The first Silent Hill game in over a decade, The Short Message is as its name suggests a little on the brief side. Dive into this dark and atmospheric first-person adventure and you’ll be watching the credits roll within two hours at most. Though it’s not really an issue when it’s absolutely free.
Silent Hill: The Short Message is a taste of what Konami envisions as a contemporary Silent Hill horror title. Introducing players to a troubled girl called Anita, its story is centred around social media, and its potentially devastating effects on the mental health of those who use it. You see, Anita isn’t popular, not like one of her friends Maya, who is known for her brilliant art.
But of course, not everything is as it seems; who knows what happens behind closed doors and when you’re not present. As you’ll find out if you play it, there are very few people in this succinct tale that are truly happy.
Taking place entirely in an apartment block, most of your time in Silent Hill: The Short Message is spent rummaging around from a first-person viewpoint, investigating documents and images that help flesh out the game’s story. On the subject of story, there are many cinematic scenes here, including some that are full-motion video.
The latter can feel a little out of place at times, though it’s the unconvincing dubbing/voice acting that lets both down the most. Still, while it breaks your immersion a little, it’s not terrible. Besides, a brilliant soundtrack composed by ex-Team Silent member Akira Yamaoka somewhat makes up for it.
In terms of puzzles, there’s only one here that might give you any trouble at all. On the whole it’s mostly a passive experience that drives you forward and holds your hand. There is an element of danger, however, in the form of a brilliant new monster designed by another ex-Team Silent member, Masahiro Ito.
At various points in the game you’ll be pursued by a hulking entity covered in cherry blossom, your only option being to run. These moments are genuinely heart-pounding, at least initially. Although your last encounter with the cherry blossom monstrosity is perhaps where you’ll feel frustrated by the game, being trapped in a maze until you’ve been able to locate various pictures so that a door can be opened.
As already mentioned, the soundtrack of Silent Hill: The Short Message is brilliant, evoking memories of the series’ past. A special mention must also go out to the game’s visuals, however, which are pretty much photo-realistic at times. It makes it easy to get drawn into Anita’s plight as you explore the nooks and crannies of numerous apartments, unsure what awaits you around the corner.
The stunning visuals come at a cost, though: performance. While the framerate is never so bad that it causes any gameplay issues, it’s not particularly stable. So, if you’re sensitive to framerate fluctuations, you might find it hard to stomach.
While it can be a little ham-fisted with its messaging, Silent Hill: The Short Message is a suitably dark and disturbing experience that certainly captures the look and feel of Silent Hill. Those who dig into it will find that it offers an interesting take on how these stories can occur outside of the actual town of Silent Hill, too. In any case, for the price of free, it’s hard to complain about a short horror experience that is as good as (or better than) most of its ilk released at a cost.