Silent Hill: Shattered Memories Wii Review
Publisher: Konami Developer: Climax Studios Genre: Survival Horror Players: 1 Age Rating: 16+
Other console/handheld formats: PS2, PSP
Following a blackout after a car accident, Harry Mason awakens to find that his young daughter has mysteriously disappeared. With this premise, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the storyline of Silent Hill: Shattered Memories is as near to the original 1999 PlayStation game as you could possibly get, although this couldn’t be further from the muddied truth.
Indeed, the overhauled plot does retain the basics, but following that, the scriptwriters have thrown most story elements out and started afresh, and even the characters may as well have been replaced by new virtual actors filling the same roles, given their brand new designs (very detailed they are too). The results of this complete reimagining are stunning, and the story is far superior from what I remember of the original game. In a nutshell: it’s intriguing, shocking and as off the wall weird as we’ve come to expect from a Silent Hill game, not forgetting to mention that the excellent twist ending will be a major surprise for most.
It’s not only the story that has been thrown out like a piece of rubbish; the game itself is also vastly different from that of the original. You’ll be getting your head examined by a psychiatrist in certain portions of the game – starting with a questionnaire, he’ll be giving you questions to answer (a nod or shake of the head with the respective motions of the Wii remote) and little mini games for you to sort out throughout the game. Your actions in these scenes will affect various things, and there’s even a tongue in cheek message at the start of the game that warns you that it plays you as much as you play it. Overall, it’s an interesting idea, which not only gives you a personal experience based on your actions within these therapy sessions, but also extends the longevity of the game (a good thing for such a brief 5-6 hour experience), making replays worthy. The excellent voice acting of the therapist really makes you feel as if he is passionately trying to get to the root of your problems during these scenes.
When you’re not getting your head examined, you’re playing as Harry in the past, and it’s here where the true weirdness presents itself. The snowy environments of Silent Hill are very atmospheric, look fantastic and are emptily unnerving as you wander around them in search of young Cheryl, with only a flashlight and a mobile phone amongst your possessions, although the true bizarreness only really develops when things start turning to ice. The twisted plot then becomes even muddier for the poor everyman that is Harry Mason.
The icy environments replace the rustiness of previous games in the series, and even the blaring air siren is absent. These frozen portions may not be as hellish as the shockingly rusty and unpleasant moments of previous games, although they still look great and, much like Akira Yamaoka’s excellent music, really add to the mood of the Wii’s first Silent Hill release. It’s also during these icy moments that the enemies (which are naturally things of nightmares) show themselves. Said enemies can no longer be bludgeoned to death, in fact the only physical contact you’ll have with them is shaking them off your body (naturally with both the remote and the nunchuck in the required direction) as they cling to you. Simply put, Shattered Memories is, like Capcom’s under looked Haunting Ground (released on the PS2 five years ago), all about legging it like an Olympian.
These nightmarish sections have Harry being relentlessly chased by abominations, and whilst you can knock over furniture with the nunchuck, find flares (no, don’t get too excited, you can’t burn the creatures faces off) to ward them off and hide in specific areas, these enemies will just keep on coming until you eventually find the location that the game wants you to be in. Sadly, while conveying a real sense of panic as you run for your life and barge your way through doors, these sections will test the patience of many as they struggle to find their way from A to B (the map helps, but it’s a bit annoying having to constantly refer to it). Don’t get me wrong, I’m fine that the combat has been nixed, but I do think that these panicky sections could have been better executed. Also, the enemies that pursue you aren’t exactly varied either, and they’re not even as memorable as Silent Hill’s best and weirdest creations.
The simplistic puzzle design will also annoy a certain type of player, but puzzles do often make some great use of the in-game phone, in which you’ll be dialling numbers and receiving text messages for solutions or hints. Puzzles also call upon the powers of the Wii remote. Need to find a key? Perhaps turning a can upside down will give you what you need. With no natural building entrance point accessible, finding the correct window, taking the screws out and then opening it up will give you the access you have been looking for. These are only a few examples and to give any more would just spoil things, but what should be said is that these actions are perfectly achieved with the Wii remote.
In fact, the controls and general use of the remote are well thought out. The remote is your flashlight and the beam will follow your movements, which is a clever and immersive use of Nintendo’s funny shaped controller. Chilling messages, phone calls and unsettling static emanating from the speaker of the remote also adds to the immersion.
Another change is that you’ll hardly ever find yourself with no clue as to where to head next, as Shattered Memories doesn’t exactly give you access to a huge number of locations at once. Some will like this ease of progression with little possibility of being lost, although others will miss the sense of exploration that more freedom presented.
Silent Hill: Shattered Memories is hardly the strongest game in the series, although it does perhaps have the strongest story so far, with one of the biggest and most shocking twists that I have ever seen in a game. Sadly, here at Console Obsession we don’t generally rate games on their stories, and while Climax’s reboot is an admirable, attractive and often chilling game, its changes to the series have certainly polarized opinion – what will be considered as great for some will be considered as flaws by others. I recommend a rental in order to see which way it’ll swing for you.