Fear is an awfully difficult emotion to evoke in a game, particularly on a handheld. After all, how scary can something be when it's small enough to fit in your hand and you're likely to be easily distracted by your surroundings when playing it?
Well, very scary, it turns out. Our recent play of Silent Hill Origins confirmed it. That and the fact you should send your psychiatrist's bills directly to Konami – the game, an attempt to put sheer psychological terror in your pocket, looks set to seriously mess with your mind.
As Grady, a truck driver roaring past the little town of Silent Hill, you'll find yourself stopped on the side of the highway after nearly hitting a young girl. Probably hoping to pay the kid off to keep his insurance premium from increasing, Grady goes after her, leaving his truck behind as he heads into the dark forest surrounding the town.
The opening credits faded on and off the screen as we made our way from the safety of the asphalt towards a house set ablaze. Once there, we watched a grown woman rush into the burning home. Taking control of Grady, the introductory level of the game called for us to save the woman from being flame-grilled.
Movement is handled with the analog stick. By default, Grady walks at a glacial pace, but you can hold down the Square button to make him run. Be aware, however, that running creates noise that may signal your location to enemies.
The camera automatically positions itself whenever you move, which could be problematic given the enclosed environments, but there is the option to tap L to reposition the view behind Grady.
Silent Hill is a pretty dark place, both literally and figuratively, therefore you'll want to make good use of Grady's flashlight to show your way around the excellent, moody graphics (you toggle the torch on and off via the Circle button). We didn't need the torch to explore the burning house, but when visiting subsequent locations in the town it'll prove useful. Much like running, you'll need to keep in mind that turning on the flashlight makes enemies aware of your presence.
In a worst case scenario – meaning you can't avoid detection or run away – there is another option open to you, aside from freezing and screaming like a lunatic (if nothing else, what will the other people in the bus queue think?). You can engage Silent Hill's nightmarish creatures in combat – hold down R to ready your currently equipped weapon and then strike with a press of X. Expect an arsenal identical to those found in the existing console installments, meaning access to a revolver, steel pipe, shotgun, and so on.
There weren't any enemies milling about the burning house we explored, but we did encounter some lovely nurses in the second part of the playable demo, set in Alchemilla Hospital. They wanted to admit us for emergency exploratory surgery using their rusty, bloodied scalpels, but we declined the offer with a decisive swing of our pipe.
If you've played any previous iteration of the series, you'll instantly recognize locales such as the hospital, and you can expect a few familiar faces to also make an appearance – Origins promises to explore the town's dark history, using familiar characters and locations to weave its story.
Hopefully we'll get some answers as to why Silent Hill is so screwed up, especially considering how cryptic the console games have been. At the very least, it seems certain that Silent Hill Origins will scare us silly with its intense atmosphere. Even in a loud room surrounded by dozens of people, playing the demo spooked us!
The US release is due to coincide with Halloween, and the game should follow in Europe soon after.
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