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"'Aira would bring him some medicinal herbs, and they always made him feel much better,' NPC woman says. I don't know what's more disturbing -- that everyone's acting like Aira is freaking Jesus or that she's peddling 'medicinal herbs' to dirty old men."
     -Jeanne, Grandia II Part 5

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Silent Hill : Part 1
By Kelly
Posted 03.06.04
Pg. 1 : 2 : 3
I had to have been out of my mind when I happily agreed with Jeanne to take on the entire Silent Hill collection recaps. There are few other game fandoms that get quite as rabid as this one, and the thought of thousands of angry gamers banging down my door -- well, first it made me laugh, and then I was scared. What would my neighbors think? Then I remembered that my neighbors across the road are inbred hillbillies and can't think, and my other neighbors are an older retired couple who could care less. So, with all these things in mind, it was with a mixture of foolhardy bravado and suicidal tendencies that I fired up the PS2, put a new tape in the VCR and toddled my ass over to the couch to meet my fate, my fearless teddy bear firmly clutched in one trembling hand.

Our epic adventure begins with the opening credits, as these things often do. We see the phrase "The fear of blood tends to create fear for the flesh" as some mournful mandolin music starts in, lifted no doubt from The Godfather movie soundtrack. My immediate thought is, "What the fuck is this? A Very Special episode of The Sopranos?" Well, never mind, here comes a fade in on a picture of a young girl and the beginning of a quick-cut scene montage opening. The girl looks about seven or so and dressed in an old-fashioned black and white dress of the type worn by Wednesday Addams. Next there's a shot of a loving couple, standing in the middle of a graveyard. The man cradles an infant in his arms. It makes me wonder if the stork just really messed up this time, or if it's some new development in mythical baby making. I'd make a comment about evil Cabbage Patch Kids, but someone's already beaten me to it.

The mandolin music fades into some jangly, "Twin Peaks" meets Roy Rogers guitar music. I think there's only one guitar piece that films and television use to convey Small Towns That Just Ain't Right or a Long and Lonesome Highway, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if it were called something like "Twangy Forbidding Guitar Solo in C Minor." Now we see a little girl walking along and scuffing her feet, now a shot of the same man as before waking up on some kind of bench. Now a nubile young nurse crawling forward on her hands and knees to fling herself at the man in a hospital ward, now an older woman with my Mom's old "best" tablecloth on her head standing in a church. See, I always knew that if I stayed with Mother Church I'd end up in a bad way. First it's three Hail Mary's and two Our Father's, next it's wearing a table runner as a mystical veil of slightly sinister foreshadowing.

Now we're looking at the older version of the first little girl, who turned out to be a tall and willowy young woman, then it's back to the nubile nurse who's looking scared-weepy-cute in that "I'm going to die anyway, so let's just do it!" horror movie heroine kind of way. Now it's a scene of another man, holding a gun and looking morose, then a cut to a blonde female police officer, looking skeptical in that special way that all cops have when they think you're full of shit. I think they teach it at the Police Academy. We switch to long pan out on a Jeep Wrangler, tooling down a twisty mountain highway in the dark, and then cut in to the occupants, the man from the graveyard/hospital clips and the little girl who was scuffing her feet. The girl is sleeping with an artist's sketchbook open on her chest. We cut to a scene of a young woman waking up from a nap, and she appears to be badly burned over most of her body. But don't look too long; because for one, you can't since we've already switched back to the Jeep and two, it's rude to stare.

This time, a police motorcycle follows the Jeep, and on it sits the policewoman from earlier. Now we see her sitting at a desk with her feet propped up on the desktop, talking into a mobile phone. Of course, to add to this scene sure to fuel fanboy lust, our Officer Friendly's looking rough 'n' tough and wearing her standard-issue aviator shades. Also, the standard uniform for cops in this part of the country includes skin-tight leather pants.


We see more scenes of the man, the girl, the nurse (who looks more and more psychotic as we go), the gun-holding man, Old Mother Table Runner, the Jeep, and a scene of the crashed police motorcycle on the side of the road. Oh, and a farmhouse. A farmhouse? The hell? The opening ends with the man driving the Jeep about to run down the girl from the opening picture and instead crashes it into something.

Damn. If the opening montage is that fucked up, just what do we have to expect for the rest of the game? Too late, the new game screen is upon us, and we must go forward to meet our doom. Doom, I say!

I would like to note that for the purpose of this recap, I will be playing the game on the "easy" mode. Yes, start screaming now, people who think that all easy-mode players aren't TWOO GAMER0RZ. I just want to get through this with what's left of my sanity and wrist mobility intact. I'm sure I've already mentioned that I hate the rotate-forward controller scheme with a passion unequaled. Feel free to cast any aspersions on my gamer-girldom as you like, since I'm rubber and you're glue and all that.

We start back in the Jeep, with a sinister wind sound as our background music and a black and white color scheme. It would appear that the two occupants made it though their crash okay, since the camera's focusing on the man waking up and his brains aren't splattered on the windows. What? This is Silent Hill, you know. Having your brains hanging outside your skull could be considered a fashion statement in these parts, rather than a catastrophic mortal injury. I'm just sayin'.

Tammy, lower! Yeah, that's right.

The man wakes with a start, and the camera switches over to the passenger seat. The empty passenger seat with the open passenger door. The man stumbles out of the Jeep, and walks a few feet down the road before the scene goes all smeary. It looks like someone put Vaseline all over the game camera. And then I realize that I do not want to know how it got there. After that, we go into game play mode, and our protagonist suddenly looks very different. He's in color for one thing, and instead of looking at his rather blandly handsome face, we're looking at his rather flat, blocky ass, Lurch-walking his way down a deserted, fog-shrouded road while a light snow begins to fall. Now, I come from a state where it's a known if somewhat uncommon occurrence for lightning to strike during a snowstorm, but fog and snow? Methinks Mother Nature may be senile in her old age.

Now it's time for the game designers to beat us over the head some more about how horribly strange and spooky the town of Silent Hill has become. Some moany sound effects in the background gain volume while our boy looks around owlishly spouting the standard "It's quiet. Too quiet" line that's in every horror movie script somewhere. And since I'm getting tired of referring to my little wooden man avatar as something impersonal, I'm going to stop the pretense and just call him Harry from here on out. Unfortunately, Harry shares his name with my former brother-in-law, who I would've gleefully fed to ravenous zombie dogs many times during his union with my sister. But let's not get ahead of ourselves here; we have a premise to construct. Harry calls for his daughter, and we learn her name is Cheryl. Harry walks along a little further to a cross-walk then stops again to hear footsteps running off in the distance. Just in case we missed them, what with Moaning Myrtle and her Miserable Trio providing the background music for this little adventure, Harry tells us about them on screen. Thanks, Harry. Maybe I was wrong and you weren't a complete waste of oxygen and a shiftless loser who liked barely-legal schoolgirl porn, not unlike many men of your ilk. I'm sure that any delectable young cheerleader would love to get a boning from a balding, hyperkeratosis encrusted, black-toothed Neanderthal who would've taken great pleasure in watching La Blue Girl over and over again if he had ever heard of the word "hentai" and could figure out what the hell it meant -- dammit, wrong Harry again. Anyway, after hearing the footsteps, Harry takes off running, well, as close to it as you can come when you don't bend your knees. He heads around the corner into a lovely FMV since we haven't had one in about a minute or so. The FMV shows a little girl in a blue and white plaid pinafore dress like the one Cheryl wore earlier. She-Might-Be-Cheryl walks along at her leisure, scuffing her feet and taking her time, but just as Harry closes in on her, she takes off trotting along in the opposite direction. Harry, all concerned parental unit, changes course and continues running after her, wanting to know where she's going, who she's going to be with, and if there's any chance she's going to become possessed by some strange cult god and attempt to destroy the world. You know you never can start too early in teaching your kids to resist the temptations of peer pressure and occult world domination. Just because some other father lets their seven-year-old infect the mind of an entire town doesn't mean that you can, young lady.

Could it be...Satan?

The town of Silent Hill?
All together ookey!


Harry should've limbered up a bit, since Cheryl outruns him easily, tripping her happy little way into the fog. Harry lumbers to keep up and we head down a street lined with either garages or self-storage units, I can't tell which. Towards the end of the street we hear a gate creak shut, and turning a corner there stands a metal gate with a rather ironic "Beware of Dog" sign on it. Harry, no stranger to narrative convention, ignores the sign and goes through the gate to find what appears to be an entire cow laminated on the side of a building. The only other surer deterrent I can think of is a sign written in otherworldly dripping blood saying "Go Back Dumbass!", but even the game designers were not that obvious, and poor Harry's just that damned oblivious. You could have a chorus line of Old Ones doing the Charleston to "Cthulhu's Old-Time Devil Rag" and our hero would just tool on by them intent on getting his fool head ripped off by creatures who look like what happens when God cleans out his spare part bin by running the contents through a garbage disposal with one working rotor.

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