"The Silent Hill Experience, while at heart no more than an expanded set of bonus features like you might find on an especially cool DVD release, is unnerving to an extreme. Instead of vibrant arrows and slick menus, you’ll sample the various goods the disc offers by stumbling through a building stained by rust and made of bricks covered in dry, coppery blood."
It’s easy to look at The Silent Hill Experience and the fact that it comes on a UMD, then think that makes it a game. Remember, though, that 40-Year Old Virgin is available in the same format. And like that product, The Silent Hill Experience isn’t twitch-based. Instead, it’s a “romp” through the terrifying town of Silent Hill and various associated matters. If you know anything about the series, you know why those quotation marks were used. I was being ironic.
If you find any irony on the UMD, though, it’ll be of only the cruelest possible sort. The Silent Hill Experience, while at heart no more than an expanded set of bonus features like you might find on an especially cool DVD release, is unnerving to an extreme. Instead of vibrant arrows and slick menus, you’ll sample the various goods the disc offers by stumbling through a building stained by rust and made of bricks covered in dry, coppery blood. Seldom have menus exuded such atmosphere. In short, you’ll feel right at home if you love the games.
Of course, the games are only a part of what Silent Hill the series has become. This disc is here to look primarily at that which is less familiar to all but the most ardent of fans. For starters, there’s a series of comics called Silent Hill: Dying Inside. Maybe you bought them at the store. Well, you didn’t have to. They’re all on this disc, and with animated transitions from one frame to another. While you look at the off-beat art, comic bubbles pop up so the characters can speak, and colored boxes of text fly all about to keep you apprised as to the expositional events. It’s an engaging way to read comics and one I’d like to see copied with other comics I care more about.
Unfortunately, Dying Inside feels the slightest bit tedious and only reminds me that the games are so much more fun. The series begins with a washed out doctor who has been spending his time with celebrities since his wife committed suicide. When he takes on a special case—a girl who tells tales of impossible nightmares and evil in the town of Silent Hill—he finds a case that will reunite him with his own dark secrets. His ill-fated decision to return to the site of the girl’s distress turns out to be a poor one, and soon he is caught up in the sort of horror you’d expect from the games. That sounds cool and all, but it doesn’t hold a candle to The Hunger.
And just what is The Hunger? It’s an all-new comic, presented in the same fashion as the five-part Dying Inside epic. It’s quite lengthy and not compartmentalized in so convenient a fashion, but it’s also the more interesting of the two available tales. You’ll meet a journalist who hungers for a good story, then finds himself forced to chronicle the destruction of his home. The music that plays throughout the presentation is especially effective, and drives home each moment of potential terror, until you’re caught up in the story and watching each frame pass without daring even to blink.
Of course, you should expect no less from some of the finest music ever composed for games. The aural goodness represents nothing new, just a collection of selected favorites from the game franchise’s ever-growing heritage. You don’t have to view comics to hear them, either; twenty assorted ditties are gathered in one place if you venture to the abandoned building’s eastern regions and check out the music room. There you can also enjoy an interview with series composer Akira Yamaoka, if that’s the sort of thing that floats your boat.
Oh, and there’s a Silent Hill movie now, as well. The media room will allow you to view the creepy film trailer, as well as interviews with the game and movie directors (both actually contain some surprising information and perspectives that I found worth my time) and some odd trailers for the first four Silent Hill games that somehow don’t reveal any actual gameplay. Finally, there’s a creepy music video that shows bunnies running around some sort of warehouse while Japanese techno music plays in the background.
To be sure, this is one UMD that’s packed full of all kinds of interesting things, but there’s still the obvious question: who will it appeal to? One prerequisite is obviously a love for the Silent Hill franchise. If you find yourself “hungry” for more despite playing through all of the games, The Silent Hill Experience is the closest thing to a cure that you’ll ever find. If you want to have some genuinely cool music all gathered in one place or you like to see comics come to life, you’ll again find a lot to like about this product. For $20, you can own one of the coolest bonus discs ever created. Just don’t consider it a game and you’ll be fine.
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Staff review by Jason Venter (April 23, 2006)
Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.
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