Silent Hill: Shattered Memories – Hidden Gems review


If you know Shattered Memories only by reputation, you may well have heard it described as a remake of the first game, and instantly dismissed it as such. Don’t. It dumps 95% of the original’s story but, more importantly still, it also dumps 95% of the original’s gameplay. As a result, it’s basically a completely new (well, three year old now) entry in the series – and most unexpected of all, it’s one of the best.

Plotwise, similarities with the original largely start and end with the story’s beginning. Harry Mason crashes his car – with seven year old daughter Cheryl in the back – at the town of Silent Hill, and is knocked unconscious. When he comes to, Cheryl is missing. Torch in hand, Harry goes looking for his daughter. Simple, right? Of course not.

Graphics are right at the top end of the Wii’s capabilities; decent textures, lots of fine detail, some brilliant use of lighting, and the snow which falls gently but insistently almost every time you’re outside is oddly convincing. The love and care given to the graphics makes all the difference in sucking you in to this dark, unpredictable world. This attention to detail serves a practical function, too. You can zoom the view in further to drink in your environment, but this also allows you to more easily spot puzzle clues – or phone numbers.

In a nod to modern life, Harry carries a smartphone. As such it’s your one-stop-shop for your camera, map, voicemail, texts, and of course phone calls (a combination of which is often used to reveal the unpleasant nature of Silent Hill’s residents). There are some calls that the story dictates as necessary, but there are many more that are entirely optional. Look carefully and you’ll see there are now and again phone numbers to be found on posters, notices, and even in graffiti. Calling them will only offer grim satire or a sense of abandonment – but then, that’s the point. Combined with Akira Yamaoka’s stellar audio work, there’s a rich atmosphere permeating this believable town, making the almost total absence of inhabitants all the more unnerving.

But what of gameplay? On Wii it has a constant, pleasingly tactile quality. Most object interactions require you to pinch the A and B buttons together, so that you (for example) grab a door handle or zip so that you can then pull it using motion controls, or grasp an object so that you can lift it. A very simple idea, but yet another one that drags you a little further into the experience. As does using Harry’s constant friend the torch. No tediously unreliable batteries here – just the simple pleasure of finding that directing its glare with the Wiimote is instantly intuitive and, yet again, another element that makes you feel like you are exploring Silent Hill.

It would be an injustice to the developers to let this review pass without emphasising one simple yet immeasurably important fact: this is a game which treats you as an adult. You will never have the blindingly obvious thrust in your face. If you fail to solve a puzzle within ten seconds, you will not have the solution given to you via sledgehammer-subtle hints. There are brief yet perfectly-judged breadcrumb trails to the solutions which require lateral thinking, experimentation – or both. You’re given no help once the puzzle is revealed in full, and you’ll thank Climax for it.

For an idea of who or what this is supposed to be, keep a close eye on the ending.

It’s just as well that the town is so atmospheric and the puzzles so respectful of your intelligence, as exploring and puzzle-solving make up the majority of the game. You soon learn that nothing will ever try to kill you in the ‘normal’ dimension. It’s a different story whenever the world freezes over, as you’ll be relentlessly hunted by skinless horrors until you find the exit from the ‘Nightmare’ back into the unfrozen dimension. There is absolutely no combat in this game. When chased by demons, Harry does what any of us would do. He runs.

After easing you into the concept with the first few Nightmares, the game begins to make these sections more and more maze-like until, if you’re not careful, you could literally be running in circles. Again the experience is tactile on Wii, as you thrust your arms in the direction of any monster that’s caught up with you to throw them off, or to topple obstacles behind you to slow them down. It also continues to treat you as a grown-up, with the layouts proving no problem so long as you can manage to think and concentrate under pressure. The rare and short-lived flares, which ward your pursuers off and can be carried, are a godsend.

The game is unofficially split into six chapters, your first run through which will probably take you only 5-6 hours. We say first run as there are a total of five possible endings, mostly dictated by the first-person psychiatrist sections which punctuate the experience. You’ll answer various questions and perform various tasks, many of which are surprisingly deep and/or personal. It’s well worth being totally honest in your first playthrough at least, to test the promise of a “personalised” horror experience (the ‘proper’ game will alter according to answers you give the shrink), and to see how accurate the psychological profile of you given as the credits roll is.

The brevity is offset by the replay value, though sadly nothing changes the fact that Shattered Memories is much more tense and unnerving than it is horrifying or scary. We also ran into a nasty (though seemingly rare) audio bug on three separate occasions that produced a prolonged screeching noise. Nothing takes away from the fact that this is one of the 21st Century’s best horror games so far – which really needs to be played, would you believe, on the Wii. Whether you’re disillusioned by modern Silent Hills or you’ve never played anything in the series, buy this.

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Written by Luke K

Luke plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He's the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. Chances are, if you pick up a copy of the latest Official PlayStation Magazine or GamesMaster, you'll find something he's written in there. Luke doesn't have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

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