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Silent Hill: Shattered Memories Wii played both with my psyche and my expectations of the franchise. Returning to the series, I was surprised how things unfolded, and it wasn't until the end it all made beautiful sense leaving me wanting to play through it again.
Another year and another Silent Hill game might be the cynic's view of Shattered Memories but, for anyone that is a fan and I include myself in that category, this is one of the more interesting entries in the long running series. I was particularly excited by Silent Hill: Shattered Memories because it returns to the story of the first PlayStation game and promised some clever use of the Wii controls. Also released on PSP and PS2, which obviously don't have the motion controls, I was also interested to see whether it was just those features that make Shattered Memories worth playing.
If you have been a regular player of the Silent Hill games, the trend towards more action, better combat and ever more shocking monsters will have probably caused consternation, but Climax Studios have put an end to that trend as part of their re-imagining of the franchise. Shattered Memories contains no guns, no overtly sexual nurse creatures and no boss fights, leaving you with just the core of the original's game as its starting point. It's not all subtraction though, with the addition of elements such use of a smart phone's camera, GPS and phone functionality to provide extra ways to interact with your world.
Additional elements include use of a smart phone's camera, GPS and phone functionality to provide extra ways to interact with your world.
My first big shock came right at the start of the experience; you are asked by a psychiatrist some pretty probing questions and if like me you play the game with a partner on the settee next to you, you may very well feel uncomfortable answering.
As you play you are psychologically profiled and depending on how you profile, the experience is tailored to you. As I was also playing the PSP version as well I got a chance to test that, answering questions differently and seeing some game differences. For example, in my first game I met a woman cop who was quite inappropriately dressed, but on the second play through she appeared much more formally attired. The only difference I could recall was changes to my answers regarding sexual preference and perhaps I had stared too long at a swimwear calendar in the first garage I came across?
There are plenty more of these differences and I would urge you to play through a couple of times and see how many of these you can spot. But beyond the technical achievement Shattered Memories genuinely managed to unnerve me with its analysis. The thought that game events reflected my actions and answers gave me a chill more than once. Was I playing the game or was it playing me?
As well as playing with my mind, Shattered Memories also played with my expectations of how a hardcore Wii game makes use of the Wii remote. Of course, you use the pointer to control Harry's torch but that's just the start. Many of the puzzles require you to virtually grab objects such as turning handles, which has been done before, but I really enjoyed the appropriate use of this tech, which never felt too forced.
The best use of the Wii-mote is appropriating its speaker as both a mobile phone and alarms. Holding the remote up to your ear to hear to the crackly, ghostly voices is genuinely spooky and something I wished could be used on other platforms. The PSP does its best to replicate the motion control puzzles and remote speaker and if you are playing with headphones. The level of immersion remains high, but it's not an experience you can share though, which does detract from its impact.
Silent Hill has always majored on the existence of two game worlds, both scary for different reasons - one of them with its rust, blood and greater monster density was always much more disturbing. Shattered Memories plays with that convention, replacing the rusty walls with a world of ice, which is excellently realized on both platforms.
Every so often the town freezes over and you are plunged into danger and chased by Silent Hill's creatures. They appear as androgynous naked assailants and your only recourse is to run, given that you have no weapons and after all, you're just a man. Whilst I found these sections initially thrilling, eventually I felt they just got in the way of exploring Silent Hill and uncovering the mystery of your missing daughter.
You are asked by a psychiatrist some pretty probing questions and if like me you play the game with a partner on the settee next to you, you may very well feel uncomfortable answering.
As the plot moves on, you meet most of the familiar Silent Hill characters. Things are definitely not quite as you recall though - subtle and clever changes that are vindicated by the game's ending. This really makes Shattered Memories stand out as one of my favourite games of the series.
Silent Hill: Shattered Memories on Wii and PSP is for me the best entry since Silent Hill 2 and the changes they have made are almost all for me, positive with exception of those chase sequences. The Silent Hill franchise has seldom been about scares, instead building an emotional connection with you the player. Occasionally I get a cold shiver wondering how much of what I did informs the game of who I am. When you get to the end, you will see why it might have that effect. Regardless of whether you play the game on PSP or Wii the experience is one you will remember and it looks virtually identical on both platforms, which is testament to how good it looks on PSP rather a slur on the Wii.
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