So I walk into a deserted diner and take a minute to look around – it’s quiet and it’s dark. On the counter I find a map of the place and am faced with two unlocked doors. Reasoning that I should investigate the bathroom of this decrepit place first, I check the empty stalls to find a health kit. The other door leads to a small hotel attached, checking all the rooms I find the keys to the 2nd floor, a safe, a power cable, and a diary that reveals the hotel’s female occupants were the victims of voyeurism. Down in the basement I find what looks like an employee beating a woman, and after intervening I find myself chased off the premises by a pack of female zombies.
Compared to most games this probably sounds incredibly boring, but this is the bulk of what I find surprisingly enjoyable about Silent Hill Downpour. I played less than an hour of the game before deciding to buy it sometime later this year. I stayed away from it initially because I expected another misinformed attempt at Team Silent’s classics and the survival horror games of old. Honestly though, I’m just happy it resembles those games even a little bit. Even pieces of the old formula are enough to give me a breath of fresh air from all the linear shooters I’ve been playing.
Towards the beginning of this year I suddenly felt a distinct craving for what I decided to call a “dark Japanese adventure game”. What this term mostly encompasses is the survival horror games we used to play on the PS1 and PS2, but the fear factor isn’t what really kept me playing them. To me it was more about the sense of exploration, the intimate feeling of discovery, and the slower pace of things.
I could just sit down and investigate a room or building at my own pace, look at each part with my own level of scrutiny, and really put my brain to work unlocking secrets. I could get absorbed in the world in a uniquely intimate way. I miss pretty much everything about those old games except for the messy controls, and starting asking around for any that I might have missed.
A popular suggestion for me was Corpse Party for the PSP which I know little about. I was going to wait for the iOS version but it doesn’t look like it’s coming out in English. Looking back at older examples I got a bit interested in the Echo Night series but also know little about it. I also have an unplayed copy of Resident Evil 2 on my shelf.
What a lot of people don’t realize is that these games – commonly called “survival horror,” are really the console interpretation of point n’ click adventure games. The original Resident Evil kind of owes its existence to the 1992 original Alone in the Dark on the PC. Translating the classic adventure game mechanics of exploration, item management, and puzzle solving to a controller spawned the whole survival genre on consoles which just happened to be entirely represented by horror games.
Ironically, a console game that’s brought back this feeling for me has actually been Stacking from Tim Schaefer’s Double Fine. Doing nothing but starting conversations and solving puzzles in 3D environments in that game somehow reminded me the classics, even a few particular Game Boy games for some reason.
Resident Evil Revelations went to surprising lengths to rekindle the feeling of the older games in that franchise. Running back and forth throughout the cruise ship – which is such a perfect setting for a classic RE game that I’m surprised a mainline game hadn’t used it, searching for clues and resources with RE4’s more modern control scheme hinted at the balance I want to see in the series. Revelations is what I kind of hope RE6 becomes.
What I really want to see one day is this style of adventure game brought back with a completely modern control scheme. Games like Resident Evil 5 and Dead Space could have become this when they pledged to get rid of the tank controls, but they really just became shooters with horror elements. I’m talking about a game that lets you explore, search, and discover detailed HD environments without cumbersome controls.
The closest I’ve gotten is probably the works of Frictional Games – Penumbra and Amnesia. Amnesia basically plays like the first RE game except it’s in first person and you don’t have any guns. Other than that, as far as consoles go Silent Hill Downpour, despite probably being an overall mediocre game, is about the closest I’ve gotten.
I’ve already been over why this kind of game isn’t made on consoles anymore – it’s not fast enough for the dudebro and has become another casualty of the blockbuster landscape. I should probably be pinning my hopes on Shinji Mikami’s upcoming Zwei, the way he talks about returning to the genre.
It’d be kinda nice if this kind of thing on consoles wasn’t all horror games – if someone made a straight-up detective story or something but mechanically framed like a survival horror. That’s a pipe dream within a pipe dream at this point though.
- I also tried out Deadly Premonition a while back but that game is just way too janky.
- It was only a matter of time until someone made The Incredible Machine in Portal 2. http://t.co/nm7SEu63
- A pretty impressive mockup of a Steam redesign: http://t.co/Og18EYiG
- Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery fan art collection – http://t.co/nIMHCVcu
- I hope Diablo III’s server problems serve as a lesson about always-online DRM. I wouldn’t even be able to play the game right now anyway due to my computer’s internet problems. Now let this happen to the PC version of Assassin’s Creed III or something.
- This is every confirmed developer quote known concerning the Wii U’s hardware capabilities: http://t.co/mM4OpMkW