So, I’ve decided I’m going to try something new. Instead of posting game reviews (at least for now), I’m going to focus my gaming posts more on writing posts about games that are already pretty well-established, or that I just like for some reason. These will be more like analyses than game reviews, and will go under the Katie Play Stuff tag (which I used to use for game reviews, but I think it fits stuff like this more).
I’ve decided to start with one of my absolute favorite horror games: Silent Hill. Naturally, there will be spoilers (as much as one can be said to spoil an almost 20 year old video game, anyway). Also, there are a number of uncomfortable themes, such as abuse and the loss of a child (not to mention a metric fuckton of blood and random corpses), so if that kind of thing bothers you, you might want to sit this one out.
I’m going to split this up, otherwise the post will get ridiculously long, so I’m going to start with a summary of the game’s plot. As can be expected, there will be spoilers after this point (as much as one can spoil a popular, almost 20-year-old game), so I would recommend tracking and playing the game first if you can.
Silent Hill was developed and published by Konami in 1999. It puts the player in the shoes of Harry Mason, a widower who is taking his 7-year-old daughter Cheryl on vacation to, well, Silent Hill. They’re almost there when Harry, tired after a very long day of driving, sees a young girl in the road and swerves in a panic to avoid her, which causes the car to crash and knocks him out. Of course, when he awakens, he finds himself with a new problem: Cheryl isn’t in the car.
Exiting the car, he finds that the city is enveloped in a thick fog, and it’s snowing out of season. Harry sees his daughter in the distance and calls out to her, but she runs away, leading him down a nearby alley. The alley starts to get progressively darker and creepier, until he comes to a dead end with a mutilated corpse hung on a chain link fence.
He is then promptly murdered by weird skinless baby-monsters.
Before waking up on a bench in a cafe.
Here he meets Cybil Bennet, a police officer from a nearby town. She questions him a bit, but he doesn’t have the faintest idea what’s going on. Harry then asks her if she’s seen Cheryl, but unfortunately she has not. When he tries to leave to find Cheryl on his own, she stops him, pointing out that some weird shit is going down, and it’s dangerous out there. Harry, however, doesn’t care, and intends to go after her anyway. Cybil, seeing that she won’t be able to stop him, gives him a gun before also giving him a short gun safety lecture.
Harry looks around the cafe a bit, finding a map among other useful items, and notes a broken radio on one of the tables. He heads to the door, but comes back after the radio emits a sudden burst of static. Then a winged monster bursts through the window and attacks him.
Here, we are introduced to one of the more important game mechanics: the radio. It tells the player that there are monsters nearby. Anyway, Harry dispatched the monster and, after noting that there is definitely some crazy shit happening, decides to head back to the alley from the beginning to start his search for Cheryl. Naturally, he doesn’t find her, but he finds a note from his daughter’s sketchbook indicating that she’s at the local elementary school. All the direct paths are blocked by huge, gaping chasms, but more notes from Cheryl point him to a more indirect route.
He eventually makes his way there, and ends up having to go through a maze of locked doors and puzzles to proceed. Oh, plus there are also a bunch of the weird baby-monsters from the beginning of the game. Following a bunch of clues, Harry eventually manages to unlock the tower, which he climbs. He finds another door, which leads to a ladder that goes back down, returning him to the courtyard, only to find that things aren’t exactly like he left them. For one thing, the courtyard now has a gigantic, occult-looking symbol that wasn’t there before.
The school has also become a twisted, blood-soaked mockery of itself.
Harry navigates this “otherworld” version of the school, which contains more monsters than the previous version, as well as some new puzzles. Eventually, he comes back down to the school’s basement, where he encounters a giant lizard that, for some reason, freaks me out more than any other monster in the series.
Upon vanquishing the beast, Harry finds himself back in the normal (comparatively speaking) school’s boiler room. He also comes face to face with the girl he had almost run over at the beginning of the game.
She looks at him for a moment, before vanishing, leaving behind a key. Harry takes it, and, as he’s leaving the school, he hears church bells. This gives him his next destination: the local church.
Of course, as he’s heading there, he finds all the direct routes are blocked, but the key that the girl left behind unlocks the door to a nearby house. Cutting through the house opens another route to the church, where he meets a new character, Dahlia Gillespie. Dahlia is…unique.
She tells Harry that his coming was “foretold by gyromancy,” which is probably the goofiest form of divination that she could have used. Harry, confused, asks what she’s talking about, and she asks him, “You want the girl, right?” He concludes that Dahlia is talking about Cheryl, and asks her where she is. Dahlia responds that he must follow “the path of the hermit.” She tells him to go to the hospital, and leaves him a key to a drawbridge, a pyramid called the Flauros, before leaving the scene herself.
Harry, using the key that Dahlia left him, lowers the drawbridge leading to the other side of town and eventually makes his way to the hospital. Here he meets another character, Dr. Michael Kaufmann.
Kaufmann shoots at Harry, thinking he’s a monster, and somehow manages to miss from five feet away. Harry tells him not to shoot and explains that he’s there on vacation, and Kaufmann expresses relief that he’s found another human being. Harry asks after Cheryl, but Kaufmann hasn’t seen her either, and that he has no idea what’s going on. He then adds that he needs to get going, before leaving Harry alone in the room.
He then goes on to explore the rest of the hospital, leading to the first of three player choices that affect the ending: looking in the director’s office yields a red, actually non-blood fluid. Further exploration leads Harry to the basement, where he turns on the generator in order to power the elevators.
At first, the hospital only seems to have three floors.
Going to each floor (on which a locked door impedes progress), however, reveals a button leading to the fourth floor.
Harry reaches the fourth floor, and has a brief vision of the girl from before walking into the otherworld version of an antiques store. The elevator opens, and we see a corridor, but it has fallen into disrepair. As Harry goes down the hallway, the doors he walks past all click locked. And thus begins the otherworld version of the hospital, which is one of the longest levels in the game. Here we also meet one of the series most iconic monsters: the nurses.
Notably, this game also had doctors, but those didn’t have quite the same staying power, as we don’t see them in any other games.
At any rate, after solving numerous puzzles, Harry eventually makes it to a secret sub-basement, where he encounters a room containing medical equipment, a bed, and a photograph of a girl labelled “Alessa,” who looks very much like the girl we’ve seen before.
The room also contains a key that unlocks the room where we first met Kaufmann, where we meet another character: Lisa Garland.
Relieved at seeing another human, she almost tackles him with a hug. They introduce themselves, and Lisa asks him what’s going on, explaining that she got knocked out somehow and everything had gone to hell when she woke up. Harry is a bit disappointed that she doesn’t have any information, but asks her about Cheryl anyway.
As is the same with everyone else he’s asked, she has not. He then asks her about the sub-basement; Lisa responds that because the storeroom that leads to it is off limits, she doesn’t know anything about it. She asks him what he found there, but Harry gets a sudden headache before passing out as sirens go off.
He wakes up in the same room in the fog world, with Dahlia standing by the door.
She tells him he’s too late, and that “the town is being devoured by darkness,” before giving him a key and telling him to go to “the other church.” She also explains that the mark all over town, the one he first saw at the school, is called the “Mark of Samael,” and that he has to stop its completion. She then walks out, leaving Harry (and by proxy, the player, with more questions).
The key that Dahlia gave him is for the local antique shop, which is where he goes next. Harry pushes a cabinet out of the way, finding a hole in the wall that leads to another room. At this point, Cybil walks in.
They then catch up a bit, and Harry asks why Cybil hasn’t skipped town. Cybil explains that she can’t, since the roads out of town and none of the cars work. He asks her if she’s managed to find Cheryl; she hasn’t, but she did see a girl head towards the lake, walking over a gaping hole in the ground like it was nothing.
She asks Harry if he’s found anything. He tells her about meeting Dahlia, and asks if she knows her. Cybil does not, and Harry quotes the bit about the town being “devoured by darkness.” She comes to the conclusion that Dahlia’s on drugs, which has been something the police have been investigating, though that has stalled. Harry wonders what that has to do with anything, and Cybil says that might be the darkness Dahlia was talking about.
Cybil asks what Harry’s found, and says they should check it out. Harry then tells her that he should go first, since it must be dangerous. She goes along with this for some reason. I would just like to remind you all that Cybil is a trained police officer and Harry is a writer. You’d think she’d be better equipped to handle any danger, but whatever. Before heading in, Harry asks Cybil about the otherworld, but she has no idea what he’s talking about. She tells him that he’s tired, and he concedes that may be it, but doesn’t sound very convinced.
He goes into the room exposed by moving the wardrobe, and finds an altar with an odd image above it, the “other church” Dahlia was talking about. Finding nothing else of note, he turns to leave. Flames burst up from the chalice on the altar, and we cut back to Cybil who follows him in only to find him gone.
Harry then wakes up in a hazy version of the otherworld hospital, being watched over by Lisa. She tells him he’s had a bad dream. Harry notes that she seems a bit down, but Lisa rather unconvincingly tells him she’s fine. He then asks about Dahlia. Lisa doesn’t know her personally, but knows about her and that she wasn’t the same after her kid died in a fire. Harry asks her about what Dahlia told him earlier; she doesn’t know much about that either, but it reminds her about a cult that most of the town belonged to at one point, as well as some odd accidents that befell certain developers. She apologizes for rambling, and the scene fades out.
Harry then wakes up in the otherworld, back in the antique shop. He thinks for a moment that this might all be a dream.
Either way, Cybil told him his daughter was heading to the lake, so he needs to find some route there. Figuring that Lisa might know something, he decides to head back to the hospital.
On the way there, he cuts through a nearby shopping center. There are a bunch of TVs, which flicker between showing Cheryl in some form of distress, the picture of the girl he saw in the hospital, and a bunch of other occult symbols. Going past that, he falls through a grate and fights a giant caterpillar, which eventually runs away, opening up another path.
Obstacle overcome, he makes it back to the hospital and Lisa. She’s very happy to see him, and that she was scared to be by herself. Harry says that he was worried about her too, and asks her if there are any other routes to the lake. Lisa isn’t sure at first, but them remembers the abandoned waterworks near the school that leads to the sewers, which should lead to the lake. She tells him that it’s blocked though, but he says that he has to try.
Lisa begs him not to go, that she’s terrified. He offers to take her with him, but she says she feels like she can’t leave. Harry says that he has to go, but that he’ll be back for her as soon as he finds Cheryl. She turns her back to him and walks to the middle of the room as he leaves.
Outside the hospital, he finds that there’s only on path he can take; one that leads up to the roof of the building across the street. He crosses, and goes to the top of the building to find another boss: the grown up version of the caterpillar he fought earlier. After this is vanquished, the town shifts from the otherworld.
Harry then heads to the waterworks Lisa mentioned, breaks the lock, and begins my least favorite part of the game: the sewer. It feels like it takes forever, it’s easy to get lost in, and there are a bunch of what appear to be mutant turtles (though not of the teenage or ninja variety) that cling to the ceiling and grab at Harry’s scalp. Oh, plus the radio doesn’t work down there.
Anyway, Harry makes it through the sewer and we eventually come to the second choice that affects the outcome of the game: Whether or not to save Kaufmann. From here, Harry can take a detour to the local bar, where he saves the aforementioned Kaufmann from a critter called a mumbler.
Kaufmann gets up, and asks Harry if he’s found a way out. Harry asks the same question but, of course, neither have. Kaufmann posits that someone should be there to rescue them soon; Harry responds that he hopes that’s the case. He then asks if Kaufman knows a girl named Alessa. Suspiciously, Kaufman pauses before saying no and leaving. Harry then finds a wallet on the floor and picks it up, finding that it contains a receipt with a code, as well as a key to a motel room.
Harry goes to the store the receipt came from, and unlocks it with the code. Upon entering, he finds a journal detailing the owner’s encounters with a man and a woman, and unlocking a safe reveals drugs of some sort. He also finds another code, which unlocks the office of the nearby motel.
In the office, he finds a magnet, as well as a newspaper article detailing the death of an officer working on the drug case. Harry unlocks the door to the room listed on the key in Kaufmann’s wallet, which he uses to fish out another key belonging to a motorcycle nearby. Using the key on the motorcycle uncovers another vial of the red liquid from the hospital.
Kaufmann comes in and angrily tells Harry to give him the vial. Harry asks what it is, and Kaufmann tells him that’s none of his business before telling him to stop “goofing off” and try to figure out a way to get out of here. He then stalks off, and Harry thinks to himself that he’s wasted his time before leaving himself.
Whether or not the player decides to take this detour, the scene makes a sudden shift to the otherworld as Harry continues down the road. He makes it to a docked boat, where he runs into Cybil again, who had followed Harry’s route through the sewer. She asks what the hell is going on, and Harry tells her that the town is “being invaded by the otherworld,” and that Cheryl is there somewhere.
Dahlia then comes onto the boat to talk some more about the “darkness” and that the Mark of Samael needs to only be put in two more places before everything is fucked and everyone dies. Harry asks what he needs to do, and Dahilia tells him he needs to “stop the demon taking that child’s form.”
She tells him he needs to go to the lighthouse, and the amusement park. Cybil says that she doesn’t have the faintest idea what’s going on, but she’ll help if there’s a chance they could save Cheryl. She heads out, and Dahlia tells Harry that he’ll need to use the pyramid that she gave him earlier. He asks about Cybil, seeing as how she doesn’t have the Flauros, but Dahlia leaves without answering.
He heads to the lighthouse, where he has another encounter with Alessa. However, he’s too late as the symbol is already there and the girl vanishes in front of his eyes.
He then returns to the boat, where he notes that Cybil has not returned yet. He comes to the conclusion that the girl must be showing up at the amusement park soon, and decides to meet up with Cybil there.
Harry heads to another waterworks, thinking that was the route Cybil took. We then get a cutscene: Cybil, in the sewers, carefully turns a corner, only to be hit by something from behind.
He makes it to the amusement park from the sewer, and eventually to the carousel. He finds Cybil sitting in a wheelchair on the ride, and there is clearly something wrong with her. First off, her eyes are a rather creepy shade of red. Second, she stands up jerkily and immediately tries to kill him.
This boss fight contains the third and final choice that affects the outcome of the game: the player can either choose to kill Cybil in self-defense, or to use the red liquid from the hospital to save her.
The first option is the easier of the two, and results in Cybil writhing in pain and bleeding quite heavily before expiring. Harry collapses next to her in grief, and asks how this could have happened before moving on.
Taking the second option is more difficult, because the player has to position Harry very precisely. If successful, he throws the red liquid at her, which expels some kind of parasite from her body without killing her. She weakly asks him what happened, and Harry stays with herwhile she recuperates. She asks him why they took Cheryl; he says that he doesn’t know, and reveals that she’s not his biological daughter. He and his wife had been to Silent Hill seven years ago, and found a baby abandoned at the side of the road. Because of his wife’s illness, they were unable to have children, so they adopted her and named her Cheryl. Harry says that he thinks there’s some connection between her and the town, adding that he’s going to save Cheryl no matter what.
Either way, Harry runs into Alessa again, and asks her where Cheryl is. She responds by using her powers to throw him backwards. He tries to run back towards her, but is repelled by an invisible wall. The Flauros then starts glowing, floats upwards, and hits Alessa with some kind of bolt, knocking her to the ground.
Then Dahlia shows up.
Harry asks again where Cheryl is, but Dahlia ignores him, telling Alessa that her “little game” has come to an end. Alessa then calls Dahlia “mama,” revealing herself to be Dahlia’s daughter. Dahlia responds by saying she’s been a “ghastly little pest,” and that she herself was careless in thinking Alessa “couldn’t escape from our spell.” She then tells her daughter that they’re indebted to Harry for his help, and that there’s one last thing she needs Alessa to do. Alessa tells Dahlia to get away from her, to which Dahlia responds by calling her a “bad girl,” and saying it’s time to go home before using some kind of spell to teleport them away.
Harry then wakes up back at the hospital, with Lisa standing over him.
Harry asks her what happened, and Lisa seems on the verge of losing it. She tells him that she couldn’t stop thinking about what he told her about the basement, and went to check it out. While there, she got a weird feeling of deja vu, that she was there before and just can’t remember. She begs him to help her, and he comforts her by saying she’s in shock, but she says he doesn’t understand as she runs off. He then hears an odd noise that seems to be coming from the basement.
The last level of the game then begins, which is called Nowhere. It’s based very much on the otherworld hospital, with a few other areas mixed in, that the player has to navigate in order to reach the final boss.
Harry sees an elevator open up in front of him after leaving the exam room, saying that he feels like he’s being summoned, and wonders again just what went down here. He thinks that by taking the elevator down, he’ll get to the bottom of it.
He pretty quickly finds an area modeled on the basement storeroom, which leads to another area based on the hospital morgue. Here, he finds one of five items needed to unlock the door leading to the final boss of the game. After walking out of the morgue, he runs into Lisa again.
She is clearly in some distress, and tells him that she’s realized how she’s still alive even though everyone else in the hospital is dead. Lisa’s “not the only one walking around,” and basically she’s the same as the other nurses and didn’t notice it before. She walks towards Harry, begging him to save her, but he freaks out and pushes her away.
She then begins to bleed profusely from several areas on her face, as she staggers towards him again, in what is probably the saddest moment of the game.
Harry runs out of the room and holds the door closed as Lisa sobs.
After the end of the scene, the player can then go back into the room. Lisa is gone, but she’s left a journal behind. The journal reveals that Lisa had been a drug addict who was being forced by Kaufmann to care for the badly burned Alessa in secret. Lisa, freaked out by the task, eventually decided she couldn’t take it anymore and quit, which caused Kauffman to cut off her supply. It’s hinted at that Lisa died soon after that, probably either of withdrawal or an overdose.
Harry goes about Nowhere, solving more puzzles and gaining more items to unlock that final door. In the room with the last item, he sees a seen of Kaufmann, Dahlia, and two other doctors standing above Alessa’s bed.
Dahlia says that everything’s gone according to plan, but one of the doctors mentions that half of Alessa’s soul is missing. Kaufmann asks if that means this won’t work, but Dahlia assures him that these are stalling tactics, and that she can use a spell to draw the other half of her soul back. One of the doctors points out that would take a lot of time, then the scene fades out.
Harry pushes on, ending up in a room that appears to be modeled after Alessa’s room. After unlocking the door and going through, Harry sees another one of Alessa’s memories. Alessa is on the floor with Dahlia trying to pull her up, trying to get her to “lend” some of her power. Alessa doesn’t want to, and says that she just wants to be with her mother. Dahlia then says that maybe she was wrong, which gives Alessa a moment of hope, but that’s dashed when Dahlia has clearly come up with a very, very bad idea.
Harry pushes forward, and we come to the game’s last boss. Here is where the ending diverges based on certain player choices:
Bad Ending: This is the ending you get if you fail to save both Kauffman and Cybil. Harry enters a chamber which contains Dahlia, Alessa, and a third figure in a wheelchair. Dahlia congratulates him on making it as far as he did; he just demands to know where his daughter is. Dahlia tells him that he’s been seeing her all throughout town, as the girl in the blue dress, and that Cheryl is the other half of Alessa’s soul. She also reveals that she had immolated her daughter as part of a ritual to impregnate her with the cult’s god, then kept her in torment for seven years hoping to eventually draw Cheryl back. Cheryl/Alessa and the girl in the wheelchair (the half that stayed in Silent Hill) combine, forming a young woman in a white dress.
She proceeds to burn Dahlia with lightning, who cackles madly before she dies, before turning her attention to Harry, who is forced to kill her in self-defense. Before dying, Cheryl/Alessa thanks Harry, who collapses in despair. After the credits, the scene shifts back to Harry, dead in his jeep.
Bad + Ending: You get this ending if you save Cybil, but fail to save Kaufmann. We get an extra scene of Cybil with Dahlia at gunpoint. Dahlia explains that the “talisman of Metatron” was being used, with the implication that was what the Mark of Samael actually was, and that had almost screwed up her plan. Cybil tells Dahlia to freeze, but Dahlia just knocks her back telekinetically. The rest plays out almost identically to the bad ending, except instead of Harry dead in his jeep, the last scene is Cybil trying to smack some sense into him and telling him to go. We don’t see what happens after this, making this the most ambiguous ending.
Good ending: The good ending begins the same way as the bad ending, with Harry confronting Dahlia. However, just after Alessa and Cheryl recombine, Kaufmann shows up and shoots Dahlia, telling her that this wasn’t a part of the deal. He then throws the red vial from the motel at Alessa, causing her to expel the god (in the form of a monster called Incubus) from her back.
Dahlia starts cackling maniacally, since this is exactly what she wanted, before the Incubus incinerates her. Harry fights and defeats the incubus, causing Alessa to reappear. She hands him a baby, before using the last of her power to open a portal and expiring. Lisa, bloodied, then pops up through a hole in the floor, and drags a screaming Kaufmann back down with her.
After the credits, we see Harry back in the real world, holding the baby Alessa gave him.
Good + Ending: The best possible ending you can get, which is obtained by saving both Kaufmann and Cybil. It starts off like the bad + ending, with Cybil confronting Dahlia and Dahlia revealing to Harry that Cheryl and Alessa are the same person before they recombine. Kaufmann comes in and throws the liquid at Alessa, causing the Incubus to emerge from her back. Harry defeats it, Lisa drags Kaufmann down to hell, and Alessa gives Harry a baby before opening the escape portal. Harry and Cybil then escape the town together.
There’s a fifth ending, but it’s only attainable in a new game plus and is very silly. In this ending, Harry gets abducted by aliens, and, well, it needs to be seen to be believed:
So, now we know what happens in the game. In my next Silent Hill post, I will be taking a closer look at the characters and the plot.
(Update 12/12/17 I previously posted that the game hinted that Kauffmann had Lisa killed. Taking a closer look at the plot and an interview with one of the game’s developers, I realized that there really isn’t anything in the game that suggests this, and I was thinking of a popular but unsubstantiated fan theory. I have changed the wording in the section on her fate accordingly.)