Game Reviews

Silent Hill: The Escape

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Silent Hill: The Escape

The brilliance of the Silent Hill series is found not in its creepy graphics, imaginative gore, outstanding character designs, superb action or nail-biting terror: it’s in the relentless sense of impending danger that pervades every location, even when nothing’s happening. Especially when nothing’s happening.

Silent Hill is about the fear and tension of exploring the unknown, rather than facing down monsters in a bullet-soaked battle royale, and The Escape knows this. We’re delighted to see that despite Konami turning this into more of a shooter than an adventure, that vital horror atmosphere still permeates each and every pixel.

It does fall back on the tired storyline cliché of a main character suffering from amnesia, just as Silent Hill 2 Mobile did (the similarities between these two games are quite rife), but the cut-scenes and dialogue are sparse enough that lazy storytelling tactics really don’t shine through the beautifully murky haze surrounding Silent Hill: The Escape.

Set in an abandoned hospital, each level consists of a very basic requirement: find the key and get to the door. Alive. The labyrinthine levels get longer and more dangerous as the game progresses, and despite this being not much more than a Pac-Man nasty, the horrid beauty of the decaying scenery and surreal nature of the enemies keeps you glued to the screen.

The nightmarish purification of the levels is emphasised by the limited torchlight by which you search. The longer it takes you to locate the key, the more your torch’s batteries wear down and limit your vision.

This doubles the anxiety as you tip-toe around the ominous corridors, especially when a lumbering faceless nurse rounds a corner and you drop your handset in shock (okay, I admit it - more than once The Escape scared the sh*t out of me).

The accelerometer allows you to look around your immediate vicinity, while simultaneously moving the central crosshair about the screen. Touching the screen brings up a D-pad controller (wherever you touch it, so there’s no pixel hunting for a fixed icon) allowing you to move forward and backward, and turn 90 degrees left and right.

Tapping the crosshair fires a shot, though you’ve also got an option in the game’s settings for tapping the back of the handset to fire. Each system works equally well, with the rear activated shots leaving the screen free for aiming - though it’s quite an alien concept that takes some getting used to.

Reloading the gun is another superb gameplay mechanic that adds to The Escape’s inherent fear factor. An outline of the chamber appears as you try to reload, and aligning it with the open gun drops bullets into the chamber - a tense and fumbled procedure if a Silent Hill resident happens to be bearing down on you.

The audio is a big part of Silent Hill: The Escape’s atmosphere, and the white noise grows in intensity as a blood stained wheelchair rolls ominously out of the darkness, or strange creatures amble past you along the corridor. Your heart thumps as danger approaches, and the gun shots ring out across the broken tiles of the empty hospital walls.

It’s a little easy to rush through the levels, and anyone who’s not a staunch fan of psychological horror will find the ultra-simple gameplay to be very limited.

But fans of the series will find Silent Hill: The Escape to be a superb addition to the celebrated canon, and revel in all the tension and fear that made Silent Hill so popular in the first place. This is a great compliment to the graphical adventure of Silent Hill 2 Mobile, and will hopefully become the foundations for a whole new iPhone series.

Silent Hill: The Escape

A haunting, if ultra-basic adaptation of the Silent Hill franchise that still manages to pack in the atmospheric anti-charm