Monday, March 29, 2010

Silent Hill: Shattered Memories [Review]

I've always been a fan of the survival horror genre of video games, so obviously I've played my share of the famous Silent Hill series. Silent Hill has always been one of the biggest names in the horror gaming scene, sharing its throne with Resident Evil. The original game being the classic that it is, it was only a matter of time before they remade it with today's hardware. And they finally did, with Shattered Memories being the result. It came out for both the PS2 and PSP, and I've played both versions. For some reason, it looks and plays a lot better on the PSP. It's probably because the graphics aren't all that impressive and therefore looks better on the lower resolution PSP. But onto the game itself.

Shattered Memories is not a straight-up remake; it almost entirely changed the plot and the whole idea of Silent Hill, with only a few elements of the story and the characters remaining untouched. Fanboys can rest at ease, however, as the new plot elements are just as good as the original. You still take control of Harry Mason, who gets into a car accident with his daughter Cheryl and wakes up to find her missing. This time, Silent Hill isn't a mysterious town Harry stumbles upon, its his hometown. It is in constant snowy weather simply because it is that time of the season. The nightmare version of Silent Hill you eventually end up in is also changed. Instead of the town turning into blood and rust, it freezes over with ice. This is also where a key game element has changed.

Combat has been taken out of the game entirely. The game is instead separated into two different modes of gameplay. The majority of your time is spent in exploration, as you walk through familiar places such as the streets of Silent Hill or the local school while looking for your missing daughter. Every now and then, you'll hear cellphone interference (its your phone this time instead of a radio) that gets louder as you get near it. When you close enough, a loud flash will go off and you'll receive a txt msg or phone recording that tell you about some controversial things that went on in that specific area. Later, you'll find that these are actually clues to understanding the confusing plot.

When you reach a certain point of exploration, the town will suddenly freeze over like an icy hell, and you'll start being hunted by hellish creatures. As I said before, you can't fight them; instead, you have to run away. The nightmare parts of the game have you running from door to door in an area that looks more or less the same everywhere you go. It is really a guessing game, and you really don't have time to think of your route when you have little monsters trying to kill you. The running is really a heart-pounder; you'll be able to hear the shrieks of the monsters behind you but not know where you're going. It is all a test of endurance. It's not until you find the exit that the icy nightmare fades. You'll probably die every once and awhile, but that's okay, the game brings you right to the beginning of the nightmare so you can try again. How generous of them.

Besides these two modes of gameplay, there are random portions of the game that suddenly bring you to a therapy room. You'll be in first-person view, and a therapist will ask you personal questions about your past and personality. The answers you give to these questions will determine certain elements of the story, from the dialogue spoken, to the appearance of certain characters, to the ending. I think these portions of the game were the best new addition to this remake and were certainly impressive as they added replay value and made it more open-ended.

The plot is certainly confusing, as you learn in the beginning portions of the game that strangers are living in your house and that your daughter has the same name as an alumni of the high school from over a decade ago. It'll all make sense when the game is completed, but the game never fully explains everything in the story. It'll leave you with a lot of thinking to do, but it's definitely worth the time to understand. My only complaint here would be that the game was MUCH too short, you can probably finish it in less than ten hours. At least there's some replay value.

So there you have it. Gameplay is radically different, but I think its for the better. I also love the therapy sessions, and how you can choose your own story. The changes made to the story are completely acceptable, and the only thing that leaves you down is the fact that it is too short. Exploration will also get rather dull at times if you don't know where you're going, and the nightmare sections are more or less blind guessing games, but it all comes together rather nicely. Overall, Shattered Memories is an impressive remake of the original Silent Hill, and is definitely worth a few scares.

Screenshots courtesy of

[C.Jin's Overall Score: 8/10]


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