Although my interest in the PSP lies first and foremost with games, it's obvious that Sony has had larger plans for the shiny black brick from the start. I don't have much desire to fill my shelves with UMD movies, but I'm always interested in seeing game-related products-along these lines, Konami seems to be testing the waters with two releases expanding on a pair of their biggest franchises; the Metal Gear Solid: Digital Graphic Novel, and The Silent Hill Experience.
Although directly related to Konami's horror series, The Silent Hill Experience isn't a game. Instead, it's a multimedia package filled with a mix of segments taken from various sources. It may be billed as a "visually stunning and musical ride into the shadowy depths of Silent Hill", but it's more like a gathering of scraps that doesn't justify the purchase price.
The main attractions to the Experience are the digital comic features "Dying Inside" and an all-new production, "The Hunger". Running approximately two hours in length, these pieces feature comic book artwork and text bubble dialogue set to music.
Although I've heard of digital comics before, this was my first experience with them and I have to say that they seem like a middling product. As a lifelong comics fan, I felt that something was taken away artistically by viewing the panels one by one away from the context of the page, and made to move with simplistic special effects. As a game player, they looked like nothing so much as cheap, no-budget cutscenes sans voicework. It didn't help that the writing and stories of both features weren't able to capture the feeling and atmosphere that the Silent Hill series is known for. These projects are more like one-offs with some similar elements rather than true expansions of what's been shown in the games.
Since the digital comics were not to my taste, I had hoped that the other content would satisfy. The highlight was immediate access to twenty music tracks taken from the entire Silent Hill series and the alternate "joke" endings from Silent Hill 1 and 2, included for people who didn't have the patience to earn them through gameplay. The rest? Filler of negligible value, even to fans of the series.
Two features are abstract CG video clips that are tough to sit through even once, the trailers from the games and the film are nice but hardly worth getting excited over, and the interviews with Silent Hill film director Cristophe Gans and famed composer Akira Yamaoka are fluffy and trite, offering very little insight of note. I was also disappointed to see that there were no options to turn on subtitles during the interviews. Yamaoka's responses are in Japanese with English subtitles, but Gans' answers are only accessible via audio.
In terms of actual production, I didn't enjoy the way the Experience seemed to relish making me "navigate" through a virtual environment in order to find the different bits. Call me boring or utilitarian, but I'd much rather have a clean title screen and a list of features upfront and accessible. Speaking of which, I'm also not a fan of the (not very well-) "hidden" content… I don't understand if it's supposed to make people feel like they're smart or clever for finding something extra, but I just find it annoying.
Although The Silent Hill Experience is too insubstantial to recommend, I do think that peripheral offerings expanding on videogames are a great concept. I'd love to buy a disc or a UMD crammed full of behind-the-scenes features, production artwork, minigames, or other things that significantly expand on a title and give fans the kind of bonuses that they aren't usually given. As examples, 2002's The Document of Metal Gear Solid 2 was superb, and the fat selection of extras that came with David Jaffe's God of War could nearly have been a separate disc all by themselves. Something approximating those same levels of quality would be a very desirable product in my eyes, but unfortunately, The Silent Hill Experience isn't it.
Note: Since the subject of this blogview is a multimedia project and not a game or film, it does not have an ESRB or MPAA rating. However, based on my experience and the content present, I feel safe in saying that it would approximate an M rating on the ESRB scale and is not appropriate for children or younger viewers due to blood and gore, sexual content, and language.