Oh, The Places You'll Go is a weekly column by Kimberley Wallace where she explores the settings in our favorite video games. What makes these places memorable? This week, Kim examines the town of Silent Hill, as featured (specifically) in Silent Hill 3.

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When was the last time you were good and scared? I'm talking your heart thumping so fast each palpitation hits you like a truck, anxiety growing deep in your stomach as you walk around each corner, while the uncertainty of what lies ahead floods you with absolute paranoia. Sometimes an atmosphere can drive your experience into more than you could have imagined, taking hostage of your sanity and throwing you into a whirlwind of your worst nightmares.

The town of Silent Hill brings that kind of emotional adventure. Silent Hill 3 starts with a dream -- a fog-filled, abandoned amusement park where you're simply wandering around aimlessly. It's not long before you run into a Closer: a large, red-tinted creature with massive, crushing arms, trying to trap you. The choice is yours. You can fight back or book it, but either way this dream ends in death. It's just a dream, though, right ... ?
Our victim, Heather, is a normal teenager. This is where Silent Hill 3 makes its mark. It takes normal, everyday environments and turns them on you. Suddenly, you're abandoned in this broken-down mall, enemies creeping in from every corner. In the midst of this, we control a mundane individual in Heather, almost like this game is testing if we'd have the skills to survive this situation ourselves. The transformation of other everyday locations -- such as a subway, apartment building, and sewers -- into haunting visions is powerful and frightening. However, it's not until the game actually takes us to Silent Hill that the locations bring the ultimate terror in Brookhaven Hospital and Lakeside Amusement Park.

Brookhaven will give you goosebumps; previously the site of an abusive mental institution, the ghastly cries of its tortured souls will cement your distress. One of its patients sends poetry confessing his obsessive feelings for you along with creepy dolls as a token of his love.

Lakeside Amusement Park takes a setting tied with feelings of joy and childhood and warps it into something frightening. Any comfort found is immediately lost once its sights surround you, including the devilish grin on the park's pink bunny mascot. Where the amusement park shines best is in Borley's Haunted Mansion, with a tour guide's psychotic voice guiding you to your doom. Naturally, a lot of the places I've mentioned have been influenced by the Otherworld, where the darkest delusions in your mind come to life.

Part of where the world of Silent Hill toys with you is its ambiance. Enemies are often heard, not seen. It's unclear if each step taken will increase suspense or inch you closer to demise. You're always on edge, and there's no shortage of events that literally make you jump due to their abruptness.

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And then comes the shocking visuals: a barbecued dog, a bloody decapitated mannequin, a body hanging with its blood dripping into a bucket. Merely opening a door is an invitation to torture -- there are plenty of "trap" rooms, whether they're filled with swarming enemies or pulsating with blood until crimson red devours you. Silent Hill 3 does its best to suffocate you; every hallway is claustrophobically narrow. If that's not enough, later you'll enter a solitary confinement area in a mental ward, wondering if this is where you belong.

With the combination of eerie sounds, harrowing visuals and emotional suspense, every event has the intensity to horrify you, giving your body a staggering jolt. There's immediate immersion from the get-go: the visuals are just too deranged to look away from. The deeper you go, the more intense it becomes, and the world follows suit as it progressively steps up its madness.

So, why am I urging you to visit a place that will torment you? For the same reason we've played with Ouija boards and whispered "Bloody Mary" into a mirror: the rush. A supernatural mystery acting as a test of courage. As much as we know not to place our foot over the edge, doing so is undeniably fun. In the world of Silent Hill 3, each step into the world also ignites your insides with fear.

[Map image via Translated Memories]


Kimberley Wallace is a Chicago-based freelance writer with work featured in the Official Xbox Magazine, GamesRadar, and PlayStation: The Official Magazine. You can follow her on Twitter @kstar1785.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.

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