Review: Silent Hill: The Short Message Is True to Silent Hill
Image via Konami

Review: Silent Hill: The Short Message Is A True Silent Hill Game

On January 31, 2024, Konami released Silent Hill: The Short Message for the PlayStation 5 entirely for free. The first console entry in the Silent Hill series since Silent Hill Downpour, this bite-sized experience lends itself to the psychological horror elements of the series. However, due to the focus of its narrative and first-person controls, long-time fans of the series may find it lacking. That said, Silent Hill: The Short Message is perhaps the closest thing to a “true” Silent Hill game fans have been looking for since the days of Team Silent.

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Image via Konami

Editor’s Note: Silent Hill: The Short Message and this review of it contains mentions of suicide, self-harm, and abuse.

Silent Hill: The Short Message takes place in the fictional city of Kettenstadt, Germany, a sister city to an unnamed town in Japan that will no doubt somehow tie into Silent Hill f, given the inclusion of the mysterious Silent Hill Phenomenon. Given numerous failed attempts to revitalize the dilapidated city, Kettenstadt’s reputation is one of decay and hopelessness that permeates the town to the point an abandoned apartment building called The Villa has become an attractive place for the hopeless (primarily teenagers) to commit suicide.

(There is some irony here that I am writing this review in a mostly empty airport in Germany in transit to a German-Japanese sister city.)

Players assume the role of Anita, an 18-year-old girl who has woken up alone in The Villa with nothing but her cell phone. Like all Silent Hill games, context clues as to the going-ons of the narrative are found within the environment and documents you obtain through exploration. However, since Anita has her cell phone with her, you will also receive texts from her classmates Maya and Amelie at various intervals, revealing to the player that not everything is as it seems. This is where Silent Hill: The Short Message leans into the expected narrative twists and turns of the series — though it’s clear that this bite-sized experience more or less draws inspiration from Silent Hill 2 and less from the more “cult-focused” entries like Silent Hill, Silent Hill 3, and Silent Hill 4.

Image via Konami

Anita is an unreliable narrator in her own story. Her perspective is skewed and wrong as the narrative begins to unravel, with the hole that the players first see upon starting the game growing larger and larger with each painful loop she is forced to endure as penance. Anita is eventually forced to reconcile with the truth that she had a hand in the bullying and subsequent suicide of Maya. There are some interesting bits of lore in The Short Message that more or less feel at home with the Higurashi or Umineko series. Which makes sense given that Silent Hill f will be written by the series creator of both those deeply beloved horror visual novels.

That said, witches (or the accusation of a character being a witch) have been a staple in the Silent Hill series since its inception; it’s just an interesting direction for this series of Japanese developers to veer into, given their previous body of work, with Kiichi Kanoh also having a hand in the Higurashi series. What impressed me was the attention to detail in The Short Message’s environments and other objects. I lived in Germany for almost ten years, and the structure of The Villa reminded me of the large, grey concrete apartment complexes in one of the villages I lived in.

When the game takes you to the now trash-laden homes of Anita and Amelie, certain details are so precise, like the kinds of cups found on worn dining room tables, the button used to flush the toilet, and perhaps most importantly, the packaging Anita’s anti-depressants come in. The game makes clear very early on that she is on medication, and players are more or less allowed to speculate for what despite it being very clearly laid out, but seeing those boxes and the little aluminum packs in the bathroom of her apartment closely resembled the kind I was prescribed and am still taking.

Image via Konami

As mentioned previously, dialogue between characters is mostly communicated through text messages through Anita’s cell phone. Conversations play out differently between each successive loop as Anita is yanked out of the metaphorical fog that she has become encased in and thrown into the “Otherworld.” The dialogue isn’t clean or particularly well scripted but leans into the fact that the protagonist and almost every character she interacts with are teenagers.

This isn’t to excuse writing that could be seen as sloppy, but honestly, teenagers can be mean, and people can tear you down in five words or less, regardless of their age. Insults slung at Maya are shallow and born out of jealousy, but not entirely unrealistic. You learn that Anita has harbored resentment for her due to her popularity on social media, bright future as an artist, and the fear that she is taking her only friend from her. There doesn’t need to be a deeper motivation here because that in itself is realistic enough for events to play out the way they do in the game.

The Short Message blends CG cutscenes with FMVs, which can make for a jarring transition, as the performances given by the actresses can feel stilted and uneven. Which more or less makes it feel at home within the Silent Hill series, at least to an extent. The characters don’t necessarily feel as wooden as they do in Silent Hill 2 or Silent Hill 4, and the actress for Anita does deliver during some integral moments of the game. This cannot be said for the rest of the cast, particularly Anita’s abusive mother. Her English performance feels wildly overdone, but this could be for dramatic effect as we are seeing the world through Anita’s eyes and her experience as a child, abused and neglected.

Image via Konami

However, the game’s voice acting and general performances will not rival bigger budget AAA titles like The Last of Us. Taking a page from “modern” survival horror, Silent Hill: The Short Message is first person. What the Amnesia series popularized and the canceled P.T. inspired in both the AAA and indie scene holds this bite-sized experience back. The controls are clunky and sometimes unwieldy during chase segments. There was one instance specifically where I had to deliberately turn my camera to the right over the left in order to get ahead of the sakura-headed monster that pursues Anita through the entire game. I never grew frustrated with these segments, but the final one, in particular, could definitely cause players to drop the game, as instructions to complete it are unclear.

I was streaming the game, and it wasn’t until someone came in and told me what I needed to do to find the keys to the exit that I could eventually make my way to safety and the end of the game. And honestly? It was worth it. Silent Hill: The Short Message isn’t a game about retribution like Silent Hill 2, and maybe that’s what people wanted or were expecting. Instead, it ends with a tearful conversation between Anita and Amelie that lends itself to the final sentence of the content warning you will see time and time again:

One brave step can save a life.

Silent Hill: The Short Message is available for the PlayStation 5.

Silent Hill: The Short Message

Silent Hill: The Short Message is a 2024 survival horror game co-developed by Konami Digital Entertainment and HexaDrive and published by Konami.

Silent Hill: The Short Message is true to Silent Hill, and delves head first into psychological horror.

Food for Thought
  • Akira Yamaoka's score is subtle but works brilliantly.
  • Ever wanted to know what an average bathroom looks like in Germany? Well, you'll find it here.
  • Chase segments aren't great, and may force you to watch an LP to see the game through to the end.

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Image of Kazuma Hashimoto
Kazuma Hashimoto
Senior staff writer, translator and streamer, Kazuma spends his time playing a variety of games ranging from farming simulators to classic CRPGs. Having spent upwards of 6 years in the industry, he has written reviews, features, guides, with work extending within the industry itself. In his spare time he speedruns games from the Resident Evil series, and raids in Final Fantasy XIV. His work, which has included in-depth features focusing on cultural analysis, has been seen on other websites such as Polygon and IGN.