Silent Hill: Shattered Memories Review

The Silent Hill franchise has always been the highbrow entry in the survival horror genre. Eschewing jump scares and blatant gore for psychological terror and creepy atmosphere, Silent Hill has always presented dark examinations of its main protagonists psyches, interwoven with religious themes of cults and witchcraft.

The series has fallen on dark times itself though, prompting Konami to reboot the series with Climax at the helm, developers of the portable Silent Hill: Origins. The end result is Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, a “reimagining” of the first game in the series, which sees Harry Mason waking up after crashing his car in Silent Hill and finding his daughter missing. But to call it a reimagining is a bit of a misnomer. This game bares little resemblence to its prior brethern and instead takes a new and fresh look at the series, restructuring and revamping the mythos and characters.

Flares keep the Raw Shocks at bay

Silent Hill: SM starts off by introducing you to Dr. K, a psychiatrist who has you take a personality test before your “sessions.” The test asks you questions such as your ability to make friends or your sexual preferences. Once you complete this, the game sets forth to showcase its biggest feature. The game changes itself depending on your answers to this test and future tests you’ll be taking between the game’s chapters. Characters’ attitudes and appearance may change or the environment will take on a different appearance. One early example is when Dr. K asks you to color in a picture of a house. After completing this, you’re taken back into the game and when Harry reaches the family home, it is the color you choose in the test. More frightening changes are to the game’s monsters, the Raw Shocks (a play on the Rorschach test), which morph depending on your psyche evaluation. I answered the questions with a sexual intent and the creatures became phallus-like and it was uncomfortable and terrifying at times, a feeling I rarely get while playing horror games. This approach to modifying terror based on the player is a step in the right direction for these types of games, guaranteeing someone will be frightened by something different with each playthrough, and is the game’s biggest strength.

Not that the game doesn’t excel in other areas as well. Silent Hill: SM is a Wii game in every sense of the term. It takes advantage of all the Wii’s unique features and is one of the most visually impressive games on the platform as well, along with a member of its rival franchise, Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles. The Wii Remote acts as your flashlight and cell phone in the perpetually dark Silent Hill. The lighting effects are very impressive, with realistic shadows of illuminated objects and the illusion of light bouncing off of mirrors and other aspects of the environment. It helps build the creepy atmosphere and keeps you planted squarely in the game. I was pretty creeped out during a particular sequence in the woods where the light would illuminate jagged trees and make ominous shapes as I walked through. The cell phone is also as helpful and creepy as the flashlight. The cell phone acts as an all-in-one tool during the game. You can make and receive calls and texts, and take photos with it. It also serves as your map and eminates the series’ signature static when monsters or items of importance are near. All of this is communicated through the Wii Remote or through on-screen prompts. Calls and static come through the remote speaker, prompting you to hold the Wii Remote to your ear to hear the call. There are also phone numbers around the town that you can call to grab information or are used to get clues to puzzles. I love when a game uses the Wii Remote speaker and Silent Hill: SM uses it in an immersive and clever way, whether it’s having you listen to a uncomfortable voicemail or running frantically from the static that you know means monsters are on your tail.

Using the camera to catch echo memories

This brings me to the last new addition the series, and the one I am most conflicted on, which is the Nightmares. Instead of having monsters roam the environments like in past Silent Hill games, the game presents set sequences where monsters appear, the world freezes over, and you have to escape to a waypoint. Combat has never been a strong point in the series, so Climax decided to take it out completely, instead having you run from your anatagonists. It’s a great idea on paper, and it works to a degree in the game, but a few flaws keep it from being truly spectacular. The idea of running from monsters instead of having the ability to fight greatly raises the horror factor in the game. You are utterly helpless and cannot do anything save for creating obstacles for the creatures or throwing them off you using pushing motions with the Wii Remote and Nunchuck. The problem is that the monsters are only present during these nightmare sequences, so any fear you would have while constantly trying to avoid them during the rest of the game is gone. You know they aren’t present until the sequence starts, so there’s no real danger in the majority of the game.

The technical limitations of the Wii are another setback. During the Nightmares, your only escape is to find the exit. As your run from monsters, the camera swoops in close behind Harry, providing both a sense of speed and urgency as you run. Harry will slam through doors and hurdle over walls and it provides a nice chase dynamic that can really terrify you. The issue? Harry will be moving so fast that when you hit a door, the game will freeze and a loading prompt will come up for a few seconds. The game also stutters going into cutscenes and the characters’ voices will skip or distort. For a game that is immersing you in so many different ways, these stutters and loading hiccups really dampen the experience.

Silent Hill: Shattered Memories is an impressive Wii game. It uses all of the platform’s features in an immersive fashion, providing a moody and atmospheric experience that conforms to your own psyche in interesting ways. Some technical issues and poorly executed design choices hold the game back from greatness.


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Author: Matt Erazo View all posts by

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