Silent Hill: Shattered Memories Review
Silent Hill: Shattered Memories is the first Silent Hill release for the Wii from developers Climax. Shattered Memories is a re-imagining of the first Silent Hill released long ago on Playstation. This is in no way a remake, since the story is almost completely different with the exception of the characters having the same name and similar roles.
The story is easily Shattered Memories strongest characteristic. It is so crazy and senseless until the later part of the game, but it’s so fantastically told. It’s almost as if David Lynch wrote and directed the game, since some of the situations seem so crazy, yet really fit the context of the game. It really drove me through an otherwise somewhat average game since it was so compelling, I genuinely wanted to see where it went. When I reached the end, I really wanted to change some decisions to see what would happen.
Shattered Memories is split into three parts: The psychiatric assessments, exploration, and the nightmares. During the psychiatric assessments, you’ll respond to the questions posed using wiimote waggle, or perform some type of quiz that affects the story segment in some way (some that aren’t immediately identifiable, others you’ll notice right away). Following the assessment, you’ll spend some time moving from one location to another, exploring the area for mementos and to trigger the next scene. Most of the sections end with a nightmare sequence where you are essentially chased by faceless humanoid looking creatures. These were my least favorite parts of the game due to the chosen control scheme.
The direction you look (or aim the flashlight) is mapped to where you are aiming the wiimote. You then walk forward or backward using the stick on the nunchuk. This works fine, until the nightmare sequences. You can come across some context sensitive objects that you can knock over to slow down the enemies. The problem is that it’s mapped to a wiimote gesture (usually sweeping it across your body). So once you finish knocking over some object, I found my reticule constantly off screen or aimed in a way that starts turning me around and completely disorienting me. I did manage to somewhat get used to it, but I still found it made the “frightening” sequences immensely frustrating. You can’t fight back in any way, you can just use the same wiimote gestures to shake off your assailants when they catch you (and they will often since they are faster and there is no way to dodge at all). Also since it’s almost impossible to check your map (it’s accessed through your in game cell phone) it’s too easy to get lost and run in circles. It definitely was a trial and error situation.
The way they split these sequences so distinctly really hurt the game in terms of tension. Previous Silent Hill games, you could be attacked any time, regardless of the state of the environment around you. However in Shattered Memories, you only are ever in peril during the ice covered nightmare sequences. So during the exploration pieces, even though some environments are creepy and dark, you quickly realize there is no reason to be scared or stressed. I felt safe and at ease, which I don’t find effective for a survival horror game.
Akira Yamaoka returns to provide the soundtrack, but it is certainly the weakest in my opinion of all the Silent Hill games. Other titles the soundtrack added to the unsettling experience, but in Shattered Memories I found it so minimal it had no effect on me.
Another strong aspect to Shattered Memories are the visuals. It is certainly one of the best looking Wii games around, showcasing fantastic lighting from the flashlight and great transitions between normal Silent Hill and the Icy Nightmare Silent Hill. Everything has a tremendous amount of detail, and most things in the environment you can actually read, instead of being just an ugly blurred graphic.
Since the choices you make during the psychiatrist sequences affect certain aspects during the game as well as the endings, Shattered Memories sports immense replayability. I started up a second playthrough making completely opposite decisions and it was almost immediately recognizable that the game was playing out slightly different. You meet people at different times or places, and found some aesthetic changes as well such as people being dressed differently. Another interesting change I had noticed is in one playthrough I found a bloody, dead bear in a lodge, whereas the next playthrough the room was instead full of taxidermy.
Despite all the control issues and frustrations experienced during the nightmare sequences, this game is definitely a must rent for any Silent Hill fans, or Survival Horror enthusiasts. The story is like nothing out there I have played recently, and the visuals really help immerse you in the world. Although the game is fairly short (easily can be finished in under 6 hours) the replayability gives plenty of reason to return to Silent Hill and see how the game plays based off your decisions.