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Taking the series in a brave new direction, Silent Hill Shattered Memories for the Wii creates a powerful and unsettling atmosphere with its blend of traditional creepiness and psychological horror. A re-imagining rather than a cheap remake of the original game, this new version from Climax Studios profiles you as a player, adjusting the characters and environment to make the experience personal and disturbing. Unlike any other Wii game you will rent this year.
Loosely following the plot line of the first Silent Hill game, Shattered Memories follows the story of Harry Mason, a father searching for his daughter in a strange, abandoned town after a car crash in the snow. Though this premise might sound familiar to players of the original, Shattered Memories takes the series in a subtle direction that will interest both Silent Hill veterans and newcomers alike.
Controlling Mason's movement with the Nun-chuck, the Wii-mote acts as the flashlight as you explore the abandoned town of Silent Hill and look for your missing daughter. This system works incredibly well and the way shadows dance around as you move through the streets and houses builds a tension that will gnaw away at you throughout the game.
The Wii-mote also doubles as Harry's cell phone - hearing voices coming out of the tinny speaker lends an even greater sense of immersion. At some points you're required to take pictures with the phone, holding up the Wii-mote towards the TV in order to so. It led to one of the most impressive scares I had with the game as just I was taking a picture, one of the monsters started to head towards me. The way the in-game phone camera had such a choppy frame-rate just pulled me into the experience and I'm not ashamed to say I dropped the Wii-mote in fright when this happened.
It shows just how much tension you can put into a game that has no combat in it. This decision to remove fighting is a stroke of genius in my opinion. Instead of shambling nurses or grotesque distortions of people as we've seen in cheap Wii horror games, Shattered Memories has some disturbing grey-skinned creatures that evolve and change as you progress in the game to represent your darkest fears. In these Nightmare scenarios the only option is run away and the levels change to resemble a maze of the environments you previously encountered.
These scenarios lead to some truly horrifying encounters - it's like experiencing childhood nightmares all over again and Shattered Memories delights in toying with your feelings on these occasions, with several of these levels becoming fiendish and frightening mazes to navigate. In some ways I felt these instances were a little cheap and more frustrating than immersive - although moving the Wii-mote in the right direction to throw off attackers was pretty exhilarating. I much preferred the more abstract nightmare scenes later in the game where it really started to screw with my mind and nowhere is the term survival horror more apt than when describing Silent Hill Shattered Memories.
This method of dividing up the game into exploration, fleeing and therapy might sound overly structured but the way the game portrays the characters and story keeps the experience fresh and interesting. In fact, the most enjoyable part of the game for me was the therapy sessions and it's here that Shattered Memories' most disturbing feature becomes apparent. Whether you're choosing what direction to explore the town in or what objects or posters that you look at while playing, the game is profiling you. It's more obvious in these therapy sessions as you'll have to answer some personal questions about your fears, habits and even your sexual preferences.
All those answers and the little decisions you make go into the how the game reacts to your presence. Some characters will look or act different depending on how you look at them or what direction you explore the town in. It's this subtle psychology that makes Shattered Memories a must-play for anyone who likes intelligent and exciting video games.
Clocking in at under six hours, Silent Hill Shattered Memories for the Wii is a little on the short side - although perhaps ideal for online video game rental. But what it lacks in length it more than compensates with the tremendous experience the environments and atmosphere can offer. Even if you do rent it, you will want to keep it a few nights to ensure you have multiple play-throughs within a very short time and see the four different endings on offer. With its impressive Wii controls, creepy environments and twisting storyline, Shattered Memories is a horrifying experience that fully deserves and exceeds the Silent Hill name.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: