grumbel's Silent Hill: Shattered Memories (Wii) review

Not much survival horror, more a pleasently spooky adventure game

Silent Hill: Shattered Memories was released in 2011 and developed by Climax Studios, the game is a reimagening of the game in the series, and combines elements form the survival horror and point&click adventure genres. The games story follows Harry Mason has he travels around the town of Silent Hill in search for his daughter who has disappeared after a car crash. Psychiatry, which act as a framing device for the core story, act as bridge between chapters.

The term survival horror is taken rather lose in Shattered Memories, as for most of the game, there really is nothing to fear in the world and the player is given no weapons, while encounters with monsters do happen, they are limited to specific nightmare sections in the game. The core of the game reassembles Another Code: Two Memories / Trace Memory for the NintendoDS in its mechanics and is based around the exploration of the environment and interaction with objects within it. These interactions however are nowhere near the depth of a real point&click adventure and the player doesn't have an inventory. The core setup of a puzzle, that makes up most puzzles in the game, is that the player is confronted with a locked door and has to find a key for it. They keys or objects that take the role of a key, are normally hidden in within other objects that can be opened up. Those other objects, viewed in a  close up, can be interacted with with the Wiimote pointer. For example a key might be hidden in a jacket and the players job is then to pull down the zipper on the jacket to reveal the key. Close up interaction in such a fashion are however generally limited to only a few object in a scene, so most of the environment stays non-interactive.

Traversal in the world happens via a standard third person over-the-shoulder camera view. A flashlight is provided to light up the path, as much of the game happens in darkness. Another central part of the game mechanics is the mobile phone. It provides an GPS map, on which the player can provide custom markings, as well as the ability to take photos and telephone calls and messages. Phone calls are played back directly through the speaker of the Wiimote not through the TV. Text messages and phone calls are often provided by anomalies in the world, these are places market by a specific noise, the lauder that noise gets, the closer the player is, wants arrived at the anomaly a phone call or message will be retrieved. Ghostly after images of characters in the world can be made visible by photographing them.

The nightmare sections of the game, in which the world literally freezes over, are the only part of the game that somewhat resembles a survival horror game. In these sections the player is chased by a handful of monsters and has to make it to an exist to get out of the nightmare. The player is given no weapons and the only means to fight back is to shake of the monsters when they jumped on the player. These shake off is done by thrusting both the Nunchuk and the Wiimote into the direction of the enemy. While a large part of the nightmare sequences only consist of a chase, at a few points the game inserts a basic puzzle that has to be solved, which under time pressure of the enemies can get a little annoying and is easy to overlook, as the game doesn't really introduce the mechanics of the nightmare sequences very well. When the player dies in a nightmare sequence he is teleported back to the nearest saferoom, photos or puzzles he might have solved before that stay solved, thus death is not a big issue, more a small annoyance.

The games core story is framed by a psychiatry session in which the player has to answer some personal question, these questions influence the actual game and for example decide which rooms will be available to the player and which will be locked or which color a piece of clothing might have. Furthermore  the game observes the players behavior, how long he looks at certain objects, etc. to also change the course of the game. All those changes are however rather subtle and not immediately obvious.

Graphically the game looks quite nice, the characters facial animations are solid and the frozen city of Silent Hill is pretty to look at. Most of the game also runs rather smoothly and the flashlight provides enough light build up the atmosphere without ever getting annoying.

Overall I found the 7h it takes to beat the game highly enjoyable. While both of its adventure and survival horror parts stay rather simplistic and linear, the game does manage to build up a really nice spooky, but not scary, atmosphere. A lot of the game is also build around observation, so while there might not be that many objects to interact with, there are a lot of objects to look at, phone call to listen to and text messages to read. A lot of them are optional, but provide interesting background information on the main character.

The Wiimote interaction in the game, while solid, are nothing that special, almost everything is restricted to a 2D plane and thus gets no more interesting then the interactions one has seen in numerous NintendoDS games such as Another Code. The use of the Wiimote as phone speaker is however really nice and provides a good amount of additional immersion. The way monsters are shaken off however was a bit problematic, as it requires moving both Nunchuk and Wiimote around rather violently and given that both of them are tethered together, the cable got in the way quite a bit. And while this and a few other issues might the nightmare sections a little frustrating, those parts are short enough that it didn't become much of an issue.

In the end this isn't so much a classic survival horror game, with all the blood and gore that that normally implies, but simply a really well done spooky ghost story with a few nice twists.

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Other reviews for Silent Hill: Shattered Memories (Wii)

    Shattered Memories: A Spectacle for the Wii 0

    In its own idiosyncratic ways, I see Silent Hill: Shattered Memories as doing something similar for its respective series like what Resident Evil 4 did nearly six years ago as well. I'm doubtful that it'll trigger as widespread of a revolution outside its franchise as the GameCube action-horror game managed, but just look at a screenshot or watch a video and it becomes pretty apparent that it's taking the series in a direction that's certainly new for it, but not without also being prone to trig...

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