Content material warning: This evaluation discusses Silent Hill: The Quick Message’s story, which incorporates references to self-harm.
As a lifelong horror fan and longtime horror critic, I did not anticipate to evaluation a free Silent Hill sport that launched, PT-style, only a few minutes after it was revealed. And I actually did not anticipate it to be as forgettable as it’s. After greater than a decade away from consoles, Silent Hill: The Quick Message revives the sequence as the primary of a number of video games over the subsequent few years. I sincerely hope future installments within the franchise can rekindle the long-absent magic as a result of The Quick Message doesn’t do this. In additional methods than one, it is not the playable teaser Silent Hill followers hoped for.
Silent Hill: The Quick Message is a first-person horror sport constructed on the thought of a time loop through which its tormented essential character is trapped. If that sounds acquainted, wait till you play it. The sport is blatantly impressed by PT (or “Playable Teaser”), Hideo Kojima’s guerrilla demo for the never-released Silent Hill title he was as soon as engaged on. The Quick Message is just not Konami working again PT’s story with out its director. It is a brand-new entry into the sequence meant to be one thing of a jumping-on level for gamers uninitiated with the beforehand hibernating horror sequence. It is neither tied to any previous entry, nor a teaser for a future installment.
Clocking in at about 90 minutes, its time dedication is transient, its monetary dedication is non-existent, and but I nonetheless cannot advocate it as a result of it winds up feeling like a caricature of itself and should solely sour–or bitter further–one’s reminiscences of what was, for a time, the style’s greatest sequence.
The Quick Message would not happen in Silent Hill, however it explains why that’s and tries to inform a narrative that checks all the same old bins. Fundamental character enjoying the position of an unreliable narrator? Examine. Horrors which might be heightened at any time when that character descends into the supernatural Otherworld? Yup. A twist that recontextualizes every part you have seen earlier than it? In fact. These could possibly be seen as non-negotiable parts of any sport sporting the Silent Hill identify, however the formulation felt recent in Silent Hill 2, was nonetheless fulfilling in Silent Hill Homecoming, and was obvious–but not, I suppose, game-ruining–in Silent Hill Downpour. In The Quick Message, nonetheless, it simply feels performed out, prefer it’s writing a guide report utilizing solely the Spark Notes, understanding Silent Hill to be a metaphysical jail for a tortured wrongdoer, and taking the shortest doable path to inform that story.
Referring to an in-universe worldwide prevalence coined “The Silent Hill Phenomenon,” the sport explains that locations of despair have been identified to be enveloped in fog earlier than issues get even worse. Mainly, the sport suggests, you may have a Silent Hill anyplace, even within the unusual German city stuffed with Japanese teenagers the place the sport is ready. It appears like a foolish addition to the lore when, beforehand, Silent Hill has by no means actually been thought-about as being in the identical bodily place anyway. Silent Hill wasn’t precisely a city a lot as a vibe, however The Quick Message confuses that method, or maybe intentionally reimagines it for the more serious.
These superficial particulars of what Silent Hill has been and, as I infer it, “needs to be,” are worsened by a script that lacks subtext or subtlety to a groan-inducing diploma. Characters communicate their thoughts with such precision that they go away nothing unsaid, ever. Because the participant, there isn’t any room to misconceive, to ponder a personality’s intentions, or to be misdirected in any method apart from the a technique it does attempt to, which is probably going the apparent one you will see coming after just a few minutes within the sport.
The Quick Message does search meaningfulness in its narrative, telling a darkish story about self-harm, bullying, and a condemned constructing affected by recurring suicides amongst younger ladies. There is a kernel of one thing value exploring there, however it needs to be finished deftly. Relatively than paint in vibrant colours to create one thing poignant that each spooks its viewers and carries its meant message to the end line, the sport appears like a firehose with two settings: platitudes and nonsense.
With frequent frame-rate drops that see the sport endlessly floating between 40 and 60 frames per second, the sport additionally feels suboptimal on a technical degree. Given the strictly linear method and the restricted environments or results, it strikes me as odd that the sport cannot keep constant efficiency.
However enjoying it is not only a technical eyesore. It is an all-too-familiar haunted home story that takes the seeds of PT however bears solely rotten fruit. In actual fact, The Quick Message is indistinguishable from the last decade of PT-likes which have crowded Steam and different platforms since Kojima’s top-secret demo hit PS4. It is really worse than a number of the many others I’ve performed given the way it retreads a lot acquainted territory however to a much less spectacular diploma.
For instance, environments can morph within the on the spot you flip away from them, meant to offer the sport with a way of disorientation a la Layers of Concern. However whereas that sport enhanced this function with phantasmagoric Dorian Grey-inspired shows, the place up was down and its setting nearly got here to life across the participant, The Quick Message tends to merely swap one hallway for one more. Just about your complete portion of the sport that takes place exterior of the Otherworld exists in decrepit hallways stuffed with graffiti the place each hall appears to be like the identical. Occasional live-action scenes solely re-color the monotony on account of how each scene staged with actual individuals unfolds in the identical featureless white area.
The Quick Message additionally makes use of disembodied voices to recall reminiscences you will unlock by choosing up notes and different clues throughout the story. Although that is fairly normal online game fare, I nonetheless suppose it may be finished nicely, similar to with the Amnesia sequence. However the high quality of each the writing and performing can generally make these moments in The Quick Message inadvertently comical, similar to after I interacted with a pizza and was scolded by the reminiscence of a annoyed mom.
PT-likes seldom conceal their influences, selecting as an alternative to lean into them to attempt to catch fireplace the best way PT did, however within the case of The Quick Message, the story and gameplay each go away it in a decidedly worse place than different copycats. It affords the broad strokes of PT–a time loop, a haunting, some claustrophobic hallways, and even a child in mortal danger–but not one of the dizzying terror.
Simply because it misunderstands what made PT particular, and what made so many video games attempting to fill that void subsequently forgettable, The Quick Message appears to not perceive Silent Hill’s personal well-established successes. Within the previously iconic Otherworld, you will flee an unkillable monster with no means to defend your self apart from your potential to dash. This is applicable a contemporary horror sport trope to a sequence that when proudly invented the inspiration for a lot of video games to come back, and in flip hurries gamers via what has usually been the sequence’ greatest side. Not solely are you able to not discover a lot of the Otherworld, which in previous video games has helped create a dire temper befitting of the style, however you may’t even cease working. The monster is at all times chasing you in these scenes till you clear an invisible threshold, escape, and kick off the subsequent cutscene.
Even when that is how it’ll be, I am not uninterested in the horror style’s monster chases once they’re finished nicely, however The Quick Message fails to take action. These sequences are frequent within the sport and rapidly develop tiring given how they have an inclination to have one proper path and a number of other mistaken paths, resulting in many trial-and-error failures with checkpoints that ship gamers again to begin.
Whereas at first I discovered these moments elicited a little bit of rigidity in me the best way an efficient horror sport ought to, I quickly succumbed to frustration each time the hallways would flip into the burnt-orange Otherworld, as a result of I knew it meant extra guesswork with extreme penalties laid forward. The tough industrial music organized by sequence legend Akira Yamaoka and a sincerely creepy monster draped in cherry blossoms, designed by the equally lauded Masahiro Ito, are the sport’s solely vibrant spots and assist make these in any other case irritating sections a bit extra memorable.
Nonetheless, a brand new Silent Hill must be greater than a soundtrack and a cool monster. The sequence’ greatest efforts include unforgettable tales that really feel as if they function on mystifying dream logic that lead gamers to query what they’re seeing at each flip. The Quick Message is determined to be understood and devoid of novelty, leaving no room for interpretation, no sense of lingering thriller, and no sturdy impression for anybody who could also be enjoying a Silent Hill sport for the primary time. Its unintended brief message finally ends up feeling sadly apparent: Don’t obtain.