Thursday, 7 August 2014

Silent Hill: The Escape (iOS)

Possibly time for the brown trousers.

It's no secret that I love the Silent Hill series, except for maybe Homecoming and possibly Silent Hill 4: The room. So I was rather surprised when I hadn't heard of Silent Hill: The Escape which sits on iOS machines and retails in around £1.49 mark, so I was a little apprehensive on the grounds that the rest of the games I'd bought for about £20 and wondered how this was going to factor up to the plot intensive, atmospheric games that had only so much explained and the rest had to be deduced and worked out for oneself (Especially the first game, mmmm.... Silent Hill 1 on PSX...). Which left me with mixed feelings for this one.

Certainly not an advocate of the "Do No Harm" idea.

You are Captain NobbyNobody, a generic human who somehow wakes up in the worst place imaginable, a lift. (Elevator I suppose to some) Upon awakening you realise you have with you a 5 shot revolver, a lead pipe and a torch. You will now navigate ten different and increasingly more complex mazes on the quest to find the key and then find the exit while being stalked and hunted down by various denizens of the Silent Hill world. While trying to remember who you are. I always find that odd at times, "I don't know who I am, but I know how to load, aim and fire a gun at key critical points in monsters to kill them more effectively and the idea of wandering around a haunted place doesn't upset me in the slightest" is a weird stance to take for someone with no personal memory.

Here's the plot.

Ok, so the plot is out of the window on this one. That's the extent of it and if you beat the game you unlock other characters with which to run through the game in various fashions of comedy that make sense only if you a) Know Silent Hill and b) Got several of the UFO/Comedy endings for the game series. Those in the know, understand when I say "Mira" and those who don't should doggone look it up!

Reload time, steady hand now!

Game play uses the tilt within the iOS systems to be able to aim your targeting reticule while the movement and turning is done by placing your finger upon the screen and stroking in the appropriate direction, effectively making a directional pad appear under your finger when you press down upon it. Tapping the revolver icon in the corner will let you reload but you'll need a steady hand to be able to slam all 5 rounds in otherwise you'll end up with far fewer and less shots before needing to reload again, and a steady hand is far from your concern when ANY monster is bearing down upon you. For you are also, Captain One Hit Wonder! Master of dying at the brush of a feather from anything more dangerous than an ant.

Thankfully, this time I have the key.

Enemies are fairly varied within the game, from faceless nurses that meander about and take 1-2 shots depending if you hit the critical points. Wheelchairs that trundle along and can catch someone unawares as they're low down on the visual plane. Hanging flesh things (I forget the name, might as well be called Dave) that encourage the player to aim upwards and the more demanding enemies later on that have psychic shields and take 5+ shots before being downed. Not that there's an abundance of ammo lying around either, you've got 25 shots and that's it.

It could be around the next corner.

What this game does have, if you let it draw you in (and it will if you stick at it) is atmosphere. Ignoring the simple maps that lack stairs and walls bending at anything other than 90degree angles as if we stole the Wolfenstein 3D engine (it's not, I know, but might as well be), the graphics and ambient music build up to a rather claustrophobic fear, especially when considering that the game is entirely in first person so no more peeking around corners. What doesn't help is the "Danger" heart beat that pounds when something is close but not what it is nor where it is, just that it's close. This could be on the other side of a wall and no ACTUAL threat but you won't know that. Late levels also include grates across various walkways that don't show up as dead-ends so relying solely upon the compass and small localised map isn't always advised.

At least I'm accurate.

Another interesting touch to the game is that the torch will dim and eventually fade, meaning the game does have a time limit on how long you can spend wandering each maze though there are also batteries that refuel this torch and your sole means of observing whatever it is that's coming at you otherwise it's wandering in the dark time and that's going to get real deadly, real fast.

Batteries, pretty much a first for Silent Hill games.

It's certainly different and as a game, it's not really a Silent Hill game aside from having a few featured enemies and the name Silent Hill plastered across it, but it's certainly worth the asking price for what is an experimental twist upon the horror franchise that goes fairly well if you let it get to you. It's almost minimalist in its approach to the idea of horror that what you can't see is what's the most terrifying and seeing the danger icon blinking but not being able to see the enemy or know whether it's around the next corner or the one after is certainly of that ilk. Once you start backtracking and waiting while turning to the sides to see if something is sneaking up on you, then it's worked and you're caught by the atmosphere.

Sadly I mistimed the photo, but it's the key.

Though don't play it on a bus. Unless it's late at night, you're the last one on the bus and the lights suddenly go off and you realise the bus driver isn't there anymore. Though but that point you're already in Silent Hill, grab a torch.