Of All the Silent Hill Games I’ve Played, Shattered Memories May Be My Favourite Only Ten Minutes In.
Shattered Memories is a “re-imagining” of the original Silent Hill for the Wii, PS2, and PSP. So it’s interesting for me to see some of the changes that have been made. I have a few memories of watching a childhood friend play the original many years ago. It was scary then so hopefully Shattered Memories lives up to this.
It was released back in 2010 and I bought it much earlier in the year. I’m sad to say that I’ve only just gotten round to starting Silent Hill: Shattered Memories. Which I’m realising now is quite a shame: it really is amazing. I don’t want to go over the top here because, admittedly, I’m only a short way into it but I’m excited to see if this trend continues throughout.
At first, I was apprehensive about using the Wii Remote and Nunchuk as a control scheme. After my experiences with Call of Duty: World at War, I know that you have to play with a dislocated wrist to use all necessary buttons in a panicked situation.
Anyone who read my review of Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze will know that I have a particular dislike for some motion controls and how their lack of precision. So far in Shattered Memories, however, these controls have been a positive thing. The Wii Remote is used to direct the beam of your torch. All in all it makes things less clumsy than a Dualshock having to turn your entire character to read a note.
I won’t deny that the first nightmare chase was made slightly more difficult by trying to use motion controls and look the right way but overall I enjoy the effect of using the Wii Remote in the slower parts of the game.
Although the graphics are a little dated by today’s standards, meticulous work has been put into crafting a world that is genuinely creepy. Silent Hill‘s traditional fog is largely absent but the snowfall and embankments take its place admirably.
The sense of isolation builds quickly and is present in every move you make. Even the first encounter with Cybill leaves you feeling alone. Shattered Memories takes the right approach by rewarding observant players while not necessarily forcing them into exploration.
Hiding collectibles in areas off the beaten track can be tedious and distract people from the central narrative. Whereas small little extra scares hidden in corners of necessary rooms can flesh out someone’s experience based on how immersed they are and even open up re-playability.
Shattered Memories is also interesting in that it opens with a warning about how it evaluates you psychologically and uses this information against you. So far I get the impression that this has been implemented quite clumsily.
Admittedly, my first thought was about an analysis of how you played the game – something along the lines of Psycho Mantis from Metal Gear Solid. In truth, however, it appears to be based on your answers in the intermittent therapy sessions. Even so, knowing that the game could be judging you plays a part in how you experience its world.
Will you be punished for playing in a predictable way later in the game? Silent Hill is no stranger to using invisible criteria to judge you with its multiple endings so the two may be related.
One of my favourite parts so far was very early on. In the electrical goods store, the player must push a door release button to unlock the way forward. The TV that is connected to the button has a dial the player can turn (by holding A and B and turning the Wii Remote). Each number on the dial is a different camera.
What I like about this is the flexibility in practice. Overly cautious players like myself turn the dial and look at the cameras to make sure the coast is clear. Simply by including this feature, Shattered Memories places the idea in the player’s head that there is the possibility of being attacked.
With no other obvious function, it’s safe to assume players will draw the same conclusion. Conversely, later in the game this can be used for less cautious players too. Tracking a monster in your building with the cameras immediately creates a sense of tension and dread: will it find me? How can I plan my escape?
This sort of mechanic feeds into what Frictional Games spoke about on their blog with regards to their upcoming title, SOMA. If fear and anxiety is derived from the chase (i.e. the moments before death) then death itself is a relief. Ergo, games need to find a way to prolong the experience of the chase. Of course, there is the problem of acclimatization: the more you see of a monster, the less scary it becomes.
Silent Hill has never really been afraid of showing you what you’re being chased by. Often their monsters are so disgusting or varied that this is almost a non-issue. Any time spent watching the beast on the camera is time spent wondering if it will find you. A camera tracking mechanic balances these two elements so well, it’s almost enough for me to sing Shattered Memories‘ praises.
I want to emphasise again that I have only just started played Shattered Memories. While it certainly does look promising so far, things could take a turn for the worse. There have been mentions of repetitive and easy puzzles, which would be a shame as they are central to the Silent Hill experience.
Only time will tell, I suppose, but this is one gamer who is excited to find out.
Have you had any games you knew you were going to love from the outset? Let us know in the comments below.
Silent Hill Shattered Memories is available on Nintendo Wii, Sony PSP and PlayStation 2.