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ZADZOOKS: Terrifying return to Silent Hill

Superhero and cartoon characters have become integral parts of the electronic entertainment industry. With this in mind, I salute the meld of pop-culture character and video game with a look at some Comics plugged in ...

A gross selection of ghouls haunts entertainment consoles in Konami's Silent Hill: Homecoming (rated M for mature, for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, $59.99). This sixth chapter in the third-person survival series takes a player to the tormented town of Silent Hill for an especially horrifying post-Halloween treat.

What's the story: According to the game manual, when Alex Shepherd left his home for the service, it was a quaint New England town where everyone knew his neighbor and children could play in the streets. Troubling dreams about his younger brother bring Alex back to a much different Shepherd's Glen than he remembered. Buildings are abandoned, people are missing, and unearthly figures lumber through the fog. The Shepherd family is in shambles as well; Alex's mother is catatonic, his father left mysteriously, and his brother Josh is missing. Completely displaced by his homecoming, Alex struggles onward to pick up the pieces to a puzzle he can't understand.

Control your destiny: As the player moves Alex (who looks like Seth Green's older brother) around dangerous environments, he explores an interactive horror movie loaded with violent imagery and shocking scenes. With a complement of items to collect, clues to discover, maps to follow, doors and gates to unlock, weapons to use, mutated creatures to destroy and a short list of deranged characters with whom to converse, it's a very busy evening for the brave gamer.

Get to the action: The opening scene plunges Alex into a gooey, blood-soaked nightmare set in a hospital. It acts as sort of a tutorial before players enter the fog-encased towns of Shepherd's Glen and then Silent Hill for more - yep - gooey, blood-soaked encounters.

Alex the soldier packs more combat punch than previous Silent Hill protagonists, such as the less-skilled James Sunderland and teenage Heather. His prowess with firearms, knives and combat techniques comes in handy for the variety of revolting bosses he'll battle - anyone remember Pyramid Head guy? He's back.

Star power: A deadly mood-setting soundtrack combines with guest stars such as shadows, fog, moans, creaking floorboards and a battery of eerie sounds to immerse a player in a psychologically spooky adventure.

Memorable moments: What idiot would enter a faulty elevator in a run-down hospital full of demonic nurses? Who would blindly open doors in a decrepit Victorian mansion? What dope, armed with just a barely functioning light, would wander around a cemetery full of ferocious, skinned dogs?

This adventure won't win any smart-hero awards, but for those who love strolling through a haunted-house maze, the action is compelling.

Pixel popping scale: 7 out of 10. The tension-loaded layers of cinematic visuals will cause a player to gnaw his fingernails.

Be it the streaky film design presentation, abundance of shadows, overly darkened corridors or too-realistic depiction of mutilated bodies, the Silent Hill experience is a disturbing event.

Violent encounters: Even mature gamers might find the level of grisly attacks and imagery too much to endure. Fighting savage mutations with a similar lineage to Clive Barker's "Hellraiser" coupled with M. Night Shyamalan-style story twists involving a dysfunctional family and a missing child makes the game not for adults weak of stomach or mind.

Read all about it: IDW Publishing has offered Silent Hill sequential art since 2004. The latest trade paperback, "Silent Hill: Sinner's Reward" ($17.99), compiles the four-part 2008 miniseries of the same name and features stunning art from Steph Stamb.

What's it worth: Not quite as intense as the average Resident Evil game nor as technologically impressive as Bioshock, Homecoming still has multiple moody moments and not only will please the Silent Hill fan, but also will put a scare into the lover of the suspenseful horror genre.

* Visit Zadzooks at the blog section of The Washington Times' Community pages (www.washingtontimes.com/communities/zadzooks).

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