The first Silent Hill (PlayStation) is and remains the only representative of the franchise that I’ve finished. I own all the PS2 releases, but time has never been on my side for backlog games. Nonetheless, I can now say I’ve completed two distinct Silent Hill games. Shattered Memories is a legitimate re-imagining of the horror classic. There’s no remake or port to be found here; Climax Studios (a western developer) successfully transformed the source material, telling it in a whole new way. All the changes might irritate die-hards of the PS1 original, but I found the fresh approach fascinating. It’s also confusing, a SH staple.
I’ve seen the ending credits twice, and conclude that Shattered Memories is a virtual psychological evaluation. Before the daughter-turns-missing plot even begins, the game opens up to a man staring intently at you. He’s a shrink whose purpose is to facilitate several mind-probing examinations that determine how Silent Hill shapes around Harry Mason, the main protagonist. The first test is a list of true or false statements in which you check each answer with the Wii remote’s pointer mechanic. The IR is also used to respond to spoken questions, as you shift the Wii-mote up and down (nod), or left to right (denial). The results ultimately decide Harry’s alcoholic and sexual nature, in addition to how relationships form between him and the rest of the cast.
For instance, an alcohol-related inquiry elects whether your first major destination is a diner or bar. In one, Cybil Bennett of the Silent Hill PD sits in wait, while the other holds a female bartender that I didn’t recognize. Your replies to sexual inquisitions shape how Harry flirts. He either behaves more as a gentleman, or how the fairer gender thinks men treat women in general, as a pig. I applaud Climax for attempting this idea, but unfortunately I think the team forgot what Silent Hill is all about along the way. This is a horror series, and a psychological one at that. Instead of your trials giving the game ammunition to terrorize your head, the effects are merely cosmetic. You might visit a couple different locations, traverse a different path or two and see the characters presented differently, but nothing else happens. I sorely missed the series’ trademark fog as well; would that have been too much to render?
Climax relied too much on the nostalgia of the demon world that’s attached to Silent Hill at the hip. It’s not even intimidating anymore. After all, you’re pointed in the general direction of where to go, and everything is simply frozen over. What’s scary about that? The transitions between aren’t even jarring as they were before; they’re a bit too obvious. Thus, either you’re calmly exploring, moving forward and solving puzzles/riddles, or running like crazy from the monsters that shriek something mad annoying. I know this sounds obtrusively negative, but it is actually fun. Since Harry isn’t armed with anything but a flashlight and the ability to look back over his shoulder, Shattered Memories is a lot like those dreams where you’re running from something and hopeless to escape. The tension increases when a monster gains wind of your position, turning a casual jog into a full-on sprint while you shoulder through doors, topple over objects, climb over and under things, and more. When a creature inevitably throws itself onto Harry, gesturing the Wii-mote and nunchuk in a toss-off manner is necessary, and you hope his buddies aren’t around for the prospect of a panic-inducing dog pile. These scenarios are complemented by Silent Hill’s trademark mind-screw music ramping in tempo, making these chases well-executed, just not frightening after a few. Even playing the game at night with a cranked surround sound setup wasn’t enough, which is a shame.
When Harry is meandering about the regular snow-laden Silent Hill, he receives phone calls and text messages, finds mementos and encounters spots that cause crazy static in his mobile device (like the radio in the original game). These are intended to piece the expectedly disjointed, re-imagined plot together, and during my second playthrough I gained some revelations as to what the shattered memories represent. The only aspect that left me scratching the noggin was discovering who is actually interacting with the psychiatrist, and failing to associate Harry’s development with it. Perhaps you Silent Hill fanatics can shed some light on this for me? Nevertheless, it’s neat to not only listen to the voice messages through the Wii remote’s speaker and take pictures with the phone, but also play with various parts of the environment. There are many opportunities to open, close, shake and read things. That last one is especially impressive. Climax’s visual designers rendered the majority of environmental objects (posters, greeting cards, etc.) to be perfectly legible. It’s one of the many nuances that bring Silent Hill to life, which is cleverly ironic.
Along with the mostly intuitive controls, presentation is certainly one of SM’s strongest elements, if not the strongest. Obviously Silent Hill Wii isn’t a high definition game, which would’ve been killer, but it’s darn good-looking no less. The flashlight especially beautifully illuminates every poorly-lit nook and cranny of Silent Hill. The perpetual snowflakes are a joy too, especially those individually emphasized by your handheld beam. There isn’t much to complain about aside from a frame rate that often stalls when punching through doors during a chase, in addition to the pursuing creatures that don’t differentiate much. Everything else is right up there with the likes of Metroid Prime 3, Super Mario Galaxy, etc. Kudos to Climax for having the balls to put forth the effort on the visual side of the fence; other studios are welcome to take notice. The characters enjoy proper voice support too; everyone is convincing and memorable.
Silent Hill: Shattered Memories is an interesting beast. The makers delivered in every respect that allowed the marketing department to say re-imagining. This is not the Silent Hill of yesteryear, despite the inclusion of a few familiar faces. Harry, Cybil, Cheryl and Dahlia are all present and accounted for, though I’m intrigued as to the reasoning behind Dahlia’s complete change of role. I won’t spoil anything of that for you, but do know that she’s no longer the scary cult leader we once knew. This horror adventure is also short, able to be finished in a five to seven hour time frame. The game appreciably concentrates on most of the key locations from before, but never keeps you around for long. In other words, experiencing the retelling, seeing memorable characters and witnessing the culmination of all the psycho mumbo-jumbo are the main reasons to play Shattered Memories. Unless you’re an absolute wuss, the game probably won’t be scary. Consider that, and the flaws I’ve pointed out to come to decision about a purchase. No matter your choice though, Silent Hill: SM is a great game that just left some of the fright behind.
Overall (Not an average): 8/10