While Origins is more enjoyable as a portable title, the flaws in the console version still remain.

User Rating: 6.5 | Silent Hill: Origins PSP
Silent Hill has been on a long and winding road for the past years. Whether it be going in the hands of developers or having major staff changes, the people behind the series has been shifting more and more over the past couple years. One example of this shift is Silent Hill: Origins, an installment in the psychological horror series that was handed over to American developer Climax and released it on the PS2 and PSP.

I played the console version first, and my opinion of it was not favorable to say the least. I utterly despised the whole thing, ragging on the level design, lack of constant psychological elements, and reliance on jump scares. Sadly, this is still apparent in the portable release but, for some reason, is a more enjoyable experience when all is said and done. This might be due to the fact that Origins teeters on a strange line in which it comes off as far too short for a console title, but also a little bit lengthy for a portable one. Thus, the pacing is different due to the pick-up-and-play atmosphere that goes hand-in-hand with portable gaming. Differences between version aside, the story of Origins is not half bad (though low quality considering other games in the series).

Origins stars a lonely trucker named Travis who arrives on the outskirts of Silent Hill when he thinks he hit someone in the road. Upon going up the road to see what exactly is going on, he sees that a house is burning down with someone trapped inside. This leads to Travis's descent into the beginnings of the cursed town. As a whole, the story is paced much better in portable format and the various notes left around, a mainstay in the series, gives a good amount of backstory without being too taxing on the player. Although the entirety of the game ties into the rest of the canon fairly well, it does come off as incredibly straightforward in comparison to entries like the second one in which interpretation and suggestion was highly utilized. Still, the story is about at the same level of quality as the gameplay.

Playing Origins on a PSP feels more natural than on a console, perhaps because this was the intended system. The controls are mapped out in a way that takes little to no effort to get a hang of and there were rarely any instances in which I pressed the wrong button. Moving around was the only major flaw in the control scheme due to the consistently awkward camera angles that caused Travis to run in a circle before I found the correct orientation to make him go forward. In fact, this caused at least one death since an enemy was between angles and I couldn't find a way to target him without running in a circle and getting beaten to death. This has been a problem for me in previous games in this series, but since avoiding enemies altogether is the best course of action, it can be forgiven. On top of the usual features and issues one would expect in a Silent Hill game, Origins throws a couple major ones in the mix...with varied results.

One thing that's interesting about Origins is the breakable weapons system, a first (and only use so far) in the series. This pertains to melee weapons, so firearms retain their quality no matter how many uses they go through. Things like pieces of wood, pipes, hooks, wrenches, lamps, and even a toaster are available to either throw at or bludgeon foes to death with. While this adds a small bit of realism to the experience, that is quickly taken away by the fact that Travis is able to store an infinite amount of melee weapons on his person, which can get truly annoying when you have to go to the pause menu and spend at least a solid minute trying to dig out the right weapon. There is an option to simply use the D-pad to change weapons, but since it's done in real time you'll most likely get killed before you find the best weapon you can manage. Punching is another option, but Travis's hooks and jabs are fairly weak in comparison to the various melee items found throughout the town.

Another unique feature is the ability to go between worlds, which is a severe negative. Having control over when and where the worlds switch via mirrors takes the oppressive undertone that I so loved in the previous titles away. In the end, it becomes more of an annoying requirement and find an excuse to have the player backtrack the entire map with a different layout of which doors can and cannot be opened. Although this might have sounded like an interesting idea on paper, it takes away far too much from the experience to call itself psychological.

One large gripe I have with this game is it's reliance on jump scares. In previous Silent Hill titles, things would bang on walls, shuffle along, and make creaking noises. However, whatever made that noise would either be invisible or just out of sight. In Origins, the monsters come running at Travis like someone rang the damn dinner bell, taking all anticipation away from the formula. The worst part is that the monsters are incredibly predictable concerning when and where they'll pop up. I swear that every time you get an item for a puzzle, a monster is waiting just outside the room regardless if you killed everything along the way. It comes off as cheap and lame, to be honest.

Overall, while Origins does not succeed in creating an ideal psychological experience like its predecessors, the entirety of the experience is tolerable on a portable system. If you're a fan of horror games and have a PSP, picking this up at a used game store or wherever you can find it under $10 wouldn't hurt.