Silent Hill 2


Much as I love “survival horror” games, I have genuine trouble playing them. I like to think this is because I become so engrossed in the game and commit myself to it so completely that the scares are extremely effective on me. But others might say that it’s because I’m a complete pussy. I’ll let you decide which theory you want to subscribe to. When my girlfriend announced that she’d had enough of the ‘cutesy’ games I’d been pushing on her (the risible “Hello Kitty” game being the proverbial straw) and wanted to try something meatier, I realised it was time to bit the bullet and bring out Silent Hill 2, a game that had been lying untouched since I bought it almost two years ago. The idea being that she would play most of the game, handing (read: throwing) the controller to me whenever the action got a bit much for her.

Throughout the course of the game, you realise how much the game loves to fuck with you. It’s true that most survival horror games like to fuck with you in some way – the cheap-but-fun parlour tricks of “Eternal Darkness” making you think your controller had become unplugged, or the twisted self-referential jokes of Resident Evil 2 and 3 – but Silent Hill turns this into an art form. The static on your character’s hand-held radio being a particularly good example. It warns the player that an enemy is close, but doesn’t give any indication of exactly where it is. And there’s only one thing scarier than something you can’t see: something you can’t see, but know is there.

By the middle of Silent Hill 2, you’ll have collected most weapons and found plenty of ammunition for your arsenal. Even on “normal” difficulty, the enemies aren’t particularly troublesome. The ones you can’t kill are easy to avoid. At this stage, even my girlfriend was taunting the enemies. I’m pretty sure I heard her smack-talking Pyramid Head.

And that’s when the game pounces.

Inside a hotel, you come across a lift. You have to go down a couple of floors and pick up some items. Unfortunately, when you step into the lift (the only way down), an alarm goes off. A helpful sign informs you that the lift, in true videogame logic, has a weight limit of exactly one person. I spent five minutes shouting at the TV. “You sneaky fuckers! There’s someone else in the lift with me! Someone on the roof! Someone I can’t see!? WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO?!!” Eventually, I discovered what it wanted me to do: my inventory was weighing me down, so I’d have to dump all of my guns and ammunition and go in unarmed. It wouldn’t even let me carry a stick to club potential enemies with.

And with that, my shouting went up a notch. I paused the game and shrieked at the TV for a good ten minutes. I knew that I would be in a cramped basement filled with the worst kinds of brain-spew this side of a Francis Bacon painting (see what I did there?). And I would be completely defenceless. In the end, I spent more time bitching and moaning about what I had to do than I spent actually doing it, but that’s entirely beside the point.

Not long after the game was finished, myself and my girlfriend went on a late-night tour of Kilmainham Jail, a special one-off tour as part of heritage week, given by a friend of ours. It was all about execution within the jail, taking us through some of the places not shown on the ‘normal’ tour. I don’t think anyone was as freaked out as us – the whole thing was exactly like something out of Silent Hill, right down to the creepy map on the wall.

So now, if anyone asks me if Silent Hill 2 is a good game, I tell them about walking through Kilmainham Jail, constantly checking over my shoulder for zombie nurses. It takes a truly spectacular game to mess you up long after the computer is turned off.


Listal: Catalogue your stuff!


My DVD collection has reached the point where I can no longer keep track of what I’ve got, what I’ve loaned to other people or what I haven’t yet watched. So for the past couple of weeks, I’ve been slowly loading my entire collection into Delicious Library. A very pretty application, with a number of really nice features (easy to mark an item as “on loan”; export to iPod, so I almost always have a copy of my collection on-hand), but still had problems for me. Most importantly:

  1. It’s Mac-only
  2. Needs a powerful computer to run properly (which I don’t have at home)
  3. Needs a fast internet connection to run properly (which I don’t have at home)

Last week, I stumbled across Listal. From the website:

Listal is a social website where you can list all the
movies, books, music and games you own and want!

Despite of the lack of a decent “import” feature (right now, you can only import from DVD Profiler), meaning I’m having to enter each one of my DVDs by hand, I’m moving my catalogue from Delicious Library into Listal. Why? Well, there’s a few reasons.

  • It’s internet-based
    I can access (and edit) my catalogue from any computer on the internet, not just my Mac
  • Thin-client suits my crappy internet connection
    The listal server does all the heavy lifting meaning my Clearwire connection remains relatively unruffled.

  • RSS feeds for every context
    Besides the obvious applications of any kind of RSS feeds, it also means I can export my RSS feed to something like iDropper to dump the RSS feed onto my iPod, replicating the functionality of Delicious Library. This will probably get even easier when Listal finally has a “proper” export facility.

  • User-specified tags, ratings and lists
    This is really what sold it for me – the ability to completely tag my collection as I want to. So I can have a whole bunch of movies listed as “hangover movies,” “Sunday matinees,” “Cheesy horror.” You get the idea.

And this is without even touching on the “social” part of the application – being able to see friends’ collections, recommend new films and easily arrange loans.

My listal profile is here. I’ve barely added 25% of my collection and even then, I’m going to have to go back and tag them all properly, so I’m going to be working on it a bit more. If you’re on there, add me as a friend!


Consolevania is back


I used to bitch and moan about how videogames have always been misrepresented on TV. And all it would take to make me happy was a bunch of likeable presenters to make a show entertaining even to people who don’t play videogames.

Hooray then, for Consolevania. An online video TV show so entertaining that even my non-videogame-playing girlfriend will sit down and watch it.

Anyway, after seven months’ break, the new episode of Consolevania was released on Sunday. And it’s as funny as ever. If you like videogames, you should download it. Even if you don’t like videogames, you should download it. And if you’re the maker of a video podcast, you need to watch this and see how it’s done properly.