Pros: Great looking, atmospheric, good story.
Cons: Aggravating chases, simplistic puzzles.
I run through a frozen wasteland. Looking behind me I see eyeless, humanoid creatures, their skin raw and torn, scrambling after me. One grabs my arm and I fling it away and climb over a fence. One leaps on my back, and as I struggle to throw it off another leaps on my shoulder. I finally manage to get rid of one just as another gives me a bear hug and yet another grabs my other arm. I collapse and die. Then one of the creatures who has been tearing me apart kneels down and gently pets my corpse as though I were a cat.
I’m playing Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, the latest chapter in the long-running horror-survival series. I came into the game feeling a certain amount of skepticism, and by the end I’m still feeling pretty ambivalent, but Memories is certainly one of the more ambitious and well-made games for the Wii.
Memories is a “reimagined” version of the original Silent Hill game. Reimagined is apparently developer Climax Studios’ word for taking the beginning of the original game and creating an entirely new story and style of gameplay. As in the first game, this one begins when mild-mannered Harry Mason wakes up after a traffic accident in the strangely empty town of Silent Hill to discover his daughter Cheryl is missing.
Doctor: It Hurts When I Do This
The story is framed by sessions in a therapist office in which you, the patient, recount this story. Periodically the unpleasantly snarky therapist will ask you questions on your friendships and sex life or have you take psychological tests like deciding which people in a set of photographs are asleep and which are dead.
These sessions effect what happens in the story. After being asked to color in a drawing of a house, the story takes up at a house painted as you drew it. Other times the consequences of your answers are less obvious.
These perceptual shifts are a general theme of the game; Harry himself is often vague on the details of his own life, and these details seem rather ephemeral.
If you replay the game and give different answers, you will see notable changes. Characters will alter in appearance and say different things, while stores locked in one play through will be open in the next. Psychological tests aren’t the subtlest approach to gauging the player’s personality – Silent Hill 2 changed the game’s ending according to the way you played the game, not the way you answered a questionnaire – but it is rather interesting to see the results.
Gameplay: Part Adventure ...
Memories has two distinct parts. The larger part is an adventure game in which you explore the town of Silent Hill, solve puzzles and interact with the handful of people who live there. This adventure game is broken up by action sequences in which you have to escape nasty creatures bent on your destruction.
The adventure part of the game is enjoyable. Harry explores the town armed only with a flashlight that throws eerie shadows on the wall. The environments are detailed and well thought out; I especially liked an Alice-in-Wonderland-themed diner. Mysterious sounds make you wonder if you’re really alone.
The story is intriguing and there are some interesting puzzles, most notably one that involves lining up statues to create shadows. Unfortunately, there are also a number of non-puzzles in which you find a locked door and have to simply pull a key out of a jacket hanging from a coat rack nearby. The number of easy find-the-key puzzles is way too high, the number of puzzles offering the least bit of challenge notably low.
Gameplay: ...Part Nightmare
At times the town will suddenly, dramatically change. Huge sheets of ice will form over every surface and the town will become dark and blue-tinged. At these moments monsters will appear, skinny, naked humanoid freaks who will leap on Harry and claw at him.
In these “nightmare” sequences, Harry must simply run pell-mell through doors and over fences toward a distant goal. These destination points are never explained; the world changes and an X appears on Harry’s GPS map showing him where to go, but nothing in the game says why he needs to get there.
Climax Group has made the interesting choice of not letting Harry kill these monsters. Weaponless, all he can do is run. If a creature jumps on him he must hurl it off. This is done by moving the Wii remote and nunchuk in tandem. If a creature grabs Harry from behind, the player must thrust both hands straight back to elbow it off, while if it grabs him on the side the player must thrust both hands towards it.