"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, youíll sample the various goods the disc offers by stumbling through a building stained by rust and made of bricks covered in dry, coppery blood."
Itís 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 isnít twitch-based. Instead, itís a ďrompĒ 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, itíll 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, youíll 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, youíll 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, thereís a series of comics called Silent Hill: Dying Inside. Maybe you bought them at the store. Well, you didnít have to. Theyíre 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. Itís an engaging way to read comics and one Iíd 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 girlís distress turns out to be a poor one, and soon he is caught up in the sort of horror youíd expect from the games. That sounds cool and all, but it doesnít hold a candle to The Hunger.
And just what is The Hunger? Itís an all-new comic, presented in the same fashion as the five-part Dying Inside epic. Itís quite lengthy and not compartmentalized in so convenient a fashion, but itís also the more interesting of the two available tales. Youíll 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 youíre 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 franchiseís ever-growing heritage. You donít have to view comics to hear them, either; twenty assorted ditties are gathered in one place if you venture to the abandoned buildingís eastern regions and check out the music room. There you can also enjoy an interview with series composer Akira Yamaoka, if thatís the sort of thing that floats your boat.
Oh, and thereís 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 donít reveal any actual gameplay. Finally, thereís 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 thatís packed full of all kinds of interesting things, but thereís still the obvious question: who will it appeal to? One prerequisite is obviously a love for the Silent Hill franchise. If you find yourself ďhungryĒ for more despite playing through all of the games, The Silent Hill Experience is the closest thing to a cure that youíll 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, youíll again find a lot to like about this product. For $20, you can own one of the coolest bonus discs ever created. Just donít consider it a game and youíll be fine.
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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