You'll love it if:
- You’re looking for a classic Silent Hill experience
- You have two hours of free time to spare
- You don’t mind games with difficult topics
Not for you if:
- You can’t tolerate the subject of self-harm
- You don’t like psychological horror games
- You prefer longer games with more content
It’s not a stretch to say that P.T. was lightning in a bottle. A teaser in the form of a game, it was announced and immediately published on the PlayStation Store to serve as a taste of Silent Hills, a new Silent Hill game. That game would never see the light of day, instead signaling many long years of slumber for the beloved franchise.
Recently, Konami has made attempts to revive the series. With the Silent Hill 2 remake and many smaller projects on the way, Silent Hill could finally be enjoyed by modern audiences. And during Sony’s State of Play in January 2024, Konami followed the same pattern as before.
They announced and immediately published Silent Hill The Short Message, a free game that serves as an appetizer for what’s to come for the series. Developed by a small team within Konami and with support from Hexadrive, the game is now available exclusively on the PlayStation 5. Free to download and play in its entirety. So, what’s it about?
Silent Hill The Short Message is a game that has a lot to say in just two hours. It’s a short, experimental project from Konami that came out of nowhere to remind us that Silent Hill still has a lot of great stories to tell.
Story – Growing up in a Digital Era
Silent Hill The Short Message follows Anita, a girl living in Kettenstadt, in modern-day Germany. She visits a building complex known as The Villa, an abandoned structure which is locally known as a place for self-harm by teenagers.
Anita comes to The Villa at the behest of a close friend, Maya, who sends her a message to meet up. It’s a simple premise but Silent Hill The Short Message doesn’t need more than that. It quickly becomes clear that the story is much more complicated than it first appears, as Anita starts finding clues about The Villa’s past, her close circle of friends, and her school.
Anita is an outcast in her social circles. She doesn’t fit in and she is depressed. More than anything, she seeks the approval of those around her. Finding herself in The Villa, her environment quickly becomes her own “Silent Hill”, a twisted reality brought on by her trauma. As you explore the building complex, you’ll learn more about Anita, and Maya, and what friendships can mean for teenagers who don’t realize that high school is just a blip in one’s life.
Today’s teenagers grow into tomorrow’s adults, and it’s what Silent Hill The Short Message very elegantly communicates even though it belongs in the survival horror genre. In many ways, it’s the truest Silent Hill has been to itself in years, and best of all–the project simply appeared on the online storefront, free for anyone to try out and judge for themselves.
What Bullying Does to Everyone Involved
One of the core themes of Silent Hill The Short Message lies in cyberbullying and the effects social media have on all of us. How many times have we shared a photo from our recent trip hoping for likes and comments? How many times have we responded to a stranger’s comment, secretly hoping to spark an online discussion? Social media has not only affected but molded how young people see the world–through the lens of influencers and a skewed reality.
Silent Hill The Short Message shows what social media does to a person already neglected by their family, with generational trauma and thoughts of self-harm looming in the corner of the eye. While this game is enjoyable as a piece of digital media, it’s not “fun” in a classic sense–its themes are very real and it does a good job of tackling them tastefully.
Gameplay – A Standard Indie Horror Affair
The weakest element of Silent Hill The Short Message is its gameplay. If you’ve played games like MADiSON before, you’ll be right at home here. Technically, it’s a walking simulator with a few interactive sequences where you’ll run away from…well, spoilers. There is a single puzzle in the game and the rest of your time in The Villa will be spent reading notes and listening to Anita’s inner monologue.
True to the theme of social media and technology, Anita’s smartphone is constantly buzzing with strange messages which slowly unravel the game’s story. The game has no replay value and will take about two hours to finish. It’s a short and “enjoyable” experience, a quality product that you’ll remember fondly and compare it to past games in a positive light.
Visuals – Atmospheric, Albeit Repetitive
Silent Hill The Short Message relies on the Unreal Engine (unspecified, but likely UE4) to bring the world of Silent Hill to life. The game looks decent, with low texture quality and repetitive environments. You’ll revisit the same locations and remixed versions of places you’ve already been to. However, this is to be expected since it’s a budget title made by a tiny team. Despite its simplistic look, Silent Hill The Short Message is very atmospheric and pulls you into its world from the start.
The game cleverly mixes in live-action sequences whenever Anita remembers her experiences with Maya, a graffiti artist prodigy. You’ll creep around The Villa looking for a way forward, enjoying its immersive environmental lighting and storytelling approach. The game targets 60FPS but constant drops are happening throughout, especially when you’re in The Otherworld (Anita’s “Silent Hill”). Apart from that, the game is very stable and bug-free. We ran into no technical issues throughout the entirety of the game which is a very welcome surprise not only in 2024 but also from Konami.
Audio – The Game Sounds Like Silent Hill Should
The most important component of a Silent Hill game is its soundtrack, and without looking it up, the game truly sounded like one from the start. It turns out that Silent Hill The Short Message is composed by none other than Akira Yamaoka, the original veteran of Team Silent and the architect of the series’ iconic soundtrack. The game is full of sombre, atmospheric, acoustic tracks which paint a vivid, lonely picture of Anita’s world. Morbidly enough, these tracks are very enjoyable to listen to even out of context, as background music.
Apart from the soundtrack, Silent Hill The Short Message is a standard affair, with the usual assortment of sound effects and environmental noises. Some stock sound effects found their way into the project, which is a shame as they’re easily recognizable. Overall, the package really comes together nicely visually and audibly, especially if you’re playing with headphones. The game also features some subtle but neat effects by relying on the PS5’s controller speaker (again, spoilers).
Conclusion: Should you Play Silent Hill The Short Message?
Silent Hill The Short Message is very much worth your time, with an asterisk. It is a very heavy game thematically and it may not sit well with you if you’re bothered by these topics. For the fans of the series and psychological horror fans looking for a quick game to play, this is a must. It’s an incredible accomplishment made even more enjoyable by the fact that it came out of nowhere.
In the coming years, many more Silent Hill projects will see the light of day–not all of them will be good. This game is a good place to start for Konami, it’s a step in the right direction. While we wait for the inevitable release date of Bloober Team’s Silent Hill 2, we’re also standing by for Silent Hill Townfall and Silent Hill f. Only time will tell if the series will ever relive its Team Silent glory days, but until then, we should celebrate Konami’s occasional successes.
Silent Hill The Short Message is now available for free on the PlayStation Store.