Ideally, the following review of “Silent Hill 4: The
Room” would be filled with concrete evidence of why it is
such a groundbreaking videogame. But like any mystery-driven
adventure, too many examples would spoil its surprises. All that
can be offered instead are a few thoughts along with this message:
“Silent Hill 4: The Room” is the reason why videogames
should be considered an art form.
“The Room” that the title refers to is actually a
third-floor apartment in the fictional city of South Ashfield.
Trapped inside is the 20-something Henry Townshend, an average guy
who, after a series of recurring nightmares, finds that the door to
his apartment is chained shut and his windows are locked. His only
exit is through a hole that mysteriously appears in his bathroom,
leading to a series of haunting parallel worlds around him:
subways, forests, prisons and other locales. Henry must fight and
solve puzzles here to discover the worlds’ significance in
the mystery of his imprisonment.
Ironically, the room that Henry is trying so desperately to
escape is the safest place in the game. Henry can return here
through portals found in the parallel worlds and recharge health,
save his progress and store and retrieve items. What’s
notable about the apartment is that gradually things begin to
happen inside: Notes get slipped under the door, events transpire
in the real world (which Henry can view through windows and
peepholes) and eerie anomalies like the washing machine spewing
blood occur with little explanation.
The beautiful thing about this concept is that the developers
have taken something that is, at its core, a place to rest and
recharge and turned it into the focal point of the game. The most
minute changes in the apartment are easily noticed because the
player gets used to scouring every corner for clues. The story is
then revealed though scrutiny of the apartment world’s many
transformations. This introduces a style of narration in videogames
that can’t be duplicated in movies, let alone cutscenes.
But just because a game is artistic, doesn’t mean that
it’s flawless. Unfortunately, “Silent Hill 4: The
Room” falls into the trap of adding unnecessary gameplay in
order to boost play time over 10 hours. The game feels like it is
spiraling toward its climax at about the halfway point until
players find that they must revisit all of the nightmare worlds
again in order to solve the mystery. The reality of “The
Room” is that the puzzles are fairly obvious and the
run-around-and-use-your-crowbar action is as inane as every other
survival-horror game out there. The redeeming factors are the story
and the atmosphere, both of which become overshadowed by repetitive
gameplay during the second half.
Despite the poor judgement of the developers, the innovation in
videogame storytelling demonstrated in “Silent Hill 4: The
Room” is worth checking out. It may lack creative gameplay,
but it’s still an engaging piece of work.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.