Friday, March 5, 2010

[Review] Silent Hill: Shattered Memories

Reviewed by Torbjörn "Tobbii" Karlsson
Silent Hill is one of my most beloved franchises, I've played every game in the main series except for Origins, I even took my time to play Silent Hill: Orphan part 1 and 2 on my old cellphone. Yesterday a new game in the franchise was released here in Europe, a complete re-imagining of the original Silent Hill entitled Shattered Memories, for the Wii, PS2 and PSP. First of all, no, I am not going to do any parallels to the original Silent Hill in this review as it would be unfair to the game itself. It's not a remake or a retelling, it's a brand new game. The only thing they have in common are names and they both begin with a car crashing in the town of Silent Hill.

Silent Hill: Shattered Memories
Format: Wii (Reviewed), PS2 and PSP
Release Date: 4th March 2010
Developer: Climax Studios

Shattered Memories begins as I said earlier with Harry Mason crashing his car and noticing that his dear daughter Cheryl is missing and just as I explained earlier that's where the simillarities between Silent Hill and Shattered Memories stories end. First of all, as soon as the crash has taken place you find yourself in the office of Dr. Michael Kaufmann. This is where Shattered Memories begin something unique to this very game in the franchise. You begin by filling out a form with questions such as "Have you ever cheated on a partner?" and "Do you enjoy a drink to relax?", after that the game starts to take shape. Every question you answer and every little choice you perform effects the game from that part in some way, shape or form.

But stop right there, because now I must explain something very important. This game is NOT like Heavy Rain in the sense that the entire game is different depending on every little thing that have occurred in the game up to that point. However, that is what I first though when I heard of this concept. What the game does is set up different personalities and visual differences for pretty much every character in the game, it also changes the appearance of the games only real enemy, the "Raw Shocks". Of course there are several different endings, five in total including the classic UFO ending, and every choice you make in the game will affect what ending you'll get. But the main game will still ask you to go to the same locations and talk to the same people no matter what you do.

Now of course that does not make the game worse in any way at all, it's actually a system that works really well and that could be utilised for several different kind of games in the future, survival horror or not. For example, my first Harry Mason was a drunk who pretty much hated family life, my girlfriends first Harry Mason was a loving father and family man who never drank at all. But those are just some details, I won't spoil every personality trait they had but the fact that the characters can become so very different is something that was very interesting to see.

Moving back on to the game itself there is another key difference from this game and every other in the franchise. There is no combat, at all. Harry does not have a weapon at any point in the game, and the enemies he encounter are invincible. Now while I personally would have preferred to have weapons, the idea works quite well, instead of fighting you have to outrun the creatures you face until you reach your next destination and the icy nightmare sequence melt away back to the regular Silent Hill. But when I say regular Silent Hill I do not mean the foggy Silent Hill you're used to. No, Harry is not stuck in the "Fog World" as is common in the games, he is actually in a Silent Hill that instead of a thick fog gives you a thick snow, and while it feels odd at first it certainly builds up a great feeling for the game.

Next up are the controls, which worked surprisingly well. When I looked at the game I thought it would be another worthless waggle controlled game, and while there are some parts of waggle here and there it actually works just fine. The rest of the controls are simple, Z for running and B for zooming in on where you want to look. That's almost everything you need to know. Now I will admit that they response was, unfortunately, not always spot on. Sometimes the idea of throwing away the Raw Shocks that hold you back using both the Nunchuck and the Wii Remote does not work. Perhaps it would have been better to just use the Wii Remote so that the timing of them both won't be so weird.

But here comes what might have been the biggest surprise I got throughout the entire game. The graphics. This game is beautiful. A Wii game is not that often known for it's great graphics, but not only is this one of the better looking games on the Wii, I'd actually say that it's probably the best looking game on the Wii so far. Now I say probably, because I have of course not seen every game out there. But this is actually the first Wii game I've seen that have such good lighting and a close to perfect anti-aliasing, which always tend to be my main complaint about Wii graphics.

But enough good things, this game does of course have it's bad parts. First of all, it's far to short. It takes about five hours to finish, which is not that long. Now in Europe the game was released a little bit cheaper than other games, so from that point of view it's okay, but as far as I know it was full price in the US. Now of course it has a lot of replay value, I have yet to see every ending to be honest, I just know there are five of them, but there's not enough to justify such a short game. It's a shame really, but maybe the game would have become stale if it went on too long.

The music is written by Akira Yamaoka, and is as always very fitting. However, I think this is one of the weaker soundtracks of Yamaoka, it's not bad at all, but unlike Silent Hill, Silent Hill 2 and Homecoming there is not a single isntrumental melody stuck in my head from playing Shattered Memories. But the vocal songs by Mary Elizabeth McGlynn is as good as ever, setting up some really nice music for the ending credits. The voice acting, which also McGlynn takes a part in, is very good. Every character sounds natural, and it makes for a great experience.

The story is very well written, every character feels well developed and realistic, more so than many other Silent Hill characters to be honest. The main problem with Shattered Memories is actually that it does not feel very much like a Silent Hill game, it's not in any way a bad game, it's a very good game actually, truly unique in many ways as well. And while Climax have stated that Shattered Memories is not a new "official" Silent Hill replacement, it's not part of continuity in any way at all, I've actually come up with a little theory on how it still could be, but that's for another article. This review has gone on for far too long enough, in the end Shattered Memories is a good game with only one big flaw, it's length.

Reviewers Note: This review was written using the old scoring system, a new score for this game would be: 8/10.

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