Reviews: Silent Hill Shattered Memories

A very heavy case of YMMV

It's taken me a long time to finally give Shattered Memories a try. I was opposed to the idea from the very start, due to my strong attachment to the previous games; to see characters you highly empathize with turned into sexually deprave, delusional men who have their motivations poorly retconned(possibly - but more on that later) into the same 'lol sexuality is scary' mold as Silent Hill 2 is not a fun experience. Seeing lovable, doofy Harry Mason become a character who looks like Vincent and who displays a truly astound display of neuroses is painful. Seeing what's happened to Cheryl is nightmarish; and if you were a fan of Dahlia's wacky nightmare fuel or Cybil's tough but good-natured demeanor - look elsewhere. In no other game from the Silent Hill franchise do I feel the designers have so successfully sought out to change things just to make things edgy and screw continuity just for attempted psychological scares - and having it feel like a knife to the gut with no real payback.

But on the other hand, if you don't have my interpretations and love for the original cast and continuity, it's quite possible you'll love the game. One of it's best features is that it does really try to find a way to get under your skin. Some people like that. Others find it narmy and offensive rather than scary. As a game, it does a lot of interesting things; the lack of combat is a rare but refreshing thing to see in a game, although I don't think it really worked well with Silent Hill. The puzzles, clues, and shout-outs where well thought-out and only hurt more, given that everything else seemed to be like a slap to the face; but again, if you can divorce this from the previous games or enjoy it for it's own merits and love it's predecessors, there are some great links to be found. And the Psych system was a neat gimmick, although again, I can't whole-heartedly endorse it.

Ultimately, I can't consider Shattered Memories a Silent Hill game so much as a regurgitated product, even more than 4. I didn't enjoy it, didn't really enjoy what it tried to do, and felt it was pretty much an attempt to milk the cash cow. The music was great, there was some interesting stuff - and its very much a game that your individual reaction'll shape. So, here's hoping you enjoy it more than I did.

A completely different take on Silent Hill, that's not even in the same genre

Quick, what is Silent Hill about? Thematically speaking. Many would say it's about an ordinary person who's caught up in a nightmarish situation beyond their understanding. And many would say that the town creates imagery based on the individual person's history (backed up mainly by Silent Hill 2), or by occult-like things that happened to others (the original Silent Hill promotes this idea, via Alessa). What everyone can agree on is the two trademark features of the series: twisted misshapen monsters that look like no creature on this earth, and a curse that causes the world around the hero to transform from its normal self into a modified, disturbing, nightmare-like mimic of the real world.

What about the gameplay? The thing is, there's more than one way to convey this type of horror, and the approach taken by Shattered Memories emphasizes the "ordinary person" aspect tremendously, as well as the sheer difference between the real world and the Dark World, which this time around is ice-themed.

Making the player walk around, explore, and examine things in the real world before being thrown into the transformed "ice" world, and being chased by monsters, could be argued to blunt the suspense. After all, you soon learn that nothing can kill or hurt you in the real world, and before long, most of the "real world" scares become unscary. On the other hand, you could say that it's horror movie pacing. The character development and story largely occur in the day, and then in the night, you have the chase, the hiding, the danger, etc. One thing I think would have helped, though, would be if the transition was randomized, rather than occurring only at set points. As it is, if you've played before even once, you know when the "ice" world will show up and when you'll change from exploring to running for your life. On the other hand, that could also add tension, because now you *know* when you'll suddenly have to start running.

Silent Hill has always been about atmosphere. This game has a very different atmosphere than the others, and a different, more personal theme, but I do feel that as an experiment that took the concept of Silent Hill and went with it in another direction, it worked very well.