Konami isn’t going to allow you to neglect that Silent Hill: The Brief Message is, in actual fact, a Silent Hill sport, however one thing’s lacking. On this one, you comply with a teenage lady named Anita, who wakes up in an deserted house constructing; after getting unusual textual content messages from her buddy Maya, Anita goes out to seek out her. Alongside the best way, she confronts her trauma and guilt whereas getting sucked right into a horror straight out of her tortured psyche. Does that sound acquainted? Should you’ve performed Silent Hill 2 or many different video games made after it, you wager it does.
The Brief Message, which by no means obtained formally introduced regardless that followers knew it was in growth, immediately dropped on the PlayStation Retailer after its first trailer was proven off throughout Sony’s January State of Play. Even stranger, it was free to play. Konami partnered with Hexadrive on the sport, which takes only a couple hours to play by and works each as a standalone expertise and as a harbinger of Silent Hills to come back.
[Ed. note: This review contains spoilers for Silent Hill: The Short Message. It also features discussion of bullying, mental illness, and suicide.]
The brand new title performs like many Silent Hill video games earlier than it. Like P.T., The Brief Message makes use of a loop to inform a narrative about being caught in your worst nightmare. Anita is dropped at an deserted house constructing with no thought how she obtained there and has to stroll round to seek out her approach out. Till she faces each metaphorical and bodily demons, she’s trapped. She has no weapons or gadgets to assist her past her cellphone, which she makes use of as a flashlight and as a option to speak to her buddies Maya and Amelie.
There are a number of loops all through the sport, they usually’re nice at ramping up the stress. In a single, Anita walks round her previous house, and each time she restarts the loop, she will get smaller. As soon as I spotted that I used to be turning into child-sized as I relived Anita’s childhood trauma and realized extra about her mom, one thing sank in my abdomen. I noticed myself getting weaker and extra helpless, which performed properly with Anita’s expertise.
Essentially the most outstanding place you’ll see these loops is within the sport’s solely motion sequences, the place you need to run away from a monster, clearly imagined to resemble Maya. Contemplating Pyramid Head creator Masahiro Ito labored on The Brief Message, it’s no shock that it’s such an intense creature. It appears horrific however oddly stunning, rendered in pastels that pop in opposition to the darkish. She additionally strikes at a distinct framerate, making her motions look jerky and unnerving. Undecided what the identify of it’s but (Cherry Blossom College Lady possibly?), nevertheless it’ll undoubtedly be one of many franchise’s most memorable monsters.
Operating from the monster is a bit harking back to making an attempt to flee the Void in Silent Hill: Downpour, though fortunately loads much less annoying. It’s a must to navigate looping mazes whereas utilizing your cellphone to hear for static (a standard Silent Hill mechanic) to keep away from the monster, which immediately sends you again to the start. Just like the constructing, these mazes turn into extra dilapidated and terrifying over time, with the final one working you thru a Silent Hill-esque different world lined in steel grates and surrounded by fireplace.
One other hallmark of contemporary Silent Hill appears to be taking the idea of a city that displays the protagonist’s worst fears and trauma, and increasing these horrors all through the world. The Brief Message takes place in Germany, particularly within the fictional city of Kettenstadt. The place is described as a “border stronghold” that when had large revitalization goals till the COVID-19 pandemic prompted traders to drag out funding. Lots of the buildings are subsequently deserted, together with the Villa house constructing, the place the sport takes place.
It’s spectacular how fleshed-out Kettenstadt feels, and like the most effective of Silent Hill, it’s a personality in itself. That is solely a two-hour sport, so there’s solely a lot element right here, and also you don’t see something past the Villa, however there’s nonetheless sufficient to drive dwelling how Silent Hill-esque Kettenstadt is — partly resulting from its tragic backstory and present state of neglect. Even when the world round you appears worse with every loop, you by no means really feel such as you’ve left the Villa. Anita’s mind-set may make the environments look grimier and extra wretched, however the line is all the time blurred between Kettenstadt’s precise state and its Silent Hill model. Using the pandemic additionally provides some wanted depth, particularly now that we’re in 2024 and are nonetheless seeing its results extensively. (Is that this the primary vital COVID sport?)
The Villa is haunted in different methods. Anita’s psychological state has some impact, however Kettenstadt’s historical past performs an enormous position. Past common disrepair, it has turn into a spot the place virtually yearly, a younger lady dies by suicide from leaping off the roof. Proper off the bat, Konami makes clear by way of in-game messages that The Brief Message will deal with some heavy themes, together with bullying, self-harm, and suicide. That is one thing the sport won’t ever allow you to neglect, because it’s conveyed by a number of content material warnings with hyperlinks to sources and point out of the U.S. Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. Suicide is a large a part of Anita’s and the city’s story.
For essentially the most half, I feel the topic of suicide is dealt with respectfully right here. Nevertheless, when Anita makes an attempt suicide herself, it feels borderline cheesy. Each time she jumps from the roof, the sport takes a break to deliver up that content material warning once more. She does this twice. The primary time is extraordinarily jarring — you don’t see suicide depicted so blatantly in video video games fairly often, and when the hotline card pops up, you may suppose for a second that that’s how the sport ends. When it occurs the second time, it feels pressured, like the sport is apologizing for placing you thru that second once more.
I perceive why the builders erred on the aspect of warning when it got here to warning gamers about the subject material, however making an attempt to carry the participant’s hand by all of it doesn’t change the truth that the story continues to be leaning on shock worth. It’s regarding that the sport’s creators seemingly don’t belief the viewers to know a content material warning with out it being proven a number of instances – or possibly there’s an insecurity about displaying this imagery to gamers. I fear that future Silent Hill video games will strategy these themes equally.
Anita is a terminally depressed teen, and contemplating all of the reveals about her character and relationships, her contemplation of suicide undoubtedly suits her total story. I respect that Konami didn’t shrink back from this. However, the sport beats you over the top with it, each when it comes to the hotline messages and in how typically it’s introduced up.
It doesn’t assist that Anita’s character for many of the sport is that she is depressed and making an attempt to cowl it up whereas texting her buddy Amelie, her solely connection to the skin world. When she’s alone, although, and rummaging by the deserted house constructing, her dialogue principally entails placing herself down. “I’ve all the time been trapped,” she says at one level. She wonders if she deserves to dwell or if individuals discover her in any respect. Anita is a young person, and youngsters could be annoying, so I didn’t thoughts that her dialogue was generally very dramatic. However whereas melancholy could be all-consuming, The Brief Message doesn’t give Anita far more definition past her psychological sickness.
A whole lot of The Brief Message feels heavy-handed in its themes, from suicide to the influence of social media to the cruelty of bullying. There are notes everywhere in the partitions with insults scribbled on them, they usually all really feel a bit on the nostril. I do know generally bullying isn’t intelligent, however the notes and the voices shouting “Freak!” or “Slut!” obtained repetitive quick. It’s one other place the place the viewers isn’t trusted to know the story with out it being spelled out.
The Brief Message can be extraordinarily unsubtle on the subject of its Silent Hill connections. Within the first room, you’ll discover a defaced Little Hope city signal from Silent Hill: Homecoming, and, after all, the looping rooms in The Brief Message are much like the core system in P.T. One notably groan-worthy second entails a notice speaking in regards to the “Silent Hill Phenomenon,” which is mind fog so intense that victims see precise fog. And sure, it’s named after the city. In case you weren’t positive about what sort of sport this was, you’ve now been educated.
It’s not simply references — The Brief Message is simply doing a beat-for-beat Silent Hill efficiency, however at a smaller scale. It’s not only a matter of Konami publishing video games that slot in with a sequence and extra about the way it feels to look at one thing replicated, generally poorly. The Brief Message does have its moments, like Cherry Blossom College Lady, and a few of the loops are nice. Plus, it’s a shocking sport to take a look at, with some distinctive imagery that makes me really feel optimistic in regards to the sequence’ future. That is very a lot a Silent Hill retread, even when it’s a very good one, and Konami needs you to realize it. It makes you marvel if all of the upcoming titles will take an analogous path.
Silent Hill: The Brief Message is now accessible without cost on PlayStation 5.