A Shattered Experience

 

Silent Hill: Shattered Memories for the Wii is an interactive book you cannot put down. At times, it’s a book you want to throw against the wall.

 
A re-imagining of the original Silent Hill, Shattered Memories pits you as Harry Mason. He’s just experienced a car accident outside town and is now looking for his young daughter Cheryl.  With a flashlight and cellphone, Harry traverses the city to, well, wander. This is not a bad thing, per se, because this game is all about atmosphere. The music, graphics, and excellent voice acting add to it.

The city of Silent Hill is seemingly deserted due to an incredible snow storm that is blanketing the area. Harry runs into no one. Well, almost no one. There are a few souls stuck in the snow as well. In an almost linear fashion due to some well placed snow banks, Harry goes from building to building searching for his daughter. Along the way he comes across clues not about Cheryl’s present whereabouts, but more from her past or his past or his wife’s past or some total strangers. (Good luck figuring it all out).

All this confusion is one of the driving forces behind the game. The narrative is superb and the ways the developer used to tell it is probably the best use of the Wii controls to date. Harry’s cellphone is essentially the Wii remote. All the phone calls come through the controller’s speaker. This add an uncanny sense of realism, and just like a real cellphone, it texts, takes pictures, has a GPS, and a contacts database.

HINT: Call every number you see in the game. They are all worth it. Some are pointless to the games progression, but add a lot of life and detail to an empty town.

The remote also acts as a light for Harry. It’s so intuitive that if you can operate a flashlight, you can play this game. Point where you want him to shine the light and it literally works.

As Harry walks around the city in some places a faint trace of static will sound on the controller. Get closer and it gets stronger. Eventually it gets so loud it will squawk and a paranormal event will happen. The game calls these “echos”–traces of something important that happened in the past. On some of them, you can use the camera to take shots of the scene and a ghost will appear in the images. It’s a creepy effect that works.

what a nightmare
With a game like this, there cannot be a sense of danger and in each area Harry experiences a nightmare. The landscape changes, freezes over, and everything turns dark. Harry must then navigate his way out of the area while being chased by humanoid creatures. If they catch up with you, it’s waggle time. The player must shake the remote in the direction the creature is hanging on you.

This really stinks. Many times a player can be overwhelmed by the creatures or end up running in circles by taking numerous dead end paths. Harry never dies, but the sequence starts all over. Get ready for replay city. There were two times in the game I had to walk away from playing for a day or so because it was too much. I was so wrapped up in the narrative that I wanted to get going. I hardly ever consult a walkthrough, but I ended up doing it on both those nightmare sequences. It’s a huge narrative-breaking bummer. The developer should have chosen to continue the narrative with the consequences of being caught in the nightmare as part of the game play. (See Heavy Rain ). They did with every other choice Harry made.

 
NOTE: The last nightmare sequence is brilliant and what all of them should have been.

This game will profile you–seriously
The major scenes of the game are introduced by the player meeting with a therapist. He’ll ask you questions about violence, sex, gender issues, integrity, and other such areas. This allows the game to profile you and actually changes parts of the game based upon your personality. It also effects a lot of details in the end of the game. (There is one main ending with four minor results–and a traditional Silent Hill goofy ending.) The game even warns you of this at the beginning. It adds a foreboding touch that’s unparalleled in gaming.

It works really well, and I’ve got to admit my ending was really satisfying. A lot of critics lauded this as one of the best endings in a game for 2009. I’d have to agree. Saying anything more would spoil it.

Final Word
This is a game you should play. However, some of the nightmare sequences were almost deal-breakers. Fortunately, if it wasn’t for a walkthrough, I would have never finished it. If this had been played it in 2009 (its release), it would have been in one of my top five titles for that year.

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