Welcome to the new Silent Hill

It may not actually be a Silent Hill game, but Little Hope for PS4 is as close to the feel of that series that I’ve experienced in a while playing a video game. Based on the “choose your own adventure” style of the hit horror game Until Dawn, this is the follow up to Man of Medan and the second game in the Dark Pictures trilogy.

Until Dawn featured Hayden Panettiere, Man of Medan had Shawn Ashmore, and the main character in Little Hope is modeled after and voiced by Will Poulter of Midsommar. He is on a bus with a handful of other passengers when it crashes on a dark road at night.

The group decides to walk to the nearest town, which requires passing through thick fog. As they try to find any sign of life or someone to help them, little do they know (at first) that hellish creatures are lurking in the woods…and they are about to be players in the town’s witch trials of 1692. There are some nods to The Blair Witch Project, as well as plenty of jump scares that scare the shit out of you the first few times but then lose their power because they use a repetitive tactic—sort of like much of the supernatural PG-13 horror movies that have been terrifying tweens for the past decade.

You control various characters as the game progresses, and your goal is to keep as many of them alive as possible by the end of the game. You get to choose how to react in various situations, which changes the personality traits of each character and affects their relationships with each other. And if you’ve played Man of Medan, you’ll be familiar with the “host” of the game, who appears in between chapters to comment on how you’re doing (he’s so judgmental) and offer up hints as to what you should or maybe shouldn’t do next.

The characters move with basic third-person survival horror controls, but there’s no traditional combat here. You can interact with shiny objects you see, which fill in details of the story and sometimes give premonitions of how certain characters may die if you’re not careful. That’s the easy part.

The interactive game aspects are trickier and thrown at you so fast with no tutorial that you are likely to screw up a few times before you get the hang of it. All your responses are time-based. For instance, when you have to choose what to say to another character, a dial symbol marked with three choices pops up on the screen. Instinct will tell you to rotate your thumb stick to choose, but actually you just have to push either right, left, or up to select one of the three choices and then hold the stick in place until the selection is accepted. But believe me, the time you have to do that is short, so make it quick.

There are also QuickTime events, such as running or climbing, which means an X, O, square, or triangle will flash on screen and you must press the corresponding button on your controller quickly before the next symbol appears. So nerve-racking. Even worse are the moments when you “battle” creatures, which requires moving a reticle into a circle that appears randomly somewhere on screen and then pressing a button before the circle closes. The movement of the reticle is ridiculously unwieldy for a game mechanic that requires precision and accuracy. Every fricking character I lost died due to this horrible aspect of the game—and all right near the end of the game, which is just a slap in the face to all my previous expertise at…um…choosing to say the right thing at the right time. Infuriating.

That aside, the game is scary, suspenseful, engrossing, and has a fantastic story and creepy as hell creatures, plus it’s short, so you can fully immerse yourself in the experience from start to finish in one sitting. It should only take you about six hours to complete, so if you don’t love the outcome or want to save more characters, you can play through it again quickly and make better choices…or less mistakes with that damn targeting system.

About Daniel

I am the author of the horror anthologies CLOSET MONSTERS: ZOMBIED OUT AND TALES OF GOTHROTICA and HORNY DEVILS, and the horror novels COMBUSTION and NO PLACE FOR LITTLE ONES. I am also the founder of BOYS, BEARS & SCARES, a facebook page for gay male horror fans! Check it out and like it at www.facebook.com/BoysBearsandScares.
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