Silver Falls: Survive was a Halloween 2023 surprise homebrew game that Sungrand Studios dropped to tease the expansion of their supported consoles. They've already got games on 3DS, Wii U, Switch, and Game Boy Color with plans to put games on Vita, Atari VCS, and PC in the near future. This very early build of a new Silver Falls game was our peek at what Sungrand is bringing to Sony's ill-fated but much beloved handheld. Jerrel, the sole man behind Sungrand, was clear, however, that this is absolutely not a finished product and very much a beta type of look; according to the Silver Falls website, this is version 0.1, so temper your expectations. I'll elaborate on that, but keep that in mind; this is an extremely early playable demo that he released to celebrate Halloween and build excitement for the future of Sungrand products, not to put a finished product out and call it a day.
You play as a recently divorced man, still mourning his divorce while trying to focus on his opportunities as a single man rather than ruminate on the loss of his marriage. He's come to the cabin where the game starts in order to hike out into the forested mountains to scatter his late uncle's ashes. In the cabin, there are several characters you may recognize from previous Silver Falls game with whom you can talk. There are also weapons and food items around the cabin that you can - and definitely should - take with you. Equip whatever weapons you found and head out the door. That's where the real game starts. You step out of the cabin into a dark, foggy night. There's no waypoint, indication of where to go, or even an objective to accomplish. As I said, this is an extremely early build, and Sungrand is planning some major updates in the future. Unfortunately, as this is a free homebrew title, it's a fairly low priority compared to the commercial releases in the works, but what is here is more than enough to whet one's palate provided one is a fan of the Vita or PlayStation TV. Anyway, as you wander through the dark woods, you're randomly accosted by mysterious creatures. Hopefully you've got some good weapons because you've just found the aptly named game's sole objective in this build - survive. Survive until you inevitably die, and when you do, you respawn back in the cabin with new characters to talk to and new weapons and items to collect. Wash, rinse, repeat.
Right off the bat, one thing immediately jumps out at me - the atmosphere. I've played every game in the series start to finish, and while White Inside Its Umbra has an extremely tense and creepy vibe to it, Survive takes the cake. This is definitely the creepiest and most unsettling Silver Falls experience to date. The intense darkness, the rolling fog, the trees obscuring your vision - you can hear the enemies well before they're upon you, but you can't see them until it's almost too late. Even in this v0.1 build, it's a real Halloween vibe. There is some story in the game - your uncle's urn in your inventory and the dialogue with the characters who appear in the cabin, for example - but it's extremely bare bones in this build, although more story content is on the way in future updates. Likewise, there are going to be bugs given the early beta nature of this build. I didn't actually encounter any bugs myself, but I did find a funny element that hadn't been programmed yet. There's a lake I stumbled on, but when testing whether or not I could swim, I discovered that the water is only there in looks; I walked straight through it and along the bottom of the lake no problem. It's obviously a minor thing that just hadn't been programmed when this got dropped for Halloween, but it made me laugh. Other than that, the only performance issues I encountered were long load times - which seemed worse on PS TV than on my actual Vita, although that may just be my perception - and a lower-than-ideal frame rate. That's not to say the frame rate was abysmal, but it hung between 20 and 30 fps when I was playing. The game is intentionally pretty slow paced as it is to build the tension and unease, so that mitigates a lot of the frustration that sub-30 fps frame rates can often cause.
Silver Falls: Survive is a sneak peek at what's coming to Vita from Sungrand, not a full release, and that's important to keep in mind. It nails the horror atmosphere to a degree of perfection that no other Silver Falls game save for White Inside Its Umbra has, and that's even with being a relatively skeletal build content-wise. I'm quite excited to see the future updates to this game no matter how long coming they may be. I did struggle with how to rate this one, though. I was going to give it a D since it's just so bare bones, but just as I try to judge every game in the context of when it was released and the hardware capabilities, I have to judge this not as a PlayStation Vita release but as a very early build demo of a PlayStation Vita game. In that context, it's not going to win any awards, but it's definitely an enjoyable experience. I would have liked to see more actual locations to explore rather than just trees and a few bonfires (I've heard there might be another cabin, but I've never been able to find one), and the enemy encounters were few and far between. On the one hand, that does build the tension, never knowing when the next encounter was coming, but with so little to actually do in the game, I'd have preferred to see more. Regardless, I enjoyed my time with this playing both on my Vita and my PlayStation TV, and I definitely recommend that horror fans with a Vita or PS TV running CFW check it out. Or if you have a Vita emulator on your PC. It's not going give you a whole afternoon of entertainment, but it's a good way to spend half an hour here and there.
My Rating - C
I'm a teacher.
And I like to play video games. I like to collect video games. I like to talk about video games, and I like to write about video games. During the day, I teach high school history; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.