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Silent Hill Shattered Memories breaks free from its established story and transforms the game into something fresh and unerving. Turning the focus on the audience, the game builds its tension around the player's responses and interactions, offering a bespoke horror experience.
Silent Hill Shattered Memories is not a remake of the first game, but a re-imagining. It is an important distinction to make because it was this original version that set the dark tone each successive title was shrouded in. By moving away from these conventions Shattered Memories is able to create a novel new take on the Silent Hill franchise. Instead of trying to recreate the events of the first game, the latest title contents itself with an abstraction of the first games' story, while maintaining an ethos of psychological horror.
Similarities between Shattered Memories and its older brother can be seen in the characters and locations. As in the original, you play as Harry Mason hunting for his daughter, Cheryl. Half remembered places and faces populate the game world, and yet everything is different. Most of the time I wander through Shattered Memories unchallenged, with the faceless abominations that used to haunt me nowhere to be found. It is only when the town unveils its new interpretation of the dark world in a barren town encased in ice that everything turns against me.
Within this crystalline manifestation Shattered Memories' antagonistic events take place.
Replacing the creeping darkness and decaying, rusting structures that filled the original Silent Hill whenever it transformed, and replacing it with ice is akin to making a 007 movie without Bond. With the lead replaced, I feared that the end product would be lacking in that special something. But this new Silent Hill manages to keep the essence of the town intact. Gone is the claustrophobic darkness, but instead the white translucent ice creates a feeling of isolation and apprehension as it obscures the horrors that hunt me.
Within this crystalline manifestation Shattered Memories' antagonistic events take place. Devoid of weapons to fight the contorted female forms that attacked, I was forced to flee, blindly stumbling through the ice-covered streets. On the few occasions that I managed to escape my pursuers I was able to check a map in real time. Knowing the hunt continued as I searched for the best route to my destination, I found it hard to focus, my attention wandering instead to the Wiimote quietly emitting a static noise that indicated the distant presence of enemies. Desperate to escape the horrors of the town's wintry grasp, I start to move in the direction indicated by the map only to discover snowdrifts blocking my path with the force of an Artic whiteout. Terrified, I turn and set off in a new, unknown direction.
As the narrative unfolds it becomes clear that the game is also monitoring me, tailoring the experience to fit my actions.
My lack of defence against attackers leads me to dread the world's transformations. While I spent less time in Silent Hill's mirror world than in previous versions, my time there was more intense and frantic. My inability to fight back was compounded by a control scheme that made defending myself from attacks near impossible. Contorted bodies would pile upon me as I followed onscreen prompts to shake them off, thrusting my controller back and forth to no avail. It infuriates me, partially because I then have to replay the section, but also because it bursts the bubble of fear I'm shivering in and slips me into another bubble made from fear of a different kind Ð a fear that I won't be able to work the Wiimote properly. It is especially irritating because this constant, nagging, real world fear puts a dampener on Shattered Memories' ice borne tension.
Silent Hill's mirror world has always, in some way, reflected aspects of the protagonist's neurosis, twisting them to form the perverted, otherworld. Shattered Memories continues this trend, but as the narrative unfolds it becomes clear that the game is also monitoring me, tailoring the experience to fit my actions.
Frequently this assessment is made overtly through sections where I interact with a psychiatrist from a first person perspective. He sets task and asks questions, giving the impression that the third person areas of the game are part of the session, my distorted memories of Harry's past and the source of all the trouble I am experiencing in the town. My responses to the doctor result in changes to the world around me as I re-enter it, affecting my experiences and contributing to the game's ending and, more interestingly, subsequent replays of the game.
It reanimates the corpse of the franchise just before rigor mortis sets in.
I have only had a dipped my toe into this replayed world, but I am already noticing the slight differences in dialogue as events unfold. Characters' appearances have changed too, and their attitudes to me seem to lean more towards my previous (slightly alcoholic) behaviour. It is unnerving to think that, as I play, the town of Silent Hill is not only holding its mirror up to my protagonist, but also to me. Just the thought of the game monitoring my actions draws me in closer this second time around, calling out my inquisitive nature, making me want to follow through and see how my actions and behaviour this time round will effect the game's outcome.
Silent Hill Shattered Memories cuts away much of what is recognisable, but by retaining the core ethos, it is somehow closer to the original game than any recent Silent Hill games. It reanimates the corpse of the franchise just before rigor mortis sets in. The controls can occasionally be clunky and unwieldy, but underneath a few motor function issues it is a more intelligent game that looks better than it has any right to after all this time.
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