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