Silent Hill: Shattered Memories (Wii, PS2, PSP) (2009)
Required Accessory: Nunchuk (Wii)
Review by Faididi and Co.
And just when he thought the icy hand of Death has left...
Story: Above Average
Not counting the text adventure entry on the GBA, this installment is the first in the series to revisit the events of the original classic, detailing Harry Mason's quest to rescue his missing daughter from the nightmare town of Silent Hill. An increased amount of teen angst bullshit in the middle of the game may make this retelling seem targeted at less mature audiences, but the story hides a clever twist that renders this "remake" unlike any other.
It may still be an action adventure with horror themes, but Climax's Silent Hill: Shattered Memories is a whole new deal in the series. Whereas the developer's earlier effort, Silent Hill Origins (Silent Hill Zero), may be accused of adhering too tightly to the first installment's formula, Shattered Memories takes the opposite extreme by rebuilding everything from scratch, in terms of the gameplay, the controls, the area layouts, and even the very characters themselves.
The biggest difference here is the overwhelming emphasis on exploration over combat, and the game is now split into two distinct modes. In the main exploration mode, Harry can take his time investigating his surroundings and solving the often simple puzzles, never having to worry about any enemies. To streamline the pacing, Harry wanders through the 7 chapters along often linear paths, and he doesn't hold onto any permanent items aside from his flashlight and his mobile phone. All of the keys are found immediately near where they're used.
Then, in the action mode, which is the only time when the bad guys appear, Harry focuses purely on escaping to an end point, without needing to search every room and hallway. To hammer in Shattered Memories' non-violent approach to fighting and de-emphasis on combat, Harry can't kill any enemies, only shoving them away if they attack by latching onto him. If he gets tackled under a pile of these monsters, he merely gets booted back to a checkpoint, with absolutely zero penalties. For the first time ever, this is a non-bloody Silent Hill game that's friendly for the whole family.
As refreshing as this shift toward exploration may be, it also renders Shattered Memories less of an action game than Origins. The monsters aren't so scary and unpredictable when they all show up in just one mode, while the other mode feels like a calm (if eye-catching) puzzler.
Controls: Below Average (Wii), Above Average (PS2, PSP)
The worst part is the controls, at least for the Wii version. The Remote and the Nunchuk have awkward button layouts that are ill-suited for Shattered Memories, and the game suffers problems in regaining the cursor and the aiming controls whenever shoving motions are performed (to push away the enemies), making the action scenes more frustrating than they should be.
At least Shattered Memories looks fantastic. From the stubble on Harry's chin to the swishing of a cute heroine's dress, the characters are strikingly detailed. The game's atmospheric world is no mere rehash, as the completely redrawn level design can attest, and poking Harry's nose into every corner of the detail-rich environments is lots of fun. The icy new look of the nightmarish alternate dimension may not be as horrifying as the classic blood-and-rust motif, but like the gameplay it provides a nice change of pace.
This installment boasts high replay value as well, thanks to the countless variations in the dialogue and other elements, depending on the choices made throughout the game. Almost every conversation and every optional phone call comes in three or four versions, adding immensely to the story's subjective interpretations.
Coupled with the great work on the voice acting and the sound effects is the moody and memorable music, which happily returns from its relative blandness in Double Helix's Homecoming. Furthermore, for the first time in the series, the tunes are truly dynamic, changing in tone to reflect the enemies' awareness of the hero's presence.
Overall: Above Average
Silent Hill: Shattered Memories turns out to be a family-friendly action adventure. It avoids bloody combat in favor of simplified exploration, and its changes clearly make the monsters less terrifying. The half-iffy controls for the original Wii version also don't help. Still, for something that is nothing at all like the original game that has inspired it, Shattered Memories is an interesting example of how creative a so-called remake can be.