No developer has quite figured out how to replicate analog stick controls on the button-less iPhone, but Konami is one step closer to solving it with "Silent Hill: The Escape" by cleverly assigning the task of aiming to the device's accelerometer.


The pressure must have been immense for Double Helix, the American studio tasked with creating the next "Silent Hill" game.

"Silent Hill" fans are rabid, obsessed with the series' intricate plot nuances and typically resistant to change (see: the formula-altering "Silent Hill: The Room").

It's with this mentality that Jason Allen, lead designer at Double Helix, went into approaching the development of "Silent Hill: Homecoming." Reception to "Homecoming" has been mixed from fans and series newcomers.

After finishing "Homecoming," I sent Allen a series of questions that I came up while playing through the game. Why not change "Silent Hill"'s archaic approach to puzzles? How did they choose Pyramid Head's appearance? Did they spend too much time making the game feel like the old "Silent Hill" games?



The combat in "Silent Hill: Homecoming" is an improvement over previous series efforts, but it wasn't enough for me. I wanted to tune it out and play on easy.

Except "Homecoming" removed the easy difficult setting from the "Silent Hill" franchise. There is only normal and hard.

What gives?

Over e-mail, I asked the "Homecoming" lead designer at Double Helix, Jason Allen, to explain himself.

"Balancing any game is always a difficult and somewhat onerous task," said Allen. "For 'Silent Hill,' in trying to maintain that atmosphere, it was difficult to set an easy mode up for the game that still kept the player in highly agitated state.  Though we did spend sometime looking into how to go about it; in the end it came down to insufficient time to truly justify its inclusion. I’m a firm believer that if you put something in the game, it better be the same high standard as the rest of the game – or you should cut it."

It sounds like Allen and I have to agree to disagree. I wanted to make the combat a moot point, whereas he wanted it to remain a central focus for my "Silent Hill" experience. That explains why he axed the easy mode option, given their development time. At least he did so with good intentions.

Check back later this week for more lessons learned from Allen's "Silent Hill" development experience -- and what he'd do differently with another "Silent Hill."

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I have become more and more frustrated with "Silent Hill: Homecoming" in the days since I wrote a scares comparison to "Siren."

The combat in the new "Silent Hill" is more engaging than in previous games, but nonetheless frustratingly unwieldy. It becomes especially infuriating, given the game's lack of save points and med packs to patch your character up.

Eventually, I'd had enough of dying. I wanted to keep playing for the game's eerie atmosphere, but "normal" difficulty wasn't cutting it.

The problem? There is no "easy" mode!


There are few times I can remember being more frightened during a video game than playing this year's "Siren: Blood Curse" on PlayStation 3.

But as a horror buff, I'm always left wanting more. Which is why I eagerly anticipated the release of "Silent Hill: Homecoming" this month.

I haven't finished "Silent Hill" yet, but have a good feel for it. After a few hours of "Siren," I'd experienced a turn-on-the-lights moment.

Did it happen with "Silent Hill"? Sort of.


Rogue GalaxySince the last entry..

*I got to the bottom of my new-game stack and reached into my old-games-I-need-to-mess-around-with pile. In there I found "Silent Hill 4," "Rogue Galaxy," and "Final Fantasy XII" all for the PS2.

I tried them each but don't plan on finishing any of them unless any reader of this diary can change my mind.



Silent Hill: Homecoming"Silent Hill," fantastic; "Silent Hill 2," arguably even better. I couldn't tell you what "Silent Hill 3" or 4 were like. The series lost me at that point.

"Silent Hill: Homecoming" may bring me back to the fold.

It's not being developed by the missing-in-action Team Silent at Konami Japan, but American outfit The Collective doesn't seem to have bungled what has undoubtedly been a colossal task for them.

The Collective has refrained from "Americanizing" the "Silent Hill" franchise. They've taken something Japanese creators have traditionally done best (atmosphere), melded with something else America's usually excelled at (refined combat).

It's a very satisfying mix.


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