In my restless dreams I see that town... Silent Hill.
Originally released for PlayStation by Japanese company Konami in 1999, the Silent Hill series of video games comprises four games to date. Although not as commercially popular as other survival horror games, such as Capcom's Resident Evil series, Silent Hill has a cult following and is considered by many to be much scarier.
The stories are set in the fictional American town of Silent Hill. Originally just a small town with pretty surroundings, built up around Touloucca lake, it has grown in recent years due to tourist demand. There is, however, more to the town than meets the eye. A long history and connections with the occult leave a bitter aftertaste. More is hinted at than explained about the town's past during the games, but perhaps the need for some player interpretation and imagination is one of the things that contributes to the games' power to disturb. There are strong plotlines, well-defined characters and truly spooky effects including the dense fog now synonymous with the game. Scarily-cut scenes - you can find your character in a boarded-up old building one moment and a blood-covered mirror image the next, as the demonic 'Otherworld' takes hold - only add to the experience!
What is the true nature of the town? Nobody can be sure, but many believe it is a reflection of the visitor's own state of mind and personal nightmares, therefore different for everyone. In all of the games the player can set the levels of difficulty for both the action and puzzle aspects of the game.
Silent Hill (PlayStation)
The original story centres around the characters Harry Mason and his teenaged daughter Cheryl. While driving them both to Silent Hill for a holiday, Harry swerves to avoid a strange figure in the road, crashing the car and knocking himself unconscious against the steering wheel. When he wakes up, Cheryl is gone! He wanders into the snowbound, foggy streets of Silent Hill. Everything seems deserted, the shops and houses are boarded up, no one has been here in some time it appears, so where can Cheryl be?
Keep an eye out for the street names and signs in homage to the horror greats.
Silent Hill 2 (PlayStation 2, Xbox, PC)
This game centres around young, grieving widower James Sunderland, who receives a mysterious letter from his late wife Mary asking him to meet her in Silent Hill at their 'special place.' Can it really be from Mary? Is she still alive? James must delve deep into the mysteries and horrors of Silent Hill to find out.
A 'director's cut' of this game was later released under the title Restless Dreams.
Silent Hill 3 (PlayStation 2, PC)
Heather Mason awakens in the mall from a nightmare, to find a man following her. She escapes him through a window only to find everything different. There are strange monsters everywhere and a frightening woman spouts prophecies and heralds Heather herself as an angel of destruction. This game is set on the other side of the lake to the main town of Silent Hill, mainly in the Lakeside Amusement Park. Although it is intended as a sequel to the original story, it can be enjoyed without having played Silent Hill. Many players consider Silent Hill 3 to be inferior to its predecessors, mostly in terms of depth of characterisation and plot.
Silent Hill 4: The Room (PlayStation 2, Xbox, PC)
The last of the series to date ventures further from the town of Silent Hill and is set mainly in nearby South Ashfield.
Henry Townshend finds himself trapped in his flat, Room 302 of South Ashfield Heights. The door is locked with large chains; the windows are sealed shut. His only contact with the outside world is to look through the window, the spyhole in the front door and the peephole into the apartment of Eileen Gavin, his young neighbour.
After being trapped for a few days, a large hole appears in Henry's bathroom wall. With nowhere else to go, he ventures into the tunnel and finds himself in some very strange places, with monsters, ghosts and a woman called Cynthia. The only connection between the places Henry finds on his forays into the tunnel appears to be a serial killer named Walter Sullivan.
One more game has been released, though only for the Gameboy advance and released only in Japan. It was titled Silent Hill Play Novel and is basically a retelling of the first game in 'choose your own adventure' style.
Also available is a series of comic books titled The Grinning Man, Among the Damned, Paint it Black, and Dying Inside.
The Future for Silent Hill
Due for release in the summer of 2006 is a film loosely based on the original Silent Hill and directed by Christophe Gans1. The story revolves around Rose, whose daughter is terribly sick. Despite protests from her husband, Rose flees with the child to visit a faith healer, but on the way is separated from the child in an accident whilst passing through Silent Hill. Joined by a cop named Cybil sent by her husband to bring them back, Rose searches for her daughter, discovering the history and horrors of Silent Hill on the way. The film will star Radha Mitchell and Sean Bean.
There are also plans for a fifth in the game series. Little information is so far available but it will be released for the next generation consoles: ie PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.