Thursday, January 21, 2010

Review: Silent Hill Shattered Memories

First Impression:
Ah, Silent Hill. We go way back, you and I. From the first game, I've tracked your progress and I remember having hard times sleeping because of the damned hospital area. I could only play you in the daytime when the lights were on. Good times, good times. So... how has the newest installment fared?

I'd heard of Shattered Memories (SM) when it first came out as a Wii game. Sadly the PSP and PS2 versions were delayed so I had to wait a while til I finally got it in my grubby little paws. What made me even more eager was hearing of a so called "psychological profiling" system built into the game. Depending on how you played it and what decisions you made, the game would change. This changed how some characters looked, where you could go and the ending you got. Interesting. This I had to see.
As SM was called a "reimagining" of the first Silent Hill game, it shares the same premise: Harry Mason takes his daughter to Silent Hill, the car crashes and little Cheryl goes missing. It's up to you to find her.

There are clear differences between the first and this, quite obviously. For one, there are psychiatric sessions sprinkled in between locations. These sessions will get relevant once you see the ending. Said psychiatrist gives you some tests and some minigames which help the game analyze your psychological profile. All in all, a good breather.
Secondly, Harry has a phone now. He can use this to make calls (Try calling the Konami Service Hotline.), take pictures (mostly of ghosts sitting around town and UFOs) and it also has a handy GPS. From the phone menu, you can also save and look at how much time you've logged into the game.
Third, there is no combat involved.
Yes, you heard me. No combat. No guns, no clubs, not even a machette to call your own. Instead, you have to run from these things called Raw Shocks which change in appearance gradually through the game.
These Raw Shocks will follow you during chase sequences called Nightmares. During a Nightmare, Harry has to run. And run. And run.

Occasionally, he will have to crawl.

You can also pull down things and jump over gaps to slow down the Raw Shocks. If you're good, they won't be able to catch up to you. If they do, you have to throw them off by pressing a face button corresponding to where they came from before they pounced you. (X if they came from behind, square if they came from the left, etc.) Compared to the Wii version's having to flick the wiimote and nunchuck to throw them off, I prefer the face buttons. More responsive.
When you're not being chased by Raw Shocks, you're wandering through a snowy fog-less Silent Hill in search of Cheryl while collecting mementos and snapping photos of shadows and static... things.

This is a fun game. Yes, the chases are exciting and at times a bit frustrating as you can lose your way and that's something you don't want happening. Sure, I found the psychology test thing fun and a good push to see the ending.. but... it didn't quite deliver to yours truly as a Silent Hill game.
The environment's nice but.. it's just a snowy town. There's no fear of turning the corner and seeing something scary/dangerous/HOMG OUT TO GET ME out of the Nightmare sequences. It didn't scare me. At all.
And I'm easily scared.

Last Words:
I gotta admit, I was in it for the psych testing. In terms of scare factor, this isn't at all a game you'd go to. I think Silent Hill Origins might do better in that field. For a Wii port, this isn't so bad. The graphics are pretty sweet though it's hard to control colored pencils with the analogue nub.

-During Nightmare sequences, turn off the flashlight. I find that it lessens the chance of Raw Shocks spotting you from the get go. Except for the forest nightmare, I haven't gotten lost because the doors and ledges are easy to spot even with the flashlight off.
-Things you can interact with are marked with a white arrow over them. Usually, this is where you can find a key or a memento.
For a handheld game, this has pretty good graphics. You can't really compare it to the Wii version since the specs are hella different but it has its own charm. One thing I want to ask is... why do all of the female characters look like they just had a good cry? Their eyes are red around the rim...

Gameplay: 3.5/5
The lack of scare factor... I'm a bit torn about. It's a Silent Hill game so... it's supposed to be scary but since it's not all that scary, I can play it without losing any sleep. Some people might be put off by the lack of combat... but I found it quite refreshing.

Soundtrack: 5/5
There isn't much in the blaring background music department but they do have some awesome mood music. Some voices were creepy... and the voice acting was pretty well done! I salute the guy who did Dr. Kaufman.

Look and Feel 5/5
Everything's just right. With the flashlight, you can still make out some things and sometimes, you're in complete darkness. The phone is your answer to everything and the directional buttons serve as shortcuts. Brilliant. The menu isn't confusing and everything is where you'd expect it to be.

Final Rating: 8/10

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