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Expectations have been sky-high for new “Silent Hill” content from Konami, but was “Silent Hill: The Short Message” all we hoped for?

Silent Hill: The Short Message

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Following the announcement of Silent Hill 2 finally getting its well-deserved remake, which has sparked much anticipation in the community, we finally have our first taste of new Silent Hill gameplay, even if it is just an extended teaser of more to come in the rebooted franchise.

What initially started out under the codename “Project Sakura,” with concept artwork leaking two years ago, The Short Message was finally announced at the Silent Hill Showcase last year. With little information on what it was going to be, the game seemed to have landed on the back burner and mostly forgotten about.

Then, on January 31, 2024, the “State of Play” PS5 Showcase (which also gave us a much-anticipated trailer showing the combat reveal for Silent Hill 2) announced the game would be dropping immediately for free, offering gamers a roughly two-hour playtime.

As an avid Silent Hill fan, I scurried to download it and settled in for a late night, ecstatic to finally have some fresh meat in the world of Silent Hills.

The basic story revolves around our main protagonist, Anita, who receives a suspicious text from a close friend — one who had unfortunately committed suicide earlier that year. We follow Anita’s journey as she finds herself stuck in purgatory, evading a cherry blossom-covered creature, searching for clues on how to stop this relentless personal hell.

Upon booting up the game, it immediately becomes clear some strong themes will be present in the narrative. 

You’re immediately offered resources, including phone numbers of helplines and websites related to self-harm, suffering from the after-effects of COVID-19, bullying, and dealing with childhood traumas. This game handles them with delicacy and sensitivity, and it’s great to see such positive awareness being spread.

I’ll start with what I really enjoyed about playing The Short Message.

The story really gripped me and kept me invested in finding out more and investigating every item for story clues.

With innovative live-action sequences mixed in with great performances and a chase scene so tense I was screaming at the TV, this game really has some great concepts behind it.

Akria Yamaoka‘s return to scoring this game was the highlight for me. Often seen as the God of Silent Hill, he really is, more often than not, the determining factor in whether a Silent Hill game is going to be good or not.

The creature design for this game is so beautiful. Wrapped in barbwire and cherry blossoms, it really captivated me — when I wasn’t running for my life. One thing Silent Hill always does well is craft creatures that drum fear in the heart but also are simply stunning, sometimes grotesque, to look at.

The way it sounds when chasing you, I can’t quite describe, but it really has stuck with me.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work as well as I would have hoped.

Being a lifelong fan of this important franchise, I know we can be a tough crowd to please. Presenting a completely new direction for the franchise and creeping on the popular and widely received P.T. from over ten years ago, this game was always going to have mighty big shoes to feel.

However, there is some fair criticism that can be heaped on this game despite it being free to play.

Some of the dialog really does come across as obnoxious and a bit too on-the-nose, with characters telling you how to react and feel. One character completely took me out of the game every time they spoke; the line delivery was almost comedic, ruining the sense of immersion in the game.

With it being mostly a walking simulator, which I don’t mind, it lacked that classic Silent Hill riddle and puzzles aspect that makes the games so compelling and deeply investing. This game only includes one puzzle, and it’s incredibly easy to solve.

The game also lacks any sort of subtly that old Silent Hill games have, making them the pinnacle of psychological horror.

I appreciate Konami wanting to go in a new direction. However, like most Silent Hill fans, I attach certain expectations to a game that bears the Silent Hill name, and it may have been better to release this one as a standalone game.

Among the Silent Hill community, the reviews for The Short Message are very mixed. 

There is plenty of appreciation for the fact that we are at least getting some new content after a decade of radio silence. Further, the fact that it’s free is fantastic, as it removes barriers for fans to get a taste of what’s to come from Konami.

Some do enjoy the fact that this feels like a bite from a fresh apple, with the studio trying something different. Others, however, complain that it just doesn’t feel like a Silent Hill game at all.

Personally, I think it’s worth dedicating a couple of hours of your time to check it out, at least for the interesting storyline and to preview the innovative way Konami wants to proceed with the franchise into the future.

With that said, keep your expectations in check, as this ultimately ends up being a very middle-of-the-road entry that doesn’t herald a return to greatness for the franchise — at least, not just yet.

Going forward, I will remain optimistic, hoping that the beloved Silent Hill video game franchise will soon revert to what made it such a unique and memorable horror experience. 

Overall Rating (Out of 5 Butterflies): 3

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