The original Resident Evil is a game that, much like its trademark zombies, won't stay dead, and after a failed attempt to bring it to the portable market with the aborted Game Boy Color version, Deadly Silence marks the series' first appearance on a handheld. As well as providing fans with a reasonably faithful port of the PlayStation version, the game includes several additions and tweaks to the gameplay that take advantage of the unique functionality of the DS.
As the game that essentially created and popularised the survival horror genre, there can be few who aren't familiar with the story, but I'll summarise anyway. You can take control of Chris Redfield or Jill Valentine, two members of the STARS Bravo Team, as their mission to track down the missing Alpha Team goes awry and they are forced to take shelter in a remote mansion after encountering some vicious wild dogs. Anyone who knows anything about horror can tell you that deserted mountain retreats are never a good place to hide, and it soon becomes apparent that there is more to their hiding place than meets the eye.
The two playable characters take slightly different routes through the game due to their differing relationships with other members of the team and their special abilities - Jill can carry two extra items and can pick locks, which makes her path slightly easier, for example - but the fundamentals remain unchanged. Time will be spent dispatching or avoiding zombies and other, more threatening, creatures, while also managing limited supplies of ammo and health-restoring herbs. In-between the zombie-killing and frantic herb-using there are plenty of puzzles, traps, and ornate locks, which become increasingly ludicrous in their complexity as you progress.
The infamous Resident Evil control scheme, which has been unfavourably compared with a tank, returns in this version, but the quick 180 degree turn introduced in later games is a welcome addition and helps streamline movement. The controls are otherwise identical to the original and though it can seem like a clunky step back after Resident Evil 4, it shouldn't take you too long to adapt. The original game was just as much about set-pieces as it was killing zombies, and these are all still here and will have the same bone-chilling effect on first-time players.
'Of course, the voice acting is as ludicrously bad as it was back then...'
Overall the conversion from PlayStation to DS has been fairly painless, as not only is Deadly Silence graphically faithful (warts and all - this game is over ten years old now, after all), it also manages to cram all of the FMV and spoken dialogue into a single game card. Considering that the original was renowned at the time for putting the capacity of a CD-ROM to good use and that DS cards are far smaller, it's quite an achievement. Of course, the voice acting is as ludicrously bad as it was back then, but lines like "you were almost a Jill sandwich" are all part of the B-movie charm.
Resident Evil is a game that few can have avoided playing in some form, and so the DS version adds some extra functionality to take advantage of the unique aspects of Nintendo's system and to give veterans something new for their money. While a straight port of the old adventure is available, an additional 'Rebirth' mode remixes the game by adding new puzzles and features, as well as shifting the focus onto action by making ammo more plentiful. Certain rooms will change to a first-person perspective where the touch screen is used to slash at approaching zombies, but since this only happens at set points, it feels underused and gimmicky. New puzzles that use all of the DS' inputs prove more interesting and it's a shame that this area of the game didn't receive more attention.
Competitive and cooperative multiplayer is another new addition, and while games with experienced players are fun, multiplayer as a whole is rather disappointing. Other players show as stars instead of actual characters as you all try to work through a short mission based on the main game. In the competitive mode certain actions can hinder opponents, while the co-op mode has players sharing an energy bar. Resident Evil fans will appreciate its inclusion, but as with the first-person zombie slashing, it feels far too tacked on and isn't a mode that will see much repeated play.
Whether or not Resident Evil: Deadly Silence is worth buying depends entirely on your existing opinions of the game, because if you didn't like it the first time you certainly won't like it now. For those who have played the game to death on an older console, the 'Rebirth' mode and assorted other extras may offer enough incentive to drop the cash on it again, and for the ten people who are yet to play Resident Evil, it's certainly worth experiencing for the first time, despite its rather aged control scheme.