★★ 2.5 Stars
Genre: Survival Horror
Platform: PlayStation 2
Summary – Siren follows a large cast of characters who find themselves trapped in the remote, strange village of Hanuda, Japan, which has come under a mysterious curse causing it to be enveloped in darkness. The villagers, mutated and corrupted by the curse, have all become hostile zombies.
Again, I want to point out that this list is not objective, but sorted by my personal preference. (It’s also leaked far past Halloween, sorry about that!) Some members of the team behind Silent Hill created Siren, so for that reason alone I hate to place it near the top of the “Worst”, but I really hated this game. It’s like they took the worst qualities that Silent Hill had and amplified them – weird controls, a hard-to-follow plot, invincible and incredibly annoying enemies, etc. If I had to summarize this game in two words, I would call it “mercilessly confusing”.
Siren feels hostile, and not in a good way like horror is supposed to, but more like it’s actively punishing you for not being psychic and already having figured out what to do. I got a similar feeling with The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, if you’ve ever played that. Unlike this game, though, Majora’s Mask made up for its frustrating parts by being otherwise engaging and rewarding. You don’t feel like you’ve accomplished anything playing Siren, but dug yourself deeper into frustration. There’s not any one part that I can use as an example, because it’s a lot of moments spread throughout.
The one thing I truly did like is Siren‘s concept and design, which uses themes of Japanese occultism and seems to be inspired by the works of Junji Ito, notably “Village of the Sirens”, one of his best short stories. The shibito, a village of cursed humans that serve as the main enemies, are incredibly creepy looking, and the fact that they relentlessly chase you down can be scary, at least until it becomes annoying. A unique mechanic is used to where you can peek through the eyes of the shibito in order to avoid them, which I thought was creative and bizarre. It’s not often you get to see through the eyes of the zombie that’s after you in games like these!
As good and creative as the design is, especially in regards to body horror, I hate to say that the game itself remains unfair, cruel and often incomprehensible. Silent Hill had its obscure moments, but there was a sense of logic and a natural path to its dreaminess that doesn’t exist here. Siren does have a fanbase who insist there’s something special about it, and maybe there is, but I don’t appreciate having my patience threshold constantly tested to find it. Will I give it another chance? Someday, maybe, but truthfully it is more interesting to read about than play.
Would It Make a Good Novel?
I honestly want to say “no”, but I suppose there’s potential. The themes of the story can be quite fascinating when dissected outside of the game, and do remind me a lot of Junji Ito or H.P. Lovecraft.
Story and Characters – 2.5
Art and Design – 4
Gameplay and Entertainment Factor – 1
Fear Factor – 2.5
Music and Sound – 3
General Score – 2.5 out of 5
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