Silent Hill Origins
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2009-02-16 PSP Survival/Horror M (Mature) Konami

Silent Hill on a handheld just didn't seem like it would work for me. Playing the demo at E3 two years ago in a noisy room where other demos were taking place didn't do anything for the scary environment that we usually get from a Silent Hill gaming experience.

My husband got me this game as a gift a while back, and I actually only started playing it when he got one of the more recent PSP models that plugs into your TV and lets you play the games on a larger scale. I was pretty happy, since on the big screen I figured it would be easier to see things and not miss important clues or items. What followed made me actually want to smack myself a few times... but that has nothing to do with the gameplay or story, just my own lack of attention. Just so you know, I went the entire first level (the hospital) without finding the map. Which was posted on a notice board right when you enter it... duh! And then the situation repeated itself in the sanatorium. What is it with me and not finding stuff right in front of my eyes? Not even playing on the big screen TV helps me see things better...

Silent Hill Origins in a prequel to the Silent Hill games. The story revolves around a truck driver who finds a wounded girl on the road and decides to investigate. Next thing you know, things aren't really quite the same anymore and the girl is nowhere to be found. Instead, you end up rescuing someone from a burning house, passing out and waking up in the hospital. The adventure begins as you try to find out what happened to the girl you pulled from the fire.

The game has the same grainy feel we are used to and conveys the same creepy feeling as always. In town, things creep around in the mist. Not being able to see what's around you always makes things scarier. And I must have made one of those faces when I saw a butcher slicing a nurse in two... I assume this is who Pyramid Head was before he became the Pyramid Head we know, not just because of what he did but mostly because how he walked away.

The gameplay is very similar to that of Silent Hill 4: The Room, you are transported between the real world and the Silent Hill world through mirrors. The "other world" is just like in The Room: rusty, bloody, dirty and very, very creepy. As you can imagine, this ends up posing quite a bit of challenge for puzzle-solving, resulting in a lot of backtracking. For example, with locked doors, you may go through a mirror and find the same door unlocked on the other side, allowing you to access other areas.

The only problem is that creatures will reappear even after you've gone through those areas and left them laying on the ground. Those nurses really creep me out!

A bit like in Dead Rising, most everything that you pick up can be used as a weapon, and everything has limited durability. Be it a television, a filing cabinet, a radio or the IV stand from the hospital, you can grab it and whack a monster with it. As usual, ammo comes in limited ammounts too, so it's best left for boss fights.

For the most part, the combat is just simple button mashing, but in boss fights you will find those "context-sensitive" button presses that require you to press whatever button is shown on the screen at the right time to block or dodge an attack.

I think my pet peeves with Origins would be the even more limited inventory space - which seems a bit ridiculous when you are able to pick up things such as a filing cabinet or a television - and the fact that it doesn't really innovate the series. There isn't really anything new, but there is plenty of familiar places to explore and bits of story to put together. Being able to revisit these environments is a good thing.

On the technical side, there are still some pesky camera angles that are so characteristic of survival horror games and totally turn you around on occasion. Although the character models and animations aren't overly impressive, the textures are very well done, and there is a huge contrast between the "real" world and the "other world". The visuals combined with the fantastic sound effects and music convey the Silent Hill feeling we are accustomed to.

But just because we're accustomed to it, doesn't mean it won't make us uneasy and even startle us on occasion. Even with enough room for improvement, Origins is a great portable Silent Hill experience.