Silent Hill: Shattered Memories Review

Silent Hill: Shattered Memories (Available on Wii, PS2 and PSP)
ESRB Rating: M
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Konami
Developer: Climax Studios
Release Date: December 8, 2009

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.

Scoreboard:

Story: 6/10

Gameplay: 8.5/10

Controls: 9/10

Graphics: 8.5/10

Sound: 9/10

Value: 5/10

Overall (Not an average): 8/10

Justin Joseph
Editor-in-Chief

12 thoughts on “Silent Hill: Shattered Memories Review”

  1. Concise review, Justin. This is one game I’m very curious about. I’m really not into the horror genre, but I like that you describe this one as a psychological thriller…kind of reminds me of Eternal Darkness, which is the only “horror” game I love and actually played through to the very end.

  2. Yeah, you don’t need to be a horror buff to play this. Not whatsoever. If you can use the Wii remote, you can play the game ;) But hey, a concise game calls for a concise review.

  3. I definitely agree with the review, though it is a tad hard on the game. I did jump a couple of times, but this definitely isn’t SH1-3. And I rather enjoyed the story.

    As for the ending, here’s how I see it (with the ending I got).
    Spoilers, obviously.

    So basically the whole time, Cheryl (Heather if you played SH3) was the one during the psychiatrist sessions. Harry died years ago. Cheryl was really young when Harry tragically died in the car accident, and she really loved him (evident in the “I love my daddy!” repeated over and over again in the beginning). She never accepted the fact that he died, and she shut out her mother (Dahlia). That’s why she was going to psychiatrists (in the beginning the psychiatrist says something about past doctors). So in denial, she tried explaining what she felt happened to Harry to the psychiatrist. She made him out to be the hero that was searching for her, and she made her mother a whore. By explaining her own fears (through testing), she made Harry the way he was. She created that Silent Hill (as most of the people in the games do). As the game went on, the psychiatrist was able to snap Cheryl to her senses, though she would try countering (seen through Cybil hinting at Harry’s death, only to be cut off). As the doctor grew frustrated, he was eventually able to “heal” Cheryl. Cybil told Harry he was dead, and he finally reached his daughter. After she accepted his death, he found her and they both were allowed to come to peace. Basically, there were two parallel stories. Cheryl was Harry, searching for the truth. He was also constantly getting mixed up, like when Michelle became Dahlia, which shows Cheryl was making things up to fit her ideal image. The psychiatrist was Cybil, who tried to show them the truth but was shut out.

    Again, this is up to interpretation. I did get the hardass cop, and I’m sure there are things that change when you choose different paths.

    Also, merry Christmas!

  4. @Xtrememuffinman

    Fascinating take, and I’d imagine there’s some truth in there :) But yeah, I haven’t played the other SH games yet, so I probably missed a lot of subtle references and hints across the timeline. My first playthrough had Cybil being a lot more sympathetic to my cause and not dressed in official police garb. She was the hard-nosed cop in my second.

    Thanks for the input man, and Merry Christmas to you too!

  5. This game does look rather interesting to me, so I think I’m willing to give it a go. I don’t have much experience with the past Silent Hill games, but it seems like everyone has made it clear this re-imagining is a far different experience. As far as horror games go, I’m ok with it not being a buckets-of-gore type game, I already have Dead Space to do that. Eternal Darkness is probably my favorite horror game thus far, although REmake and RE4 are other obvious favorites.

  6. @Anonymous

    Gotta agree with you there. No horror game beats what Eternal Darkness has brought to the table. I’m extremely surprised that even after all these years, no other horror game mimicked Eternal Darkness’ gameplay staples, particularly the aiming system and the sanity meter.

  7. Speaking of Eternal Darkness, boy I will never forget some of the madness sequences. Thinking something was screwed up with my game was the most shocking because I freaked out for a few seconds lol. This game will never be topped until the vitality sensor hits, like Justin says. Then watch out boys and girls!

  8. Let’s just hope Silicon Knights realizes the potential of an Eternal Darkness revival using the vitality sensor…instead of perusing a failing 10-year-old project called Too Human.

  9. @Ahmed Mosly

    Who knows what SK might be doing right now. TH really hurt their reputation amongst gamers, and I’d imagine that Nintendo has some rights to the ED name…and since SK doesn’t want to work with them anymore, a sequel is big long-shot.

    The Vitality doodad might not even come to fruition. After all, Nintendo did nothing but show a picture of it, which leads me to believe that they were merely trying to bait someone in supporting the concept. We haven’t heard a peep about it since, and there’s just no way that the device could have the impact that the Wii remote did.

  10. Yeah if it did come out that could be interesting in that the game would know if you’re scared or not. The game could let you calm down to a certain range, and then scare the crap out of you. I’d be ALL for that. Like Justin said though, that’s assuming the thing actually sees the light of day.

  11. Eternal Darkness>all! It was my favorite game for the Nintendo GameCube system :)

    It’s right up there with Skies of Arcadia for the Sega Dreamcast! Great review Justin, and I will be buying the game in the new year (in a few months). I have some Wii games to finish first before I can pick up a new one.

    I’m very happy to see all the Eternal Darkness love here as well! It is a great game, and I hope they never make a sequel tho. I don’t want to ruin the exp of the first title.

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