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Silent Hill: Shattered Memories review

AT A GLANCE
  • Cool puzzles
  • Lovely light and shadows
  • Hidden mementos of the first game
  • Cowardly fleeing
  • Nearly scare-free
  • Only one type of monster

Silent Hill does two things very well: ambiguous, meaty horrors and plot twists. Like beef jerky, really. The former is simple: take the contents of a deli counter and add legs. But it’s the series’ world-rocking revelations that win it major plaudits. There are brains in all that meat – Silent Hill 2’s conclusion still defines videogame twists. And after their fine, if unambitious, PSP prequel Origins, Climax has now added a few more smarts, this time grafted onto a retelling of the first Silent Hill.

Before play even begins, Shattered Memories claims to ‘play you as much as you play it’. No, it doesn’t hastily smash you with a lead pipe, but subjects you to psychoanalysis. A personality test kicks things off, with further tests book-marking the tale. Moral dilemmas, colouring exercises, Rorschach images – it feels adult, smart and fresh. Allegedly, your test results shape Memories into a personal nightmare. Alas, this amounts to little more than re-skinned props and alternate endings. In one run-through you visit a bar, while in the next it’s a diner. Your guts don’t knot, but shrug.

This wouldn’t be a problem if there was more to Shattered Memories than this so-called adaptable horror. As it is, Climax seems to think they’re above traditional scares. Gone is the rusty Otherworld with its juddering gristle nurses, replaced with icy nightmare sequences. And gone is the combat, replaced with, er, running away. Love it or hate it, Hill’s shambling melee bashing was a key part of forcing you to get up close and personal with its various horrors. Panic is born in awkwardness and confinement, sprinting is free and exciting – as scary as Mirror’s Edge.

Worse, the beasties are confined to nightmares. Outside of these segments there’s nothing to harm or kill you, instantly deflating the threatening atmosphere. Exploring the town lets Climax show off their expert command of PSP visuals, but these segments play out like the world’s dullest point and click adventure. Find keys, talk to creepy residents, solve puzzles using your iPhone lookalike – as long as you don’t see ice, nothing will get you.

Grounding Silent Hill in reality is a neat idea. God knows the rusted hospital/school shtick was growing, well, rusty. But Shattered Memories goes a step too far, anchoring the game outside of horror. Climax has taken the cerebral gameplay a little too far.

Jan 29, 2010

More Info

Release date: Dec 08 2009 - Wii
Jan 19 2010 - PS2, PSP (US)
Mar 05 2010 - PSP (UK)
Available Platforms: PS Vita, Wii, PS2, PSP
Genre: Adventure
Published by: Konami
Developed by: Climax
ESRB Rating:
Mature

4 comments

  • RebornKusabi - February 3, 2010 9:43 p.m.

    I'll be downloading this along with Street Fighter Alpha 3 MAX on PSN because I already know I love me some Alpha 3 but I'm unsure about this one. I already know the ending thanks to one of my dumbass friends but I'll still give the game a chance. It makes me sad though that no one will be able to capture the glorydays of the original trilogy- here's to hoping the series is just going through a roughspot and the next game will be better... hopefully
  • cosmolu - February 2, 2010 3:22 a.m.

    Your guys' reviews for the different iterations of SH: SM has been really baffling to me, specifically with the bemoaning of the nightmare sequences. A while back, GamesRadar posted an article citing the inherent problems with Survival Horror, one point being that traditional gameplay structure promotes not fear, but frustration. In traditional survival horror (including the previous Silent Hills), I wasn't scared, but irritated that I may have to replay 30 minutes of gameplay because the stiff controls and lack of a legitimate checkpoint system could screw me over at any moment. The frantic chases of the nightmare sequences in SM, however, incited a sense of panic that I had not experienced before in a game. I think the point that has been missed by most is that the fear during the exploratory sections isn't supposed to be of any enemies in the environment, but of the fact that at any moment the world could go to hell and you could be running again. The nightmares, at the beginning signposted by visual and aural cues, seem to get more random and unpredictable as the game progresses. During every cutscene, leaving every room, I was on wondering when the ice would return. But the inclusion of forgiving checkpoints and intuitive controls kept these nightmare sequences from ever being a chore for me. By simply being aware of my surroundings, navigating the environments was effortless. But what irks me so is I was hoping so much for the critics to at least get behind this game, to trumpet the values of stellar writing and storytelling in games, along with the encouragement to try something new. The fact that SH: SM can stick at a 76 on Metacritic while Bayonetta and Darksiders--wholly derivative and camp-tastic games could rock the 90 and 83 (respectively) is a tragic injustice to me.
  • CreeplyTuna - January 30, 2010 3:44 a.m.

    i was so psyched for this... now im not
  • Persona - January 30, 2010 1:29 a.m.

    So this is what they thought of the newest entry in the silent hill? Fuck you Mr.Castle. This is a true Horror game

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