The storyline of Silent Hill: Shattered Memories is pulled from the original game on PS1: Harry Mason is driving through the town of Silent Hill with his daughter, Cheryl, when they get into a car accident. Harry wakes up from the accident to find his daughter missing, and so begins his frantic search through the eerie and mostly-deserted town of Silent Hill to find her. All is not as simple as it appears, however, and the game will take you on a twisty and mysterious road to the truth. To reveal more about the plot would do players a disservice, but suffice it to say, I was impressed by the depth and maturity of the storyline, which deals with issues such as marriage, responsibility, and human frailty. This is definitely not a game for kids–they wouldn’t get it.
What really sets Shattered Memories apart from the rest of the Silent Hill series is the psychological profile system. Interspersed into the game are ‘sessions’ with a psychologist, Dr. K, who assesses your personal values through a series of questions and activities. This starts with a few personality profile questions, but later in the game, Dr. K asks more involved, and sometimes macabre, tasks of you, such as sorting photographs of people with their eyes closed as either ‘sleeping’ or ‘dead.’ Further, the game “watches” you as you play through, noting how you behave, and what you look at.
All of this is put together by the game to make your ‘psychological profile,’ which, influences the game in many subtle and some not-so-subtle ways. Depending on how the game assesses you, different locations are available, characters’ clothes and attitudes are different, and the ending changes.
You’ll definitely want to play through the game more than once, too–for one thing, it’s quite short–your first playthrough will last only 5 or 6 hours, assuming you don’t rush through, and I highly recommend that you don’t rush through, as this is a game to be savored. Subsequent playthroughs are shorter, but you’ll want to play the game to completion at least twice to get the full experience and see the many subtle changes between playthroughs.
Unlike previous games in the series, Shattered Memories removes combat from the equation–there are no weapons, so when monsters show up, you have only one option for survival: run. In fact, the monsters in the game only show up during certain times, denoted by an icy shell covering the world. The result of this separation is a slight reduction in overall tension, but a greater emphasis on exploration and storyline. Shattered Memories is, in fact, probably best categorized as an adventure game with horror elements.
Shattered Memories was developed primarily with the Wii in mind, and one place the game won’t let you forget it is in the controls. The PS2 controls are perfectly natural in moving around the world, but when you examine an object more closely, the game provides you with a cursor to interact, a modus operandi clearly more suited to the Wii. Additionally, there are many actions that seem custom-tailored for a Wii remote, such as pulling, turning, and otherwise physically manipulating objects in the world. It is rarely any trouble to perform these actions with the PS2 controller, but I ocasionally had the sense that I wasn’t getting the full experience in control.
The graphics in Shattered Memories are serviceable, but they certainly don’t push the limits of the PS2. The environments are sparse, and there is a grainy visual effect on the screen, which veterans of the Silent Hill series are used to, but which may take some getting used to for newcomers. The most impressive visuals in the game are the character models, which, while obviously not on par with PS3 visuals, still manage to impressively convey a wide range of emotions.
Silent Hill: Shattered Memories is an excellent addition to the series, and having played all of them, it is now one of my favorites. Its deep storyline, complex characters, and intriguing profile system come together to make it shine in the darkness. Developer Climax took a risk in changing the series’ format so radically, but I believe it paid off handsomely.
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