Giant Bomb Review

33 Comments

Silent Hill: Shattered Memories Review

4
  • Wii

A laundry list of risky changes pays off in this great new beginning for the Silent Hill series.


It's a big, lonely town out there. 
Silent Hill: Shattered Memories is that rare game that uses the unique aspects of the Wii so well, you immediately feel like its quality would be lessened on a more traditional platform. (It's a shame all Wii games aren't that way, but, let's face it, they aren't.) The game uses motion controls and the Wii remote's speaker to draw you into its mysterious, unsettling world more effectively than you might expect. But as good as the Wii integration is, it's the nuanced storyline and chilling atmosphere that will really stick with you. Despite a little repetition in the game's progression, this is one experience you aren't likely to forget soon.

Shattered Memories is one of those newfangled "reboots" that distills the Silent Hill series down to its core--psychological horror--and takes it in a new direction. The similarities to the series' original installment are few. You're again Harry Mason, looking for your young daughter Cheryl after a car crash strands you in the idyllic small town of Silent Hill, nearly deserted in the midst of a blizzard. There's still a weird fixation on radio static and analog video effects, used to enhance the tension. Uh, did I mention your daughter is named Cheryl?

The point is, the comparisons end there. No more hellish, industrial-looking otherworld, no more occult business... and no combat. Shattered Memories is, for all intents and purposes, an adventure game in which you play through a series of loosely connected vignettes depicting Harry's mostly fruitless search of the town. The places and events you encounter as you move through the narrative become increasingly weird and hard to process, but despite appearances, they are leading you somewhere specific and revelatory. Describing a list of example encounters in this review would really take away from the net effect of bafflement and tension you feel as you play them yourself. Since those feelings are largely what make this rendition of Silent Hill so memorable, let it suffice that this is an especially strange, moody game that's probably a little like what David Lynch would make if he were into video game development.

One of Shattered Memories' best aspects is Harry's iPhone-like cell phone, which sounds like a gimmick but actually makes you feel more connected to the game world. In addition to a map function, the phone has a camera in it that lets you reveal ghostly afterimages of past events when you take pictures of the right places (and the camera screen has a convincingly low-resolution stutter when you use it). The world is full of psychic artifacts like these that may seem like non-sequiturs at first, but they usually have some sort of subtle bearing on the plot. They're all honestly creepy in their own right, anyway. Imagine finding a lone sleeping bag out in the woods, then seeing blood stains spread across it as you approach, then getting a text message from a stranger about how maybe they shouldn't have slipped something into that girl's drink. It's pretty unsettling stuff.

The Wii controls are really nicely designed. 
Speaking of which, you'll also get occasional phone calls, text messages, and voice mails (some from familiar characters and some from... who knows?) that depict seemingly random, unsettling events in ways that subtly tie into the core storyline. The phone calls and voice mails come out of the Wii remote's speaker, which just happens to sound exactly like a cell phone. Holding it up to your ear, to hear things like a girl begging her mother to pick her up from the party where she has suddenly found herself amid some very bad people, has to be one of the most creative and affecting uses of that dinky speaker to date.

The flow of Shattered Memories gets down to a formula pretty quickly. Each episode is framed by a visit to a psychotherapist that's apparently taking place in the present day, as Harry and his shrink work their way through the trauma of the car crash and subsequent search. Then you flash back to the next leg of Harry's ordeal in Silent Hill. The first half of these vignettes consists of you searching the town and occasionally meeting up with the game's few supporting characters, looking for clues. As creepy as some of the events are during these segments, you come to realize pretty quickly that you aren't in any real danger during your search. You can't die here; there are no vicious beasts waiting to jump out and ambush you, nor even environmental hazards that can put an end to Harry. These sequences are more about absorbing the storyline and getting wrapped up in the unsettling atmosphere than fearing for your life.

But then, every time you feel like you're coming up on some sort of conclusion or breakthrough, the world ices over and you're suddenly beset by the sort of ugly, faceless monsters that would make Pyramid Head proud. But you can't fight them. In every episode, these repeated encounters really just amount to an extended chase sequence, as you run from the monstrosities and frantically try to reach whatever place it is that will let you escape. These chases are mostly successful at engendering a real sense of terror; the helplessness you feel at being unable to fight the monsters, only dodge them and shove them off, is palpable. At least at first. Knowing that another chase is always coming at the end of each episode makes them a little less scary, but the creatures are sufficiently unpleasant enough in sound and appearance that you sure don't want to spend more time around them than you have to.
 
Playing the game is mostly a pleasant experience. The Wii remote is used to great effect as a pointer for Harry's flashlight, which feels natural in your hand and lights up your surroundings with strikingly nice-looking lighting effects. Motion is also used in some clever ways in some puzzles, allowing you to manipulate cabinet doors, empty cans, and so forth as you look for keys and other objects. Even the motion controls during the chase sequences play into the action; you basically have to flail frantically in the direction of an attacking monster to shove it off of you. The relative imprecision of the Wii's controls can be vexing sometimes during the fast action of the chases, though, since you won't always knock an attacker off on the first try, and you'll sometimes make a wrong turn as you use the pointer to steer the camera.

Gross. 
One of the most interesting and yet least apparent aspects of Shattered Memories is the long list of ways it reacts to your play style. From the questions and psych tests your therapist throws at you to just about everything you do while exploring, the particulars of the storyline can change dramatically. The game determines which areas of the town you have access to, what supporting characters look like and how they act toward you, even the personality of Harry himself (right down to the comments he makes on the things he sees). The thing is, none of this is obvious the first time you play through the game; the story simply comes off as, well, the way it is. But there's real merit in playing through again, making significantly different choices and giving different answers to see what changes. A striking amount of it will. For what it's worth, I found that giving honest answers to the therapist's questions and playing according to my gut produced an outcome that was very much in line with my sensibilities. For once, your mileage will definitely vary.

Silent Hill: Shattered Memories takes some bold, unpredictable risks with this venerated franchise, and the result is a heck of a lot more interesting than yet another survival horror game with motion-assisted aiming might have been. And thanks to the careful handling of the narrative, it's an indelible experience that proves you don't need endless shooting and buckets of blood to produce a mature, resonant horror experience, on the Wii or on any other platform.    
33 Comments
Posted by gingertastic_10

AH! I don't own a Wii :(

Posted by jmrwacko

Looks like a great reimagining of Silent Hill.
Posted by Binman88

Took your time with this one Brad. Just kidding, happy Christmas :D
 
Slowly being convinced to buy a Wii, but I'm gonna need more than one title appealing to me to push me over the edge.

Posted by Dudacles

Too bad I don't own a Wii, it looked great in the QL.

Posted by General_D23

I think I'll Gamefly this. Maybe I'll buy it, but at this point I want to save up for the rush we're going to have for these first 3 months. 
 
Desicions, Desicions.
Edited by Al3xand3r

@Brad : The review could be better, but I'm glad you liked the game. I hope I will too when it gets here.

"It's a shame all Wii games aren't that way, but, let's face it, they aren't."

It's funny a line like that went past proof reading. You have many other sentences that you'd be better off without, or rewriting them to flow better as I'm not talking about their meaning (but I'll do that next).

About that same sentence's meaning, newsflash, the majority of games on every platform are not great so the mere mention falsely implies it's something that only happens on Wii. There are hundreds or even thousands of titles released every year, how many of them do you like enough to play through, Brad? Most of them you probably never even hear of (even though it's your job, but that doesn't mean they don't exist), and most of them are indeed crap. That's why we have websites like this to tell us (well, not us, but the average uninformed reader) which are worth the time and money. If the majority of games were awesome then people wouldn't need you, they'd pick something off the shelf and have little risk of getting games they'll dislike. Even Metacritic, which doesn't list all the games released, lists many more titles that appear to be bad according to critic standards (or to the fact nobody bothered to review many of them) on every platform.

As you say, face it, it's an industry reality, not a Wii specific issue, and someone who works in this industry should be aware of simple plain facts like that and understand such snide remarks about a specific system make him appear stupid and ignorant when he should be showing people that he's well in the know instead.

At the very least it's a fact irrelevant to gamers as they simply buy what's good and there's more than enough of that on every platform also, while there have been platforms that had arguably the most complete libraries of their time yet were still infested with vast amounts of shovelware which, if that vast amount of shovelware actually mattered enough to mention in such reviews, would overshadow everything else.Of course, it doesn't actually matter at all so they were all beloved platforms (ie, SNES, PS, PS2).

Please write better next time, honestly nobody wants to read trash.

Posted by asian_pride

I'm still skeptical in getting it, but after reading your review, Brad, maybe.

Posted by BD_Mr_Bubbles

Having never played a Silent Hill game before this I love it.
Posted by JJOR64

I might have to give this game a shot.

Posted by TheLawnWrangler

YES!!

Posted by Romination

I'm really considering buying this. I think it would be neat for my girlfriend and i to have our own games and watch each other to see what's different.

Posted by Hailinel

An excellent read, Brad.  It's good to see that such a drastic reimagining of the original Silent Hill turned out so well.  Shattered Memories is really a game that puts life back in survival horror, and hopefully more games will be able to follow suit.

Posted by floodiastus

I am glad there is no combat, but I would enjoy it even without the chase sequences. This sort of story-heavy adventure game remins me of Indigo Prophecies in a way... you want to know what happens next. 
  
All in all this game rocks 

Posted by Yummylee

Will definatley get! The wii's kept at my mums, but this is a game thats worth tolerating the family for.
Posted by RHCPfan24

Sweet I really can't wait to play this....eventually.

Posted by Claude

This game is all over the place with review sites. I'm getting it in a few days with some gift card money. It should be a hoot. I can't wait to see it for myself.

Posted by Shaanyboi

Solidly-written review!
 
This game ain't perfect, and yeah, there are some pacing issues I guess... but this is a great refreshing take on the series that reminds what the franchise, or hell the genre, is about! 

Posted by Linkyshinks

May well pick this up later/ 
 
I hope the sequel uses the Vitality Sensor.

Posted by Creamypies

Man, I wish I had a Wii for this game!

Posted by VibratingDonkey

" Silent Hill: Shattered Memories is that rare game that uses the unique aspects of the Wii so well, you immediately feel like its quality would be lessened on a more traditional platform. 
 
But as good as the Wii integration is, it's the [...] chilling atmosphere that will really stick with you."
 
Doesn't bode well for the PS2 version... Sadface.

Posted by Meowayne

Read Daddy Issues or: My notes on the patient for a more in-depth look at the game's mechanics. :)

 It's a shame all Wii games aren't that way, but, let's face it, they aren't 

This is  embarrassing in terms of language and journalism, and completely pointless to say, as Al3x already mentioned. There is a low percentage of games on the Wii that use the platforms potential - just as is the case with any other given platform. There are a couple of dozens of titles that use the Wiimote to very good effect - how many of those did Mr Shoemaker play, I wonder?
Edited by DanielJW
@Meowayne: He's saying that the game makes sense being on the Wii, and that if it were on a different console it would be worse. There are definitely many, many Wii games that would probably be more at home on a different console. Muramasa comes to mind.  
 
I think he's just mentioning the fact that it's rare a Wii game uses the Wii's big feature, that being motion control, to it's full potential. A console like Xbox doesn't really have a very key feature like that. It's a traditional button pressing experience, whereas the Wii has so much more at it's disposal. It's just a shame that more Wii games don't use the full potential of the extra advantages it has.
Posted by Milkman
@Al3xand3r: *sigh* Oh boy.....
Posted by DavidSnakes

My game of the year, no joke.  Such an amazing game

Posted by Galiant
@Al3xand3r said:
" @Brad : The review could be better, but I'm glad you liked the game. I hope I will too when it gets here.

"It's a shame all Wii games aren't that way, but, let's face it, they aren't."It's funny a line like that went past proof reading. You have many other sentences that you'd be better off without, or rewriting them to flow better as I'm not talking about their meaning (but I'll do that next).About that same sentence's meaning, newsflash, the majority of games on every platform are not great so the mere mention falsely implies it's something that only happens on Wii. There are hundreds or even thousands of titles released every year, how many of them do you like enough to play through, Brad? Most of them you probably never even hear of (even though it's your job, but that doesn't mean they don't exist), and most of them are indeed crap. That's why we have websites like this to tell us (well, not us, but the average uninformed reader) which are worth the time and money. If the majority of games were awesome then people wouldn't need you, they'd pick something off the shelf and have little risk of getting games they'll dislike. Even Metacritic, which doesn't list all the games released, lists many more titles that appear to be bad according to critic standards (or to the fact nobody bothered to review many of them) on every platform.As you say, face it, it's an industry reality, not a Wii specific issue, and someone who works in this industry should be aware of simple plain facts like that and understand such snide remarks about a specific system make him appear stupid and ignorant when he should be showing people that he's well in the know instead.At the very least it's a fact irrelevant to gamers as they simply buy what's good and there's more than enough of that on every platform also, while there have been platforms that had arguably the most complete libraries of their time yet were still infested with vast amounts of shovelware which, if that vast amount of shovelware actually mattered enough to mention in such reviews, would overshadow everything else.Of course, it doesn't actually matter at all so they were all beloved platforms (ie, SNES, PS, PS2).Please write better next time, honestly nobody wants to read trash. "
I thought the review was great. That sentence you pointed out from the review makes a lot of sense to me, as there are too many titles that just want to be on every platform, and as such they end up on the Wii with very little use of its unique motion control features, as opposed to this game being reviewed - where the controls are part of its appeal, and perhaps wouldn't do as well on, say, a PS2.
 
A review is an opinion, calling the reviewer stupid and ignorant is not the best way of saying that your opinion differs. That says a whole lot more about you than the opinion you disagree with.
Edited by pause422

Stop embarrassing yourself, honestly. He clearly says the game is done so well on the Wii, that it would be lessed on other platforms, and that its just ashame all Wii games cant feel that way. That isnt an insult at all, thats the truth. Its the truth and a compliment for how good the game plays, and is made for the controls and functions of the Wii, and that it would not be as well done on other consoles. Dont blame his honest, completely well written review on stating something obvious. 
 
He in no way made that come off as if he was taking a shot at the Wii above any other console, just that this game feels made for the Wii over anything else, and a good amount of other Wii games dont feel like its better on the Wii than any other platform, quite like this game does. Its clear what he means in the review, and its written fine. Funny, that you think you even have the right to tell someone to write better, when the majority of your posts are just complete garbage themselves.
 
 
Now to the topic at hand, Im really happy with what I have been seeing with this game, definitely gonna give it a try.

Posted by Driadon
@pause422: Thank you, sir, for typing all of this in a much more efficient manner and in better detail then I could, and before I tried.
Posted by Shaanyboi
@Al3xand3r: 
 
uhhh.... shut up?  It's a review.  An opinion.  And even then, no one wants to hear your rabid defense because someone says something about the wii. 
 
and know what?  The Wii does have a MUCH larger list of shitty games than the other platforms.  Calling him an idiot for pointing out something PLENTY of people have noticed a while ago isn't really the best way to handle this....
Posted by Media_Master

A well made remake.

Posted by Meowayne
@Shaanyboi: 

 and know what?  The Wii does have a MUCH larger list of shitty games than the other platforms.

No. The Wii's quality to shit ratio is very much equal to that of the PSX, PS2 or PC. It didn't stop these to pour out quality on a regular basis, and it doesn't stop the Wii. People just like to pretend it does because that's very easy and fun.
Posted by JessicaBoo

So my boyfriend and I bought this game, i find it kinda twisted, disturbing, AWESOME and annoying in places. It does make me laugh too at some point like using a wheel chair and you have to do the movements on the wii controller, you will have a lil crack at it too... Is actually funny. 
 
Even tho certain part of the games are really weird to control... The game to me, is good in the eye. But the things and the choices that you make along the way in the game is what makes it worthwhile and creepy... So well done to the makers... And to you guys! Awesome review.

Posted by buzztone

Got this on the PS2 a few days ago.  Not bad, I was expecting it to be a horrible mess but I like what I've played so far.

Posted by NorseDudeTR

Finally got this. Never saw it in a store until now. Looking forward to being scared out of my mind.