If you had told me that 2024 would start with a free Silent Hill game from Konami, I would’ve laughed at you and just kept walking by. Surprising everyone at the most recent PlayStation State of Play, Konami shadow-dropped a new Silent Hill experience that I believe serves as a precursor to their newly announced Silent Hill – F project. The game is a concise, dark, tense tale that aims to tackle issues that currently plague modern society. Specifically, a generation who have been brought up in the age of social media and the effects of constant needs, likes, and positive affirmations.
It is extremely evident that the topics of bullying, social media, and suicide are the focal points throughout this story. These topics are hammered forcefully; I think it’s important to note that my experience might differ from yours, as these topics are deeply personal. This game can and might trigger you depending on your own life journey. You might have a deeper connection with this game as a driver of the narrative, for others it may just be that you are simply a passenger, experiencing this as you would any other form of media that tackles these difficult topics here for the ride. I sat on the latter part of the perspective.
From the outset, you can tell that Silent Hill: The Short Message operates more as an immersive narrative game and less like a ‘conventional’ videogame. While the PT demo serves as a direct influence, you can also see shades from other narrative-driven games such as ‘SOMA’, ‘What Remains of Edith Finch’ and the horror game ‘Outlast’.
That is to say that there are only a few buttons to press, with running as your main weapon of choice against an ever-present malevolent force. This force is a ‘monster’ who will constantly chase you as you snake your way through the shifting corridors of this ruined, dilapidated, creepy apartment block, which serves as the main and only locale of this story.
The story is uniquely told by utilising a variety of techniques ranging from in-game cutscenes to texts such as journals, phone messages, and letters. Peppered in between these are some nicely done live-action moments that really bring it all together as one tight story package. I won’t go into detail as the story really is the entire game highlight. There are plenty of twists and turns that the story takes, which was genuinely interesting and kept me thoroughly engaged through the 1.5-hour playtime.
Graphically, it is simple and effective, with many generic tropes to the horror game genre, such as the long, half-lit corridors, creepy children’s playrooms and toilets that haven’t been cleaned since the 60s. It wasn’t until the end, when we got to see the Silent Hill part of the game, that the levels started to become much more industrial, rusty, and hellish. I really miss this chaotic mess.
Coupled with a solid sound design and soundtrack, all these compounding moments kept the overall experience of Silent Hill: The Short Message tense and the atmosphere thick. The feeling of dread and chaos is really a promising beginning to the return of the Silent Hill franchise, and this felt like a solid foundation for where it is headed.
While some Silent Hill fans may disagree with me, as the core SH roots have been completely removed in place of modern sensitivities, I think this new change will be healthy overall for the franchise, akin to RE7 for the resident evil franchise, and I am all in for this new change of the guard.
SILENT HILL: THE SHORT MESSAGE REVIEW
Silent Hill: The Short Message is a solid entry into the franchise that hammers down heavy themes onto the player, while still offering a tense atmosphere and engaging story. This game won’t please all fans of the series, but may just bring new ones in ahead of the next phase of releases.
- A new silent hill…finally.
- Tense and scary atmosphere
- Some solid jump scares
- Engaging story that had many twists and turns
- It is just a simple narrative game
- Short and sweet – if you want more, you won’t get it here
- At times, very cheesy dialogue
- Last encounter is very frustrating