Kojima’s ‘P.T.’ is More Advertising Gimmick Than Good Horror Game
“Playable Teaser” is what P.T. stands for, and it’s not a demo or a game. It’s a marketing gimmick. This is important to keep in mind.
The teaser appeared in the Playstation Network Store for Playstation 4 owners this week during Gamescom, with little information about what it actually was. Players find themselves in a first-person horror scenario when they boot it up, and then wander through an endlessly repeating hallway filled with creepy noises, lots of shadows, and ghosts, as they attempt to solve oblique puzzles.
At first, P.T. is a scary little piece of a horror game, and looks pretty great on the PS4. It all takes place in a small hallway that includes several doors that can’t be opened, leaving only a single path. As you walk down the stairs to what appears to be a basement and move through the door there — the only one that will open — you find yourself back at the beginning of the hallway. And soon it seems as though you’ll be walking this loop forever, as a radio plays a news report about a man who murdered his wife and children.
Clearly, this is your little corner of Hell (my interpretation of P.T. takes it as Hell in the literal sense), and things only escalate from there.
The key to P.T. is recognizing when things in your looping existence change. At first the tweaks are small, but they quickly become visions of figures, spooky open doors that were once closed, and other oppressive additions. It becomes apparent that you are not alone in this cursed place, and what’s more, it seems something is keeping you here, punishing you.
All of this is great.
Soon the door to the bathroom comes open and you start to get tidbits of what might have happened here (and for which, one assumes, you are being punished): there’s a creepy peephole in the bathroom wall; what looks like a premature fetus lies in the sink, crying; a ghost in a nightgown that goes intensely crimson over her womb appears and disappears. Later, a refrigerator hangs from the ceiling and pours blood onto the floor; in the next loop, it shakes with the screams of a child, as if locked inside.
It becomes apparent that you are not alone in this cursed place, and what’s more, it seems something is keeping you here, punishing you.
It’s a scene of intense, fantastic, Silent Hill-ish awfulness, and slowly it seems to come together. But the design of P.T. is a bit suspect; it’s easy to get trapped in the bathroom because you haven’t looked at the right thing that triggers your release, for example. Later, you’ll run around an endless, red-lit version of the hallway until you realize what’s different about those twists and turns, and advance the game further.
Mysteries in and of themselves are not really a problem — they can be frustrating if you miss the solutions, but I just got done talking about how I like that games such as Gods Will Be Watching and Alien: Isolation don’t hold players’ hands and show them exactly what to do. (As an aside, though, at least those games tell you how their systems work, which is more than can be said for P.T.) My trouble with P.T.’s mysteries isn’t that they’re hard — it’s that they’re specifically designed to drive viral marketing rather than actual content or gameplay.
This becomes apparent when you solve enough of the game and reach its final section. Here, you wander the same hallway with a flashlight, searching for clues to proceed. You’re occasionally accosted by creepy sound effects and it seems the ghost is vaguely haunting you. Through some combination of elements not yet determined, you can make it to the ending that shows a teaser trailer revealing this was all about Silent Hills, Hideo Kojima’s upcoming title being made in collaboration with director Guillermo del Toro.