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Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Silent Hill: Shattered Memories.

Silent Hill: Shattered Memories.

I'm actually quite shocked that I haven't already reviewed this. I thought I had, guys. I really thought I had. I had to check several times to make sure I hadn't, but it genuinely does look like I hadn't. I realise that this is alarming for all of us. Let's continue.

Shattered Memories was another game rented out more on a whim than anything else. I'd heard that it was a good game, and though I'd never played the original Silent Hill that it's based on, I was intrigued by this remake. Naturally, I immediately gave it to a friend of stronger constitution to play in my stead.

A remake, as mentioned before, of the very first Silent Hill game (although it's fair to say that it's a very loose remake indeed), Shattered Memories puts you both in the shoes of a young woman receiving therapy from kindly therapist Doctor Kaufmann, and in the shoes of Harry Mason, a man who wakes up in the snowed over town of Silent Hill to find his daughter missing, thus beginning a desperate search for her. Not all is well, though, as Harry is often thrown into a mysterious icy otherworld, in which he is relentlessly pursued by monsters.

Fleshy monsters who like to hug.

It's a very interesting game, I'll say that. Unlike other Silent Hill titles, there is absolutely no fighting in this game: You can't fend off the monsters, you can only flee and hide, and that sense of powerlessness should work well. It does, at first. But as the labyrinths you have to navigate to get away from the monsters become more complicated, and sometimes start throwing puzzles at you, it just becomes frustrating, and the sense of powerlessness begins to grate instead of scare. 

(It was during the later chase sequences that I had to volunteer to do them instead while my friend was on walkthrough duty, as I feared that the sound of my friend yelling, with genuine distress, things like 'No!' and 'Get off me!' would surely draw the police to our door, and increasingly 'No, it - it was just a computer game,' sounded like an excuse that nobody would ever believe.

It wasn't just her either. It really wasn't long into the chase sections when I started doing almost exactly the same thing.)

In a way, the non-chase sections where you're in no danger at all are a lot better. They're creepy, atmospheric, and the exploration-investigation angle is well established and often very innovative, involving things like taking pictures with your smartphone and using the wiimote as a phone to listen to calls.

It's in these sections, too, that you start seeing the effect of the therapy sections. You see, all the responses you give in the therapy-with-Doctor-Kaufmann sections alter the gameplay with Harry Mason in some fashion, whether that be changing the colour of a house to outright changing the personality of the characters he meets, and even some of the areas that he can access. 

Doesn't this fellow look trustworthy?

The story is, rather uncharacteristically for Silent Hill games, thinly sketched out. It all fits together into one of several reveals at the end, but for the most part, it's a very simple plotline about a dude sprinting and photographing his way through a snowed-in nightmare town to find his daughter. We've all been there. There aren't really any twists or turns to the plot except near the very end, and the very limited cast involved are mostly there as props for the various creepy, bizarre, usually allegorical situations that Harry finds himself in. 

The game does end on an interesting question, though, that being whether any of the stuff you've been doing as Harry has actually happened (if it has, then it would be as some kind of psychic manifestation), or whether it's just taking place in someone's imagination. The game provides evidence for either option, but never makes it clear either way.

The voice acting is good, the OST is nice to listen to and sufficiently creepy, and while the graphics are rapidly starting to look dated, they certainly aren't bad. It holds up quite well on a mechanical level. 

This may or may not be your fault, in game.

So, I would recommend this game. What I'd really like to see, though, is the Shattered Memories treatment applied to Silent Hill 2. Since that was the game that began the whole trend of survival-horror-that's-really-about-psychology which directly led to this game, I think something very interesting could be created from combining the two. Shattered Memories rather vaguely hints at it, having one of the joke endings show James, the protagonist of that game, as a rather nervous patient of Kaufmann's, but since there's been neither hide nor hair of such a thing several years on, I think this may be a pipe dream.

Still, one of the stronger entries in the franchise's more recent offerings. Check it out.

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