Review: Silent Hill – Shattered Memories

It’s been 10 years since the original Silent Hill was released for the Sony Playstation.  Touted as a Resident Evil copy by fans and critics alike, it appeared as if there wasn’t a whole lot of hope for the little survival horror game.  Well, cut to ten years and millions of fans later and we certainly showed them, huh?

Shattered Memories has been shrouded in a lot of controversy since its announcement.  The biggest bone in the collective throat of Silent Hill fans was the exclusion of combat in the latest outing.  I’d have to agree, I was a little ticked off when I heard that Shatted Memories would be combat-less.  But having played the game, I felt that I didn’t miss the combat a whole lot.

The game starts out, as I stated in previous entry on the subject, with Harry and Cheryl mason prepping to go on holiday.  They’re all cute and adorable, but anything Silent Hill doesn’t stay adorable for very long.

You’ll venture in the game to different Silent Hill locales, meet people both familiar and new to the Silent Hill universe (many long-time fans of the series won’t be too keen on their bastardization of the established characters and plotline).

There’s a nice warning at the beginning of the game that pretty much states the game uses psychological profiling to adapt the game to suit your experience.  Its basis for these include how you answer your psycholist’s questions and quizzes, how you solve puzzles and your exploration techniques.  Mostly though, its how you answer your therapist’s questions.  And by the way–he’s a dick.

Having changed a few things around (i.e.: the game glitched and I lost a fair bit of time and couldn’t remember what I put before) I can state that one minor change can have both subtle and major consequences in different aspects of the game.  For instance, answer a seemingly innocuous question differently, it can have differing effects on names, attitudes of characters you’ll meet or learn about, and different conversations later on in the game.  This increases the replay value immensely.  I find myself wanting to play again just to fiddle around with the system.

As is seen in the previews, Silent Hill is transformed from a ‘nice’ little town in the middle of a bitch of a snowstorm, to a ‘frozen over’ Silent Hill, where you’re running for your life from…strange little creatures that scream at you all the time.  There’s no real cross-over, either–you’ll never encounter these enemies in the nice world, but there’s little escaping them in the frozen over world.

While this kind of thing definitely got repetitive after a while, its a unique twist on your standard survival horror–it’s more along the lines of ‘survival,’ here.  Sure, you can run away, but you can’t stay away.  These little dudes will always find you, and they will always follow you, save for in a few key instances.  One of them is easy to get rid of, but they multiply like rabbits–first one, then you’re covered in them.  The way to get them off is to jerk the Wii-Mote and the Nunchuk heavily to one side, whichever side the enemy is on.  If they’re on your back, you’ll pull back–and try not to hit yourself in the face.  If they over-power you, you’ll be taken back to a pre-determined checkpoint, usually at the beginning of the “Nightmare” world.

This is a unique spin on the combat heavy Resident Evil and Silent Hill games of the past, while not making Shattered Memories a complete puzzle game.  Because what fun is just puzzles unless–nevermind.

Basically, you have to find your way out of this nightmare world by following the path laid out.  Any escape routes are highlighted so that you can easily find them in the darkness, despite only being able to use Harry’s flashlight.  But watch out, because even if you do make it to the exit, that’s not necessarily the end.  Or, as in my case, you’ll be running around in circles…a lot.  There are puzzles in this Nightmare world as well–you’re given a little bit of leniency in the way of enemies in this instance, but they’re still all there, waiting to jump on you…and scream at you.  This creates more of a heightened sense of fear–cause you cannot kill these enemies.  It’s run or die.

The action slows down every once in a while for a nice trip back to the therapist’s office, or a “follow me,” sequence. This doesn’t happen a whole lot though.

There are lots of puzzles in Silent Hill–some of them downright aggravating, others insultingly easy.  For instance, one puzzle had you walking around the room, trying to find the different answers for password recovery questions for a computer system.  One answer was staring you right in the back of the head.  One of the other answers–for the life of me, I couldn’t figure it out.  The game implemented the cell phone into the Wii-Mote itself, the little speaker being–just that, a speaker.  Well–the speaker sometimes isn’t that great–words can come out garbled and unclear.  While some might say this adds to the immersion of the game (makes you feel like you’re answering a real cell phone) I just find it irritating when you’re listening to the same voicemail message over and over again.

So when you’re not running from enemies, you’re solving puzzles, going on fetch-quests, and basically answering your phone, looking at messages, taking pictures of stuff that really isn’t there (ooh, creepy fun), and trying to find Cheryl.

The plot takes a nice Silent Hill twist, but not the kind that fans will be familiar with.  I had to remind myself that this still is a Silent Hill game, but that I needed to keep an open-mind with how Climax ‘re-imagined’ it.  The atmosphere is still there–it’s still the same old creepy place, brilliantly rendered for the Wii.  As a matter of fact, it’s one of the best looking games that I’ve seen on the console that isn’t cartoon-ish.  Characters faces are well-rendered, streets and interiors are very life-like, and the frozen-over effect is definitely chilling (HAH!). Akira Yamaoka makes his final soundtrack for Silent Hill a memorable one.  Not his best work by far, but definitely worth mentioning.

The major issue that I feel many people will have is if they’re fans of the series.  While the plot of Silent Hill: Shattered Memories doesn’t quite blend well with the original, established plot, Shattered Memories still has a remarkable story, with a definite twist that will leave you going “…juh?!”

Another issue that I personally dealt with was highly-sensitive motion controls.  These can be changed, but I hardly think that was the issue.  Placing certain items on tables could be a chore, the results often ranging from the object falling onto its side, sitting on top of another item or flying across the table.  Maybe it’s just my Wii-skills aren’t up to par?  I’d like someone’s feedback on this.  Other than that, opening doors of cabinets, unzipping zippers, or turning dials weren’t too big of a hassle.

FINAL VERDICT

Think of Silent Hill: Shattered Memories as the new Star Trek.  It’s still the same old Silent Hill, with the creepy places and established people, and the basic premise, but Climax took that basic premise in a new direction.  It still equates to an overall enjoyable experience, even if it doesn’t follow established storylines.

You’ll Like:

  • Beautiful graphics
  • The atmosphere is still there, in full
  • Mature storyline
  • High replay value (multiple ramifications from one small change)
  • Inventive alternative to combat

You’ll Hate:

  • Combat-less
  • Awfully short
  • Answering questions and quizzes can be tedious
  • Motion controls can be annoyingly finicky
  • Does everything in Silent Hill have to be about sex?

               
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