Silent Hill
Survival horror cult hit developed by pachinko artists

Review Written by

date published: 1.24.23
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Is there anything in your life that you really like the idea of, but just don’t really use/engage with as much as you thought you would? Maybe those Pokemon cards you bought off eBay last year or the guitar that has been sitting in the corner of your room since you decided you were going to learn how to play? Well what about something you really like the idea of, but actively despise using or engaging with? I think this is a little less common than the other, but imagine a beautiful, hand-crafted teapot that burns your hand every time you use it. Or perhaps a gun that shoots the person holding it? Annoying, right? It’s weird - why do we spend time and money on things we don’t actually enjoy using? Well I don’t know. But I do know that for me, this phenomenon comes in the form of a Sony PlayStation game called

Silent Hill is a survival horror game for the Sony PlayStation that released in North America in February of 1999. The game ended up spawning a moderately-sized series complete with spinoffs, comics, movies, etc. and remains incredibly popular (with its fans) today. Developed by Japanese pachinko artists “Konami”, Silent Hill follows a father named Harry as he tries to find his missing adopted daughter after a car crash. While scouring the town of Silent Hill, Harry meets some locals, visits some spooky buildings, solves puzzles, and fends off angry demons.

Silent Hill's loading screen

This game has a very (very) strong VIBE. There are moments in this game where the vibe almost becomes tangible - like the thick, chewy fog that surrounds the town of Silent Hill. Everything seems uncertain - Are the locals real? What happened to this town? Is Harry in a nightmare? The game steeps you in a mood that is so potent, your neighbors will feel it when you’re playing. Navigating a desolate town in a perpetual state of dusk is creepy enough on its own, but add in some demons and spooky lore and you’ve got yourself a tangible vibe. I can’t explain how much the mood of Silent Hill clicks with me - it just really hits the spot. There isn’t another video game that scratches this kind of itch for me let alone nearly this well.

Harry walking into the fog

Alright - if the last paragraph was the beautiful, hand-crafted teapot, then this is the part where it burns your hand every single time you use it: Silent Hill is not fun to play. Sure, you might say Silent Hill is a survival horror game and that it is supposed to be difficult and scary, but you know what? It should still be fun. My first issue with Silent Hill are the puzzles. I love puzzle games. That said, in every Silent Hill game, it feels like the developers go out of their way to make the puzzles way more obtuse than they need to be. Instead of seeing a puzzle and solving it, I am trying to decipher what the puzzle wants me to do and then trying out what I think is right until I get somewhere. Attempting these puzzles and running back and forth to reference clues gets real old when monsters and demons chase you every where you go. The puzzles are (in a sense) the meat and potatoes of Silent Hill. They are the obstacles blocking Harry’s way to his goal (other than enemies (but we’ll get to that later)). They can be really rewarding if the player can solve them, but most of the puzzles in the game just felt a little more obtuse than I would have liked.

The PlayStation had certain limitations, graphical fidelity being one of them. Luckily, the entire town of Silent Hill is covered in a fog so thick, Harry cant see more than two feet in front of him. This cuts down on how many polygons the PlayStation had to load in at the time and simultaneously ruins your experience of exploring the town. With such limited visibility, Harry has to be directly in front of something for you to be able to see it. Early on in the game, I spent an hour and a half looking for a dog house that I missed because I was on the wrong side of the street when I went past it. Fog is cool and it definitely has a place in this game, but with it being so dense and opaque, it really put a damper on the exploration for me. I am sure the game is this way due to hardware limitations, but I know there are other PlayStation games that have much larger draw distances.

The last major issue I had with the game was combat (specifically melee combat). Harry moves his body with the grace of a rhinoceros. Which, in theory, is fine - He is (probably) not trained in combat, so he shouldn’t be super proficient with all these weapons. But it feels absolutely awful to control Harry during these situations. He just flails away with his lead pipe until he gets stunlocked by hell hounds. This was the studio’s first open world 3D game and it was early-ish in the PS1’s lifespan, so I am taking that into account, but combat in Silent Hill just feels so bad. There is also about 3x more combat than I would have liked in this game. There are a lot of enemies and too much mediocre combat can kill that perfect vibe I was describing earlier.

Writing in blood saying 'Come to Silent Hill'

All in all, Silent Hill is a cool game. A cool game with a lot of issues that I will not be revisiting anytime soon. However, I am very much looking forward to the exciting, new Silent Hill games that were announced. One looks to be a new entry in the main series ‘Silent Hill f’ and another is being made by one of my favorite game studios and is called ‘Silent Hill: Townfall’. Before the recent announcement of the new games, there was an 11-year gap with no new Silent Hill games (besides a demo called P.T.) so it goes without saying that new games in the series are long overdue. I have always been a fan of the Silent Hill series, but I can say with confidence: it was never about the gameplay.

A scene of the game glitching out


"There isn't any other game that I like as much, but hate playing"

"Just play Silent Hill 2"

"I am sorry this all happened to Harry"