeping out people you hate.

… so I want to know where could she have gone that would have made it impossible to find or at least bump into her on the way to the lighthouse? Can she teleport? Or is this another example of the developers not thinking things through? Sure, Cybil can somehow silently break the sound barrier and Dahlia can fly. Everyone’s superhuman now. It would explain Harry’s face remaining the same despite repeated and brutal scalpel-based ear canal cleanings by parasitized nurses.

  Anyway, as teased for two updates now, the next two minutes or so appear to be the worst in the game. Super tense, to be sure, but fun? Eh. The enemy spawning rate seems catastrophically high, with dogs, simians, and birds popping in with such frequency that if you were foolish enough to stay and fight, it suggests that you’d be overrun very quickly. But that alone isn’t a problem.

  What makes this sequence so unbearable is the fact that you’re running on extremely narrow platforms that have no real avenues of dodging should the need arise. Coupled with the surprising number of demon birds coming after you, it’s very hard to escape this area unscathed. In other words, if the game says you’re taking a hit, you’re taking a hit.

  On easy and normal mode, this isn’t really a problem—the enemies are weak enough where Harry can tank a couple of hits and still be in fighting shape. Hard mode, however, will wreck your shit if you’re not careful. I distinctly remember the “exciting” pier-running sequence being one of the few moments where Harry actually died when I was younger and playing this game, just because of the unexpected force of monsters lining up to rip off the guy’s balls.

  I guess Harry doesn’t understand pier-to-pier services. BOOM.

MS Word tried to save you from that pun. It couldn't.
MS Word tried to save you from that pun. It couldn't.

  However (for there is always a however), this is all artificial tension, brought on myself for being a spaz. You see, in my normal playthrough, I ran through like I usually do, trying my best to dodge the enemies while just taking my various pummelings in stride. BUT if you actually just walk your way through and kill every enemy in your way, even with just the pistol, they don’t respawn like they normally would when outside. Oh, the game tricks you into thinking they’ll spawn like salmon because the “dungeon” of sorts happens to be out-of-doors, but the enemies appear to be generated in specific areas only. Where your brain further tricks you is that there are three demon birds that can swarm you in close proximity to each other, giving the impression of monster spawning/respawning in ridiculous numbers when in actuality there’s a finite number of baddies.

  This means that Harry can stroll along the docks and murder everything that looks at him funny, and the section suddenly becomes utterly painless.

  And tensionless as well.

  I really don’t understand why the hell this game insists on pulling its punches at every available opportunity. Either make the game hard, or make it a cakewalk. Either understand that combat is an important element of your game and work with it, or de-emphasize it in favor of fleeing from danger—I shouldn’t have an armory worth of weapons and ammo in a horror game. By all means, punish just running ahead without thinking things through, but do it consistently enough so that players learn to respond to situations. And if you actually want to make a tense moment separate from all moments before it, make combat the last thing you want your players to do.

  And you know what? Both solutions—running or gunning—worked out just fine for Harry. So what the fuck is the point? If I can go all Rambo on unholy abominations or get chunks of me removed like it’s no big deal, then where’s the horror, y’all?

  But it’s not all bad, though! There are some neat things to see. Things like…

Barrels!
Barrels!

Silent Hill's Prize Winning Live Preserver!
Silent Hill's Prize Winning Life Preserver!

Planks!
Planks!

… or… um… not.

  In all honesty, this area really should have been a full-on dungeon rather than this pseudo-maze. I think a Silent Hill-ified dock area could have been an interesting idea, particularly if you absolutely needed to have that drug subplot. Dr. Skeeves could have had two boats in the yard, one for business and the other for pleasure. Harry stumbles on the regular boat and finds a key as well as a few clues as to who owns the boat. The key unlocks the semi-sunken drug boat, loaded down with cash and drugs. Further, there’s a corpse that looks different from the others—like a human being had been trapped here and mutilated by, say, a drug kingpin who hates it when people touch his stuff.

  But whatever! Lighthouse! The interior of said building is actually pretty neat, with a spiral staircase stretching beyond the camera’s point of view.

Theory vs. Practice.png
Theory_vs_Practice.png

The problem is that Harry is harder to control than a drunken lemur, so we end up taking forever to walk up the steps. I do understand that it looks cool, but if it’s not fun to play, why the hell is it in a game? It doesn’t do anything to ramp up the tension, like the infamous ladder sequence in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, it’s a visual that gets old real quick, we can’t even run up the steps because Harry stops every couple of feet to slow down… why did we subject the player to this?

  Oh, hey, Alessa’s at the top of the lighthouse!

Aw, that scamp!
Aw, that scamp!

And she’s already completed the Flauros mark! It’s so fresh that it’s steaming which is… um… cool, maybe? Or maybe it’s bad? Is it a bad thing? I don’t know.

  Harry yells at her to wait (why he doesn’t open fire or fling the Flauros at her is anyone’s fucking guess), and she responds by vanishing. He then provides me with more fodder for hating his stupid face with a subsequent comment to Alessa’s vanishing act.

That's not a question, Harry.
That's not a question, Harry. Also, yes. Yes you were. Clearly.

  So, that’s the lighthouse. Harry came, achieved nothing, and then leaves. The subtitle for this game should have been Perpetually Late to the Party. What has been the point of this or anything else thus far? Even if Harry had succeeded at something, how on earth would we know? What good could possibly come from it?

  You can wander about on the lighthouse’s surprisingly spacious roof…

Harry hiding in the shadows like a creep.
No one will notice me here... yesssss... no one will notice...

… which totally suggests this building actually look like Seattle’s Space Needle, but I’m sure that’s just me. The only thing we can really do at this point is head back to the boat, so I’m certainly glad we spent the time confirming that Harry is the most useless protagonist outside of Bella fucking Swan.

  So, let’s focus on the build up to this scene. Let’s say Harry has totally bought into Dahlia’s nonsense about the end of days (which I’m not convinced of, because he seemed more interested in talking to Alessa than stopping her)—why wouldn’t he have prepped the Flauros on the way to top of the lighthouse? I mean, that would make sense, wouldn’t it? If you were given orders to use a magical whatsit in order to stop the fucking apocalypse, wouldn’t you have that shit out and ready to go?

  Or, hell, even going back to the fact that this guy has a gun that he seems comfortable enough with to shoot monsters off of people with it…

Or... you know... the vague direction of monsters.
Or... you know... the vague direction of monsters on people.

… why isn’t he doing everything in his power to stop a perceived danger?

  Uggggggh…

  Anyway, we leave the lighthouse. Unless you killed everything on your approach, a dog spawns off camera and is in the perfect position to run straight at Harry before he can leave the confines of the staircase. This will almost always lead to you getting hit if you try to make a break for it… you know, like you would in 90% of the situations you find yourself in this game. However, if you happen to know it’s coming and have everyone’s favorite challenge-destroying melee weapon equipped, you can participate in Silent Hill’s favorite pastime of semi-competitive dog-tossing.

Come one, come all!
Come one, come all!

It’s a beautiful thing.

  For whatever reason, whether laziness or a bizarre fit of compassion, the game teleports you back to the boat when you run far enough away from the lighthouse. I really don’t know why the game teleports you when it does, but after my panicky normal mode run, I wasn’t going to question favors. After my second run, though, I have to wonder if it was because teleporting the player to the boat was less hassle than respawning the monsters.

  Harry’s first comment when he materializes in the houseboat is the Cybil isn’t back yet. Then… well…

... um, who are you talking about, Harry?
... um, who are you talking about, Harry?

I know he’s talking about Alessa, here, but he hasn’t mentioned Alessa in his mutterings to himself, so it’s kind of like he’s talking about Cybil. Watch the video at the end with that in mind.

  But if we are to turn to critiquing the script again, Harry really needs to decide if he believes this girl is a threat or not. If she is, then there was no excuse for him not to have tried to gun her down/“use” the Flauros on her the moment he emerged on the lighthouse roof. If not, then why is he referring to her as a creep? Character consistency over the course of sixty seconds… bah, who needs it?

  Then Harry says “Let me be on time!” to himself so… I guess we’re resolved to head to the amusement park? I guess?

  There’s a couple of things about this scene which are troubling:

  1) Alessa vanished in front of your eyes, implying that she can teleport. I don’t care if she can’t, but that’s the implication. She’s a magic psychic girl who is throwing magic sigils down all over town, you daft clown. How you think you can beat her there, let alone stop her from making the seal, is a mystery.

    1a) Has… has Alessa just been walking everywhere? Is that why we’re several hours into this bullshit and we haven’t been winked out of existence left? Is there an excuse for why this is taking so long? Is Alessa drunk with power and rum, making her a stumbling mess? Or is this a case of “It’s a game, don’t think about it,” which is the kind of shitty storytelling I have come to expect from this title?

  2) The save file I made immediately after this says you’ve been gone for 3 minutes and 53 seconds, Harry. Even if we were to generously double that to a fairly long 8 minutes, look at the distance you needed to travel versus Cybil…

I know we're supposed to be concerned, but Harry's huffiness speaks less to concern and more to dickishness.
I know we're supposed to be concerned, but Harry's huffiness speaks less to concern and more to dickishness.

Even including your dopey ass cutscene finishing up, how on earth would you expect Cybil to run all the way there and back? This is especially pertinent considering “the center of the amusement park” is not exactly a super specific description of where she needs to look for a pan-dimensional psychic murder ghost. Imagine searching motherfucking Disneyland or a Six Flags theme park with only “center” to go on. Throw in the tendency for the abyss to swallow up whole sections of road, and it becomes apparent that we probably shouldn’t be worried quite yet.

  Long story short, fuck you, Harry.

  Anyway, our new goal is to head to that sewer entrance that was teased threatened a couple updates ago. Cybil, ever the more competent character than Harry, managed to lift the cover and descend into the waiting dullness below. When Harry follows suit, the game cuts to full motion video!


B... behind... BEHIND... never mind.

  Oh… oh, dear. Join me next time for—

  Hey, wait a minute! That’s not the nightmare reality!

Oversight? Intentional? Does it even matter at this point?
Oversight? Intentional? Does it even matter at this point?

THAT’S NOT THE NIGHTMARE REALITY AT ALL!

  Whatever. Join me next time for Another Cocking Sewer Level.

BONUS:

Harry is bad at making friends:

Harry whines about how human beings can't break the laws on physics on his whims:

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

< PREVIOUS ENTRYNEXT ENTRY >

AdviceFictionGamingGeneral MusingsReviews