Bringing a survival-horror franchise to a handheld is a very thin tight-wire to walk, and Silent Hill Origins does it with a fair amount of aplomb. Still, it does come relatively close to slipping off. Fortunately, its missteps only break the rules of handheld gaming convenience, and not the game itself. If all of the 4 main areas had lasted as long as the introductory trip through Alchemilla, this would have been a perfect on-the-go experience. However, I think this would have also been rather disappointing. The designers must have realized this themselves, as the rest are around two to four times as long.
As strange as it may sound, I really think it works in the game’s favor that it doesn’t feel like it was designed for the small screen. I’d rather suffer infrequent opportunities to save than a game filled with areas explored only on a surface level. Much of the depth here is thanks to a new mechanic that allows players to switch between misty and nightmare sides on command, through the use of mirrors. This is much akin to A Link to the Past and the Constantine licensed game.
Besides this mechanic, the only true gameplay differences between Origins and the original ‘trilogy’ of games are that Travis is a competent bare-knuckle brawler and his weapons, though very numerous, break rather quickly. There are so many littered around the environments, in fact, that this never feels like a hinderance. Even if you break all that you have available (and use up all your ammo), Travis is still perfectly capable of dusting enemies with his own two fists.
Thankfully, for those who find the series’ 10-star system overwhelming, Travis’s achievements are broken into discrete accolades that can be completed over as many playthroughs as necessary. These all unlock weapons and costumes (some with their own tangible benefits!).
On the story-front, Origins--appropriately, given the nature of the number 0--plays like both an Even and an Odd entry. Travis’s interactions with Alessa demonstrate the events leading up to the original game, and yet there is a VERY strong emphasis on Travis himself.
Even if it brings into question the appropriateness of this game being on a handheld, I still believe that a little annoyance in terms of when you can save is a small price to pay to take this splendid trip.
Originally available only on PSP, Origins eventually found its way onto the PS2. While the graphics are crisper and have more care put into them on the PSP, it is still cheaper and far more practical to track down a copy of the port if you don’t own the nefarious handheld. From my experience, it’s better to hunt for this game online these days, in either form.
4 Unwarranted Cases of Blue-Balls out of 5
Nutted by NEG