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PSP Review: Silent Hill Origins

Players: 1

Price: $29.99

Platform(s):PSP

Developer:Konami/Climax

Publisher:Konami

ESRB:Mature

Website:Silent Hill Origins

Rating:

If there’s one thing the Japanese have taught us over the years it is that little girls are creepy. They always have been and always will be. Don’t believe me? Here. Now that you’ve properly soiled yourself we can get on with the game.

I have a theory that has been proven by the release of Silent Hill Origins. That theory is as follows: The Silent Hill games are good every other time one comes out. Silent Hill was an excellent game that had me and a couple of two-hundred fifty pound football players screaming like little girls. Silent Hill 3 saw the return of characters you care about and an interesting storyline that continued to scare the bejeezus out of players. On the other hand parts 2 and 4 were so utterly ridiculous and uninteresting that I wanted nothing to do with them beyond ritual sacrifice. Silent Hill Origins returns players to Silent Hill the way it was meant to be, almost.

Silent Hill Origins for the PSP is the fifth installment in the horror survival series. It’s actually - as would be indicated by the title – a prequel to the pre existing four games, so I guess that would make it the first game if we go by the George Lucas rule. Since we’re not morons who need chum spoon-fed to us, we’ll say that this is the fifth. As a prequel entitled Origins it can be expected that we’d get some convincing answers as to how Silent Hill became the terrorscape it is. Forget that delusion. If that’s all you want go watch the movie and make assumptions. This is another scary story from the only horror survival series better than Clocktower.

Before Harry lost his daughter, James lost his wife, Heather lost her identity or Henry lost his freedom, Travis lost his… well, I’m sure he lost something. I mean there has to be a reason for him to stick around in a creepy abandoned town with an evil, demon version of the Polyphonic Spree. Let me just look through this one more time… no, there’s no reason for him to be there besides the ridiculous broken streets and mysterious fog that no one has ever seemed to mind too much. Travis just seems to like hanging around creepy towns waiting for little girls who bring him to a blood stained versions of places.

The game starts with trucker Travis Grady nearly hitting a girl with his big rig just short of Silent Hill, then finding her in a ritualistic fire when he goes toddling off after her on foot for god knows what reason. From there the harried trucker finds himself in a world of terror surrounded by freaky nurses and things with no arms. Origins doesn’t skimp on the creepy visuals, but the main character does skimp on brains, and that’s why we love him. He’s one of those characters you want to knock upside the head, and even though you’re controlling him, you’ll spend a lot of time shouting, “Don’t go in that door! You idiot! There’s something that’s waiting to kill you!” Then you realize you have to open that door to solve the next puzzle and get over your omniscience.

Rescuing the little girl gets you into a game that has the entire repertoire of trademark Silent Hill characteristics. The storyline, like all previous ones, is based on some sort of mental illness or past trauma centered on the main character and more puzzles without an explanation of why a cult would leave clues to how you can find them and spoil their nefarious plans. Excellent graphics on the big PSP screen presents a world that gives you an unsettled feeling and a less than perfect protagonist. The game play itself even reflects how you would feel as some sort of Joe Schmoe being dropped whiz bang in the middle of a horror movie.

Despite some unbelievable elements to make the game more challenging, or easier depending on the inconsistency, interaction with the world is very well plotted and executed. The unwieldy PSP layout doesn’t present much of a problem either. After a slight learning curve of figuring out how to use the little nub to move Travis and the D-Pad to cycle weapons without switching to a scalpel while trying to run away, the game proves to have better controls than any other Silent Hill game.

The only thing that really got on my nerves was the way you have control over the world. Taking advantage of another ghost story cliché, Silent Hill is separated into two distinct worlds. There’s the real world that is empty and foggy with those idiotic broken streets, and then there’s the mirror world that is the Silent Hill we all know to be our sub-conscious. Perhaps this is due to the fact that the evil little town is still learning how to make football players wet themselves in fear, but I would think that it shouldn’t be as easy to escape the evil realm as touching a mirror.

The whole point of Silent Hill’s fear is the sense of inescapability and the intense relief you feel when you find yourself coming out of the nightmare, just to be scared again. That’s why I like the Silent Hill series so much. Even the two abortions that are wedged in every other time were able to create an atmosphere that gave you the sheer terror of living in a horror film that you have nothing you can control but your own survival.

This is a short game, so it does miss out on some of the character development that is present in the rest of the series. Having very few characters you interact with and a tiny amount of places to go, you can get through this game incredibly fast. It’s about the right length for a story based portable game. You can play it on the go and hope your batteries don’t run out before getting to a save point, or you can sit at home and not feel so guilty for playing a hand held at the kitchen table. Either way it won’t give you neck strain from looking down in your lap more than a priest during a children’s choir concert.

Silent Hill Origins is the game that I felt it necessary to get another PSP for. After all the nasty things I’ve said about the PSP, I got to play a game that was truly high quality. Looking like it could have been a PS2 release, played out as a convincing horror survival game and giving us another frightening case study into the latently psychotic mind, Silent Hill Origins was definitely worth it. This game delivers better than half of the previous Silent Hill games with fewer god damn doors than Silent Hill 3. For what it is, Origins deserves to be the next PSP game to purchase if you haven’t already.