Silent Hill: The Short Message is Missing the Horror of Silent Hill | Review

Silent Hill: The Short Message potentially shows us the direction the franchise might go, but also seems to not understand what the games are about.

As a fan of horror and Silent Hill, I’ve been ecstatic about it returning in multiple forms. Then we started getting our hands on some of the releases and it hasn’t been great. First we got the absolutely horrible live service episodic mobile game, Silent Hill Ascension, then we got The Short Message. While not nearly as bad, it still misses the mark.

The Short Message is literally what the title implies: it’s a short game.  There’s a beginning, middle, and end, so technically it’s complete but extremely short. It’s similar to the iconic and groundbreaking PT, but this is where the problems start to arise.

Silent Hill: The Short Message
Developed By: Konami, HexaDrive
Platforms: PlayStation 5
Release Date: January 31, 2024

The game plays like a modern day, “walking horror” title. It’s one of my favorite genres, but Short Message fails to do anything great like the PT demo it’s trying so hard to emulate. Which is quite honestly shocking. PT basically made the genre boom and has tons of knock offs, but also led to some of the best horror games I’ve ever played. So it’s a bit strange the franchise that literally launched the genre into these heights fails to do anything particularly special with it upon returning.

In fact, the “PT Inspiration” is one of my biggest issues with The Short Message. It tries to hint at the same tropes as PT with very similar—if not identical—situations present, but it fails to understand what made those elements in PT so scary.

Short Message does a good job with the loop system at a certain point; slowly changing your perspective and environment at every loop. But it never allows itself to go deep enough to be effective. Then other ideas from PT are randomly thrown in which expands the scope too far for The Short Message to tell an effective story. Crying babies, creepy bathrooms, random opening doors…it covers it all.

Instead the game flies from beginning to end with little, to no, real substance to it. This is rather apparent with a straight in your face narrative that leaves zero room to explore a “true meaning” of anything. The suicide story is very blunt and obvious, with it spoon feeding every little detail to you as characters say/describe exactly how they are feeling and what their next actions will be. The game even adds random yelling voices as you click on objects that borderline make you laugh. Normally horror games are better at metaphorically telling a story through visuals or sub context, such as Visage, but that doesn’t happen here.

The game’s short length could be to blame, but with a looping system it wouldn’t be too hard to expand on concepts introduced. Instead, The Short Message just scratches the surface of everything you expect from a walking horror game. A random number puzzle? Got it. A random chase sequence that is beyond frustrating? Got that too.

The only thing the game is missing is… well horror. I didn’t get scared at any moment during the short experience. At all. There were no real creepy hallways I refused to walk down, no major jump scares, and nothing that made me have to put the game down and take a break.

This can’t be blamed on the short experience as well because I’ve seen it done perfectly fine before. Luto, another horror game, just released a demo of similar style and it totally had horror aspects from beginning to end, and packed a lot more content in the same length.

Perhaps worst of all, The Short Message doesn’t even feel like a Silent Hill game. It’s too brightly colored, and transitions are too far and few between. There’s no “discovery” of horror elements to it. Plus, for some reason, the game attempts to explain a Silent Hill “effect,” which isn’t something that needs any explanation. It’s an excuse to explain why things are taking place in a different town. They’re just explaining things that need no explanation. It’s a perfect example of the game not letting you explore concepts on your own.

That’s not to say the game isn’t pretty looking, or totally lacks everything. Like I said, it touches on basically every concept they want to introduce, it just never lets anything be scary.

The sound design in the game is absolutely phenomenal. In one room you could hear a clock ticking, and with surround sound on you could pinpoint its distance and echo within the room; giving it an eerie touch. When moments get tense, they truly get tense due to the sound design as crying babies or footsteps creep up on you. Then one thing they absolutely nailed was the iconic music you expect from the franchise.

And that isn’t all they got right. The ultimate monster you encounter in the game is brilliantly designed to be creepy; yet ever so satisfying to look at. Her creepy branch like design, towering evil, and even her sounds as she is chasing you is incredible. She is something I want to see cosplayed at every Comic-Con I go to.

But then the game goes right back to really strange and oddly stupid designs to drag you out of the horror. At the end of chase sequences, and at the end of every puzzle, the game will abruptly freeze to bring you into a chat sequence with different characters where you’re once again just being hand fed the story. You could be mid sprint, then just suddenly stop and be texting on your phone. This happens so often you get tired of it real fast because it gets dull.

And that isn’t even the worst part. For some reason the game blends in live action sequences that are extremely cringe and totally pulls you out of the game. I don’t know if these were done for budget reasons or what, but I’m not sure why certain scenes are entirely in-engine, and then they have random filmed scenes with a totally different looking characters that make almost no sense. I absolutely hate live-action cutscenes, and it almost felt like the game was living in the past when this was considered “cool.”

Look, I appreciate the story being told. I think, in certain aspects, it’s well done. Living the “hell” of the character was relatable in a world of internet trolls and school bullies, but it ultimately didn’t know what story it wanted to tell. It wants to dive into the characters past, but also have her be bullied, but not just bullied at school, she’s bullied online too, and then it blends in characteristics like depression and jealousy.

Overall it just needed to pick a specific path and stick to it. It tries too hard to cover all the tropes in such a short time, to a point where none of it had any real impact, and finer details are lost in translation.

Which is a shame because the ending seems to be where they put all their focus in it, and it’s so well done that you truly felt the emotion and impact. It’s a beautiful scene, and it lasts maybe a minute, but at the end of this minute you’re cheering for the main character, you’re crying, you feel like your heart was just ripped out. You could feel the passion and message in this one scene, and it almost nearly saves the entire game from all its faults, but doesn’t quite get there because leading up to this point is despicably blunt.

Previous articleThe Casual Cinecast: Best Films of 2023
Next articleNext Jurassic World Movie Gets a Release Date, David Leitch Possibly Directing
Support My Indie Comic:
missing-the-horror-of-silent-hill-silent-hill-the-short-message-reviewWhile intentions seem pure, Silent Hill The Short Message fails to reintroduce the franchise to the walking sim horror genre that made it so popular with P.T. The game falls short of everything it tries to do, and instead works as a functioning test demo of various aspects that I hope the team explores fully in bigger releases. Being free, and only 90 minutes long, it’s hard to say don’t give the game a shot, but as a Silent Hill fan it was a disappointing experience….About as disappointing as Downpour.