Why did it take you so long to play it?
Those who know me, know that I don’t actively avoid playing horror games, so that’ not why. I think it was a combination of not being familiar enough with the franchise to know what I was missing out on, but also knowing of the game’s reputation for tough love and puzzles.
Did the story make any sense? If not, what do you think was the problem?
The story only makes sense if you really, really think about all the nuggets of information it tries to divulge in its own odd, little ways. I understood much of the source of what was going on, eventually (like in the last quarter of the game), when there was a flashback to a scene about some of the characters wanting to perform a ritual.
Realising it was a black magic practising cult gone wrong filled in a lot of gaps… at the same time that’s a trope I’d previously been exposed to in other media (namely X-Files and Buffy), so if you haven’t encountered that kind of story before, I suppose the story would continue to make little sense.
The game was designed to be an answer to Resident Evil. Which do you think is better executed?
I think both are of dubious quality, so I can’t say which is better executed. There are aspects that Silent Hill does better, like adding to your feelings of terror as you play. But then there are things that the original Resident Evil did better, such as having a more coherent story, which was more thoroughly reinforced in cutscenes and in-game documents.
Did it have many scenes or moments where you genuinely felt scared while playing it?
None of the cutscenes really freaked me out. What scared me was being in control of Harry. The controls and camera are what make this game scary, limiting the amount of agency you have over your avatar, making each enemy encounter potentially your last if you slip up in shifting Harry out of the way or misfire your weapon.
How were the enemies? Why do you feel they were scary?
The enemies were a varied bunch. The way references to the game have been made out over the years since its launch, you would have thought that the more humanoid enemies (the nurses and doctors) were going to be your main problems, but they turned out to be easy to deal with. No, it was the smaller and more agile beasts that stalked you which were scarier. Apart from being hard to spot in places, they were scary when they swarmed, cornering you in a room or on the side of a street.
Despite the game being set in the US, it was made by a Japanese team. Why do you think they decided on the setting for Silent Hill?
“There are aspects that Silent Hill does better, like adding to your feelings of terror as you play.”
The game seems to be renowned for it’s puzzle elements. How well did you feel these were done? Were they logical?
The puzzles came thick and fast, but I was not impressed with any of them. I felt few were logical and several I suspected lost something in translation. I can’t point my finger on which in particular lost something in translation, but I feel that those who are quite familiar with Japanese folktales and culture would have had an easier time in deciphering much of the game.
The game is driven by your character, Harry Mason, trying to track down his daughter, Cheryl. Did it always work?
Harry at first seemed really desperate to find his daughter and freaked out by what was going on around him. But then came huge bits of the game where he seemed more intrigued by the mystery that was Silent Hill, rather than his missing daughter. And it was quite crappy how, late on in the game, they tagged on the nugget of information that Cheryl was adopted and had been found nearby.
There’s the town and then there’s the hellish alternate dimension. How did moving from one to the other make you feel?
It was definitely eerie, and experiencing how the enemies became more ferocious certainly made me wary of the switch. But aspects like a lack of visibility were almost the same. I think what had the most impact and made me feel a bit queasy was the added blood and gore during the hellish moments.
There’s several different endings to the game. Which one did you have? Was it satisfying?
I had what might be considered the best ending. It was satisfying in that Harry got out alive and Cybil, but it still left a lot of questions unanswered and was very open to interpretation.
The extra characters, did you feel their motivations were clear enough?
“I felt few [puzzles] were logical and several I suspected lost something in translation.”
Are you looking forward to Silent Hills with Norman Reedus?
I like Norman Reedus as an actor, so that’s a bonus. I’m not sure if I can look forward to the new game though, it depends on how much the puzzles will have evolved from 1999.