Saturday, December 24, 2016

Review #359: Silent Hill - Shattered Memories

 It's back to the icy town of Silent Hill for Harry Mason, but nothing is quite like it was.
 Shattered Memories is more than just a remake, more than just a reboot, it's almost an entirely different take on Silent Hill 1. What I'm trying to say, is that in order to fully appreciate this game for what it is, you have to come to it knowing what it is not: Silent Hill. Besides a few characters, who appear in name only, the main premise and the psychological horror ties, this time taken to its most literal and explicit extreme, this game has nothing to do with Silent Hill 1 or Silent Hill at all.

 The game takes place in two different time-frames, first is the framing device which has you taking part, in first person, on a psychology session in which you are being examined, and another in which you relive Harry Mason's past, after he crashed into Silent Hill and his daughter went missing. Armed with a flashlight and his cellphone, which works as a GPS(Map), Phone(You can call NPCs or may need to call a number to proceed), save your game and other eventualities, Harry Mason sets out to find his daughter. The most interesting part about the story is how your behavior affects the world around you. Besides the ending, changes and differences are superficial, but they add a ton of replay value and make going through the game multiple times a treat. Basically, how you answer questions during the psychology session and how you behave in the game(Examining alcohol, examining erotic objects, being caring and calling characters, etc) will alter how some characters look and behave, major characters having three different possible looks and up to three different personalities, it will also alter how the monsters look, and it will alter how some shops look or are named. And, of course, the four different possible endings. It's far from revolutionary, but damn if it isn't a fantastic idea and pulled off well.
 As previously stated, you can't come into this game expecting Silent Hill or you'll be left massively disappointed. There's no fog, and the town is pretty much alive and well, even if a snow storm is blocking access to most buildings or streets. There's no cult involved in this game, although they made the monsters' looks an active part of the game. There's only one monster type in this game, and their looks reflect how you are playing. Being a pervert will make it develop sexual characteristics, being a pervert will make it get bloated, being uncaring will make its flesh rot, etc. So while only having one monster may seem boring, it makes up for it by having reflect on your playstyle, essentially, becoming the player's inner demon, which is a fantastic idea and is one of the few traditional Silent Hill-ish features in the game.

 Silent Hill has always worked with two 'worlds', or 'dimensions' or however you wanna call them, and this game is no exception, albeit it works a bit different. On the 'Normal' World you're absolutely and entirely safe from danger, there're no monsters nor jumpscares: You are safe. In this sections you have to make your way towards a certain destination, and you are free to explore your surroundings, in order to capture.. ghosts in film, come across spiritual residues or find collectible mementos. All three of them are merely there to flesh out the story and world of Silent Hill, as your only reward will be text messages or voice mails. While these sub stories were kinda sad, and completely out of place in a Silent Hill game, and while they were fun to find... to be honest, there's not enough incentive to collect them. They don't unlock anything, so while should I bother? I mean, I would bother since I liked the story, but why would someone else need bother if that isn't enough incentive?
 The 'Normal World' is also where most of the puzzles take place, if you can even call them puzzles. 99% of the time, whatever item you need to open a locked door is in the same room as the door itself. Whatever information you need in order to open a door or find a password... is in the room itself. Puzzles in this game are pathetic motion control gimmicks. Find a wallet and open the wallet. Find the drawer and open the drawer. Honestly, it's kinda pathetic.

 Now then, as you progress through the 'Normal World' you'll inevitably trigger the 'Ice World'. In this sections you have to make it to a certain place while avoiding monsters. Light-blue highlights mark doors and climbable ledges, and your only option is to run, since Harry Mason can't defend himself. These sections, in my opinion, were the worst parts about the game. They are repetitive, lack tension or horror, are boring and feel like more of a hassle than anything else. If you fail these sections you are simply brought to the starting area, and enemies lack viciousness, so you don't feel scared or threatened.
 And that was another point of contention for me: The game simply isn't scary. Normal World sections are perfectly safe, and you know where the spiritual residue hotspots are, so you'll be ready for the pseudo-jumpscare they trigger. Ice World sections are too damn boring and repetitive to be scary. What you are left with is a scary game that isn't scary at all. Heck, the shadows projected from your flashlight are so bad that some of those twisted, unnatural shadows unnerved me more than anything the game did to try to scare me. The game is also rather short, I cleared the game in under 5 hours, and I bet someone who doesn't care about collectibles will cruise through the game even faster. I've read about the game being filled with glitches, but I never ran across anything to major, save Harry going through a door without opening!

 I've made it no secret that I abhor motion controls. This game is filled with them. Moving around is done with the nunchuck, while you use the Wii's pointer to move the camera around, which works just fine. That said, you will have to interact in a motion control mini-game like way with almost every interactive object in the game. There's a drawer? The game switches to first person and now you must hold A and B and move the drawer's door. There are cans? Gotta hold A and B and twist the Wiimote around to pour their contents. Wait, you came across a window nailed shut? Gotta hold A and B and get those nails out! In the game's defense, none of these sections are awful, but they are a bit too frequent for someone like me. Monsters in the Icy World will try to cling on to Harry, and you have to shove the nunchuck and Wiimote in their direction in order to get them off you. I didn't have much trouble with them, although I found having to do that annoying, but I read that some people had issues getting them off.
 Earlier in the year I played Silent Hill - Book of Memories and absolutely hated it. Because it wasn't Silent Hill and because it wasn't a good game. Shattered Memories is not a Silent Hill game either... but it's a really good game. It's easy as pie, it's short, it has too many motion controls.... but the story is fantastic and exploring Silent Hill was fun. I finished the game after two sessions because I was so engaged in the story, and as meaningless as all the collectibles were, I wanted to find them. I'm glad that the final game in the Silent Hill franchise I got to play was Shattered Memories, it's a great way to end my time with the franchise.
 8.0 out of 10


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