It’s hard to stay faithful! While this review may not be about fidelity issues, it is about the fact that Silent Hill: Origins stays true to what made the series great. It captures the whole Middle America town setting, while keeping faithful to the Point-and-Click elements which the genre is known for.
It’s frankly a surprise that the game was released at all. When we saw the first build of the game, it had bad Resident Evil 4 style combat and an art direction that seemed nothing like Silent Hill. This seemed kind of ironic, given the fact that the game is titled Origins. Regardless, the project was axed and handed over to UK development studio Climax.
Upon first booting up Origins, it prompts you to play in complete darkness while using headphones for the best experience. After playing the game with and without said circumstances, it is far more enjoyable playing in the dark with a decent pair of headphones. Although, to be fair, anything would be more immersive in the dark, where your imagination can run wild.
The environment that is Silent Hill still works after all these years. There’s something about the whole Middle America town vibe that resonates strongly, and when thinking about it further it became clear to me -we identify more with a setting we understand.
While the set pieces add up to some of the scariest I’ve seen, the same could also be said of the combat. Remember early Silent Hill/Resident Evil tank controls pre RE4? Yeah, they’re back with a vengeance.
I suppose given the fact that this is a mobile game; it might be too much to ask to have a redesigned combat system to go along with the RE4 inspired quick time events. Still, if the Silent Hill franchise hopes to compete in the modern day market, they need to do something about their control scheme.
Gameplay consists mostly of dodging monsters, looking at your map, and solving puzzles. While this admittedly doesn’t sound very fun, it has a certain unique feel to it that other survival horror games just don’t capture.
A prime example would be when you hear a banging throughout the whole level, it becomes almost rhythmic – you start to tune it out, dismissing it as background ambiance. Then as you make your way further the noise becomes steadily louder, until the climax where you open the door and see what’s making the racket. This approach to level design is something Silent Hill fans will recognize, and immediately fall in love with all over again.
In addition to background noises, the score composed by Akira Yamaoka makes Origins even creepier. There is something almost sinister in the modern guitar riffs and the moody piano solos. With all this work put into sound design, it’s no wonder they tell you to use headphones instead of the underwhelming PSP speakers.
It’s truly a shame the same level of care wasn’t put in the story. The character development ultimately leads nowhere, and the crossover between Origins and the Silent Hill movie doesn’t help matters.
With Silent Hill 5 on the distant horizon, Origins seeks to fill in the cracks in the series’ development cycle. While not quite on par with Silent Hill 2, it still offers an immersive adventure that’s not found too often in portable gaming. Origins won’t win any awards for intuitive controls, but it will offer a satisfying service for long time fans of the series and survival horror buffs alike.