Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem released on the Gamecube in 2002. The game is a 3rd person, survival horror that features elder gods and controlling multiple characters throughout history. The game itself is more remembered for its sanity effects. As you control characters, you will be attacked by Eldritch horror-esque monsters. When your character encounters these monsters, they will have a dip in sanity. Their sanity can be regained by killing the enemy with a finishing move but sometimes this just isn’t an option without risk of death. There are also monsters that focus primarily on attacking your characters sanity. More than likely as you progress as this character their sanity meter will deplete quite a bit.
This leads to some scary, unnerving, goofy, confusing situations. Whilst, your character is losing their marbles you will hear them muttering to themselves things like ‘This can’t be happening’. And, when you transition to a room there is a chance of a sanity effect taking place. These can include:
Your character shrinking to child size
Their head suddenly exploding, followed by the limbs too
Walking on the ceiling of the room
Swarms upon swarms of monsters attacking you, making you hope that it is a sanity effect and not a steep spike in difficulty
The character will attempt to reload their gun but will accidentally shoot themselves in the stomach, causing their death (not really but in the sanity effect)
Bugs suddenly appearing on your TV screen and eventually covering it with creepy crawlies. This one got me the first time, I was sure there was fly’s on my TV
Your inventory will be empty of ammo and health
When you save your game a message will pop up saying ‘Would you like to delete your saved game?’, picking yes or no results in a message saying your game has been deleted
Your screen will go black and you will hear the sounds of your character being attacked or eaten. Making you believe that the video output is faulty but the game is still playing
Other grim effects involve finding a man hanging from the ceiling or your character finding themselves in a bathtub of blood. There are loads more sanity effects too and it really helps to set the game apart from others. I would find myself purposely trying to lower my sanity just so I can see more freak out moments. A great horror game, just a shame the planned sequel never came to fruition. I’ll never forget the mini heart attack, thinking I just deleted my save data. Good times.
In Dead Space 1, our hero, Isaac Clark boards the Ishimura planet cracker spaceship in search of his wife. She was aboard the ship when a distress signal was sent out and Isaac saddles up his engineering suit and heads to her rescue. Upon arriving on the ship, Isaac sees that all is not right, as grotesque amalgamations of bodies called Necromorphs attack him. Throughout the game, Isaac sees his dear beloved who seems to be leading Isaac to something rather than leaping into his arms.
As the player reaches the back end of the game, they are met with a startling revelation. Spoilers inbound: Nicole was dead the entire time. Not only that but Isaac knew of this and was in denial the entire game. At the start of the game Isaac is seen playing a recorded message from his partner. She is clearly under duress and scared, as this is when the distress signal is being broadcast. Once the video message is over, Isaac arrives at the Ishimura and enters. At the end of the game, we are treated to that same video except it doesn’t cut off where it did previously. The footage then shows the poor Nicole using a needle on herself. She then closes her eyes and dies. It’s a grim scene and one that many wouldn’t have seen coming. Sure Nicole seemed off during the game but the realisation that this entire time, we have been playing as a character in denial and who has been risking his life for a truth that doesn’t exist. Her actions may have alluded to some strange goings on but there was a massive give away the developers put into the game to give us a clue. Dead Space is split up into 12 chapters. Each with a title of its own. Seeing these titles 1 as you’re playing the game, you would be hard pressed to see the clue in plain site. But string the chapter titles together and the puzzle is complete.
Chapter 1: New Arrivals
Chapter 2: Intensive Care
Chapter 3: Course Correction
Chapter 4: Obliteration Imminent
Chapter 5: Lethal Devotion
Chapter 6: Environmental Hazard
Chapter 7: Into the Void
Chapter 8: Search and Rescue
Chapter 9: Dead on Arrival
Chapter 10: End of Days
Chapter 11: Alternate Solutions
Chapter 12: Dead Space
Simply take the first letter of each title and Nicole’s fate is revealed. Nicole Is Dead. I personally love attention to details like this or subtle hints that developers input into their games. They don’t need to do this. I imagine most people who played Dead Space never even knew of this detail. I didn’t until a year or so after completing the game. It plays in with the lore of the Dead Space universe too. In the game there is The Marker which is this alien doodad that reanimates the dead and tends to make people in its vicinity go a bit mad. Isaac has a wide variety of hallucinations during the Dead Space series due to The Marker. This manipulation of the brain theme plays into the Nicole revelation. It’s as if Isaac’s subconscious is trying to convince him of Nicole’s fate. In the end he accepts the truth but only after a gruelling journey through the Ishimura. Maybe that’s what it takes to accept the death of a loved one to space monsters. Stomping a few hundred into the ground doesn’t hurt either.
The Silent Hill series is full of body horror monsters. They’re creatures of nightmare fuel. Generally each monster is the way it is, due to the character it is hounding. The monsters represent something of importance to those trapped within the foggy town. This idea is lost or muddied in later games but in Silent Hill 2, the theme shines bright.
This is going to go into spoiler territory, so if you want to play this game at any point, I recommend you skip this trivia. Believe me, I would love for you to read my tantalising words but I would prefer it if you experienced the game before I ruin the story. And for a horror game it does have a good, weighty story. You’ve been warned. OK! In Silent Hill 2, James receives a letter from his dead wife saying she’ll be waiting for him at ‘our special place’. James believes this to be a hotel in Silent Hill. Along his journey through the mostly abandoned town, James encounters several kinds of repulsive beings. Two of the most seen are the nurses and Pyramid Head himself. Pyramid head is like a force of nature. Unrelentingly looking for James and almost impossible to stop. Why the fixation on James though? As for the nurses, they first appear in the hospital, where nurses tend to be. Their uniforms are more on the revealing Halloween costume scale than work attire. The clothing is sparse enough to show ample breasts and legs. Sounds sexy but if you saw one of these things up close you’d run the other way and straight into an open grave. ‘My time on this Earth is done’. Like I said, the monster design isn’t just slapping limbs where limbs weren’t before. Even though, at times it looks like it.
James killed his wife. It gets revealed towards the end. His wife, Mary, was very ill and dying in a hospital. She was weak, frail and spent most of her time bedridden. Mary and James argued during this time and James decided to spend a lot of his time elsewhere, because of this. This went on for a few years before it became too much for James. He didn’t handle this very well and in the end he smothered Mary with a pillow. It’s a twist I never saw coming. When you have that knowledge though, the world of Silent Hill 2 starts to make more sense. Pyramid head represents James guilt. To go from a loving, close relationship, to fighting and hardly seeing each other. And the times when you do see each other, you aren’t close. That resentment builds and that’s why James did what he did. He buries the murder deep within him and goes on with his life. When James arrives at Silent Hill, he is stalked throughout the town by Pyramid Head. This is James’s subconscious want for punishment. Pyramid Head is here to dole out James’s sentence.
The nurses represent lust and desire. James is a man who was in a loving relationship. Rapidly that love and security dissipates and James is left with a husk of a relationship. He has feelings and needs. These aren’t being met but he tries to be a good husband and not to act on these sexual pangs. The nurse’s revealing clothes allude to his wants. The fact that they’re nurses is a smart design choice. James would have been visiting the hospital to see Mary quite often. He would have his urges and he would be in the presence of nurses. Most of whom will be women that he’ll see on a regular basis but will have no physical contact with, even though that’s what he desires.
And so, when you see Pyramid Head or nurses in other Silent Hill games or films, ask yourself if it suits thematically. These two monsters in particular are staples of the franchise now but most of the time they don’t have that connection with the protagonist, that the fantastic Silent Hill 2 had.