Tomorrow, we carve pumpkins and go trick or treating, so for this month’s newsletter, I thought I’d share one of my favorite classic PlayStation horror survival games from 1999…Silent Hill.
I got this one as a birthday present and spent many a night in front of the TV playing with all the lights off. It even gave me some weird dreams—not quite nightmares, but pretty close! I still remember some of them…
This game is really done well and still holds up after 23 years, even with the more primitive graphics and animation. In the story, our hero Harry Mason is driving at night with his daughter to a seaside resort town Silent Hill when they encounter a ghostly figure of a young girl in the middle of the road. Harry swerves to miss her and gets into a wreck. When he comes to, his young daughter is missing. He then enters the town to search for her. During the game he encounters several other-worldly demons and characters as he uncovers a secret that the town had been hiding for years.
You can tell that the game creators were inspired by horror movies. They knew exactly how to take advantage of some of the game’s limitations and turn those into features. For example, the constant fog that obscures the setting outdoors as Harry looks for his missing daughter. This, coupled with a portable radio that gives feedback whenever a monster was close by, made a very spooky experience.
The limitations of the PlayStation format meant that the designers would have to pre-load graphics into memory so that they’d render as your character approached them and they appeared from off-screen. With the fog designed in the town, it saved on memory cache so that the game could load faster. The added benefit was that with such a limited visibility, it was really scary as you went through the town with the radio, unable to see past a few feet in front of you, and hearing the spooky feedback over the radio fade in louder as you approached where a monster was waiting to pounce.
For best results, you should play this game in the middle of the night with all the lights out. There are a few jump scares in the game that I won’t spoil, but when they happen…
Another great thing about this game is how the story’s plot unfolds as you go through and solve puzzles and find items, some of which are weapons to help you kill the demons and monsters, others help you to uncover more of the mystery. It’s a lot like a movie, or mini-series. I can even see elements which the Netflix hit series Stranger Things borrowed from too.
With the past two decades of the 21st Century seeing major advancements in computer technology, I’m sure that more current titles have ultra-realistic graphics that really immerse you in the environment. Don’t forget, VR headsets can really put you in the middle of the action! But there’s just something about this classic third-person adventure that feels timeless. Maybe it’s a bit of nostalgia, but I tend to think that it’s just a really well-crafted storyline that makes it such a compelling game.
If you don’t have this title, you can still watch gameplay on YouTube so you can get an idea of what I’m talking about. Not the same as playing it yourself, but you can experience it a little bit…