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Silent Hill: The Short Message is the first product in 12 years to release with the Silent Hill name on it, and picking up where the Silent Hill HD Collection and PS Vita title Book of Memories left off, it doesn't exactly put the series' best foot forward. Instead of a horror experience filled with inventive puzzles and consistently scary sequences, Konami — alongside developer HexaDrive — has put together a walking simulator that harkens back to when the genre was actually just about putting one foot in front of the other. It's free and roughly 90 minutes long, so the only thing The Short Message asks of you is your free time. The issue is you could just spend it playing a significantly better game.

Unrelated to past entries in the series, a new protagonist Anita and her cast of teenage friends deal with a few very heavy themes: suicide, abuse, depression, and bullying. It's discomforting enough that Konami felt the need to display a splash screen at the end of each chapter offering guidance and links to suicide hotlines in real life, so it's not a narrative to be taken at all lightly. The plot sees Anita battle her demons in an abandoned apartment building with a reputation for suicides; a sad fate that has befallen her friend Maya.

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Unfortunately, there is little in the way of proper gameplay to support it. Your only interactions are walking (and in some cases running) and interacting with notes and books to read them. The game ushers you down linear hallways within the dilapidated building, revealing plot points through paintings, graffiti, and full-motion video. You then reach a point where it loops and you're back at the start, forced to explore those same rooms over again, except with new interactive elements and more paths to open up. You're never doing anything more than pushing on the left thumbstick and pressing X to have a read or touch of something; it's a walking simulator from before the genre developed into something more.

The full-motion video does at least set up some more interesting scenes — particularly after about an hour of gameplay. They're not worth the time you'll need to invest to actually reach them, but going in blind, we found ourselves somewhat intrigued by them more than anything else. They break up the minimal gameplay nicely and set up some story explanations.

The only other gameplay prompts to speak of are answering text messages (just pressing the X button to send pre-written replies) and chase sequences, which become increasingly frustrating the more you progress. During certain sections — and only in these areas — a monster will start hunting you down and you'll need to escape its clutches. This is pretty straightforward the first two times, but the third and final encounter should be a lesson in how not to do chase sequences for other developers.

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You're tasked with finding multiple pictures within a maze in order to remove padlocks off a door blocking your progress, all the while the monster chases you. The environment is so non-descript and difficult to navigate that you end up running around like a headless chicken blindly searching for these images. You can never really get your bearings, and the door you need to unlock is at a dead end, so if you mess up, you've basically killed yourself. The best part is if you do fail, you have to restart the entire process all over again. It's awful.

You could say the same of the game's frame rate, which attempts a smooth 30 frames-per-second but never achieves it. General gameplay consistently hitches while you're exploring the apartment building, and then takes a nosedive during the aforementioned chase sequences. It struggles to keep up with the speed of our sprint, leading to slight input lag and missed opportunities to escape the monster.

It all makes for an experience that just isn't very good, but when The Short Message is only asking for 90 minutes of your time, it's a tad more difficult to truly slate it. We wouldn't recommend setting aside the time needed to see the game through to its conclusion — what it has to offer simply isn't worth it. However, it's free, so the barrier to entry is simply a bit of your free time. Maybe you'll find something to love.


Incredibly bland gameplay and some overly frustrating chase sequences make Silent Hill: The Short Message a chore to play much of the time. While there are some intriguing full-motion cutscenes and heavy story details, they're not worth pushing through the dull sequences in between to experience them. Silent Hill: The Short Message is completely free, though, so all it's asking for is 90 minutes of your time to see if you enjoy it more than us.